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Liberals pan Agricultural Land Commission changes

As the NDP government moves to reverse changes the previous government made to the Agricultural Land Commission, the Liberal opposition are fuming.

One of the changes has drawn particular ire … that being the elimination of property owners to petition for property to be removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo says the move will strip away the fundamental rights of landowners in this province.

“I support the Agricultural Land Reserve and efforts to protect farmland, but this Bill goes too far in eroding the fundamental rights of private property owners,” said Kyllo, in a Liberal press release. “The NDP may think it knows best when it comes to managing people’s private property, but that’s just plain wrong.”

Under the previous rules, property owners could apply to have land removed, however the Agricultural Land Commission would rely on input from the local level of government when making its decision. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says homeowners now need to work through local government if they want land removed.

“We are not changing the rule that private landowners who want to remove land from the ALC need to work through local government,” she said in an op/ed published here. “However, under the new rules it will be local government that will make the application, so it is clear that the requested exclusion fits with local area plans and community standards. We want to stop the ‘Swiss-cheesing’ of the ALR, removing small pieces of farmland in many places, because this makes it more challenging to farm and harder for farming communities to thrive.”

Kyllo took exception to the removal of the ALC’s six regional panels which the Liberals put in place when they changed the rules.

“B.C. has a number of diverse agricultural regions, and shutting down regional panels will eliminate the knowledge and expertise of farmers and ranchers in those areas,” says Kyllo. “Bill 15 will diminish these local voices and concentrate power in Victoria.”

Moving back to a single commission may create more red tape— and uncertainty— for farm owners across the province.

Popham says that isn’t the case.

“The commission will have guaranteed regional representation and a new flexibility to organize commissioners into decision-making panels on applications, when warranted, by topic, technical expertise or geography,” she said.