B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham has unveiled the second stage of her reorganization of the Agricultural Land Reserve, giving new powers to the appointed commission to enforce farmland use regulations.
The changes introduced reorganize the commission, “adding more compliance and enforcement capacity and tools, including a new offence for landowners who do not produce records when the Agricultural Land Commission orders,” Popham told the legislature Thursday.
Amendments also restrict applications to exclude farmland from the reserve to those submitted by local governments, Indigenous governments or the province, which retains the right to override land reserve rules for uses the B.C. government decides are in the provincial interest.
The first round of changes was passed last fall, dumping the “zone two” for rural farmland that permitted more secondary uses on farmland outside the prime farming areas of the Lower Mainland, southern Vancouver Island and the Okanagan.
New regulations to stop the dumping of construction waste on farmland and putting a 500-square-metre limit on new houses built on ALR land were also passed last fall. Popham said those rules were to stop wealthy buyers from purchasing farms and building “mega-mansions” on them, a problem identified in Richmond and in the Fraser Valley.
The latest legislation drew a quick response from Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier, who has argued that secondary uses keep farm operations viable in winter in his region.
— Mike Bernier (@Mike_A_Bernier) March 7, 2019
“Another attack on rural B.C. and landowners,” Bernier said on Twitter as Bill 15 was introduced in the legislature. “Why do the B.C. NDP always think big brother knows better than the people who actually own and work the land?”
The changes also eliminate the six regional panels and executive committee, creating a single commission with regional representation required. Popham said that change will “strengthen the independence of the commission.”