The NDP government has tabled a bill that rules-out using land in the Agricultural Land Reserve for dumping construction waste or building mega-mansions.
Agriculture minister Lana Popham (pictured) says they want to protect farmland and make sure it’s available for future farmers.
“The old government let wealthy speculators drive the price of farmland out of reach for young farmers and allowed some of our most valuable agricultural land to be damaged,” says Popham. “We are protecting farmland in B.C. to ensure land is available now and for future generations of farmers, so people in British Columbia have a safe, secure supply of locally grown food on their tables for years to come.”
Popham says if passed, Bill 52, the agricultural land commission amendment act, will strengthen protections for the Agricultural Land Reserve, and makes three key changes:
* Restoring the integrity of the ALR by reinstating one zone for all ALR land in B.C., making it clear that all land in the ALR benefits from the same strong protections.
* Addressing mega-mansions and speculation in the ALR by limiting new house sizes to less than 500 square metres [about 5,400 square feet], except through application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) in cases where it would support farming; and requiring an ALC approval of any additional residences in the ALR to curb non-farm development.
* Cracking down on the dumping of construction debris, toxic waste and other fill in the ALR that can irreparably damage arable soil on valuable farmland, through increased penalties.
Popham says the changes will help stop damaging practices that contaminate farmland and make farms unaffordable for new farmers, and threaten the short-term and long-term viability of the ALR.
“They are designed to protect the province’s farmland so British Columbians can access locally grown food, and communities and local economies can prosper through farming, ranching and agriculture businesses, such as B.C.’s growing food-processing sector.”
Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is on board with the proposed changes.
“The legislation includes two policies, to limit house size on ALR and to return the ALR to a single zone. These measures will strengthen our local food security and improve opportunities for the economic development of our agricultural sector,” said Weaver.
Weaver says the two zone system brought in under the previous government opened up our irreplaceable farmland to development that was completely unrelated to farming.
“Returning the ALR to a single, dedicated zone will put our province in a far stronger position, both from a security and an economic perspective.”