B.C. NDP under attack over farm changes
Farmers upset with proposed changes to BC’s Agricultural Land Commission accuse the government of being out of touch, and they’ve found a sympathetic ear in the BC Liberals who are dialing up the rhetoric on an issue that impacts key suburban Vancouver ridings.
Money Kaler, a Matsqui blueberry farmer, attended the meeting with his dad and brother who also work at the business. The family recently bought an additional 35 acres.
"Our goals are still, pending these changes, to basically farm that land and expand our farming operation,” said Kaler.
The issue the Kalers have relates to Bill 52, which has already been passed and restricts the size of new homes on properties within the Agricultural Land Reserve to less than 5400 sq. ft.
Kaler and his brother both plan on having children and want to continue living with their parents and working on the blueberry farm.
"Today we live in about a 4,000 sq.ft. house and it works for us, given the dynamic of our family,” he said. “But as generations start getting added on to our family, what do we do at that point? Where do we all go?"
BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and several of his MLAs held a town hall with farmers in Surrey to talk about another bill in the works. Bill 15 stipulates only governments can make requests to have land removed from the ALR to be used for other purposes.
"It is so unfair to people who've invested their lives to build up a farm and be successful and have the NDP come along and say forget it,” Wilkinson said.
He also encouraged the farmers to organize a protest in Victoria and further suggested they could dump several tons of manure on the lawn of the Legislature to make their point.
"We'll see if these farmers form the same opinion about what they're going to have to do to get any attention from the NDP at all,” he said after the town hall.
In a statement, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham accuses the BC Liberals of spreading misinformation.
“Exclusion applications already go through local government – that's not new," she said. "All we're saying is that if you want to permanently pull land out of the protections of the Agricultural Land Reserve, it should be done as part of thoughtful community planning at the local level.”
Kaler agrees that steps need to be taken to protect agricultural land from being used for non-farming purposes, such as mega-mansion estates, but he disagrees with the government’s method.
"The intent was right but they've just targeted everyone and that was wrong,” he said.
Bill 15 still needs approval in the Legislature.