Today’s Poll

Kootenay Boundary politicians protest new agricultural land bill

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
April 22nd, 2014

Municipal governments and regional districts in the Kootenay Boundary region don’t think the provincial government consulted sufficiently with them before its recent proposed changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

Delegates at the annual conference of the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG) in Creston last week agreed that the provincial government should “undertake consultation with the public, local governments, the Union of BC Municipalities, and affected parties, on the proposed two-zone approach to the ALR; and that Bill 24 not be brought into force until such consultation is complete.”

Bill 24, currently before the legislature, would see the province divided into two agricultural land zones. Zone 1 would consist of the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan, and southern Vancouver Island. It would have the same agricultural land protections as in the past. In Zone 2, which would comprise the rest of the province and  80 % of the province’s agricultural land, it would be much easier to remove land from the ALR or to use it for non-farming purposes.

Nelson city councillor Candace Batycki says she and other delegates at the AKBLG conference did not like the Kootenays being lumped in with the rest of the province because the agricultural issues in the north are different from those in the Kootenays.

Batycki says there were demonstrators outside the conference protesting the province’s proposed ALR changes.

“We were greeted by about 20 farmers sitting on five tractors holding signs.”

Batycki said the ALR resolution “dovetailed nicely with the theme of the conference,” which was agriculture in the Creston Valley.

“Creston is the food basket, they make wine, there is grain grown there, hay, dairy, fruit, vegetables, it is food epicentre of the region,” said Batycki. She and other delegates were taken on agricultural tours as part of the conference.

“We ate local cheese, ate local asparagus, drank local wine, and so the issue was very present,” she said.

Established in 1933, the AKBLG is a coalition of cities, municipalities, regional districts, and villages in southeastern British Columbia to as far north as Golden. Mayor Christina Benty of Golden chairs it, and at this year’s meeting Councillor Deb Kozak of Nelson was named vice-chair.  

Batycki said the issues around the ALR are complicated. “We have got young farmers who need access to land and we are concerned that taking land out of the ALR is going to make it more expensive,” she said.

“On the other hand,” she continued, “you also have farmers with big tracts of land who are saying, ‘I want be able to put a second home on this property for my kids,’ or ‘I want to be able to do more than what is currently allowed,’ so there is a complex conversation going on the farming community as to what changes should happen.”

This week, B.C.’s new minister of agriculture Norm Letnick will meet with the B.C. Agriculture Council (BCAC) in response to concerns about Bill 24. The BCAC has stated that, “Bill 24 as it is written threatens the sustainability of agriculture in B.C.”

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