British Columbia grows less than half of the fresh produce it needs. Much of what we consume comes from California. The ongoing drought conditions, and a weak loony, have sent vegetable prices spiralling 11.7% this year. Fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables are becoming an occasional luxury for some middle-low income B.C. families. Though this will only worsen worse as global temperatures continue to rise, the government of BC is far more preoccupied with the get-rich promise of mega-energy projects. Once it is completed, Site C will submerge prime agricultural lands.
The crux of Canada’s climate dilemma was recently played out at the Broadbent Institute’s annual Progress Summit. It was a refreshing debate in that, despite their very different perspectives, all three speakers appeared to speak what was really on their minds. Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips is understandably distressed about the her province’s growing unemployment and $10 billion in lost oil revenues. Vancouver City Councillor Andrea Reimer is opposed to the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion because it is “way too much risk, no benefit (for Vancouver), on a planet that is dying because we are burning fossil fuels.” Canada’s Environment Minister does not want to do anything that would cause “tons of people to lose jobs.” But do Phillips and McKenna realize that the Canadian government is already damaging BC by not taking action.
The firing of Agricultural Land Commission Chair Richard Bullock has already been called the latest step in the BC Government’s war on agriculture. Though he was appointed by cabinet, Bullock was the head of a supposedly “independent administrative tribunal dedicated to preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming in British Columbia.” He also opposed Bill 24, which weakened protections on 90% of the province’s agricultural land reserve (ALR). There are huge issues with oil and gas underneath some of the agricultural land in the Northeast corner of BC. On April 8, cabinet overrode the ALC to remove 4,000 hectares from the Agricultural Land Reserve in the Peace River Valley, so they could be flooded if/when the Site C Dam is built. Bullock defended agricultural lands against these developments. Yesterday, the government dismissed him in a 30-second phone call.
In addition to being one of the province’s most promising agricultural areas, the Peace River Valley sits on the Montney shale formation and location of the proposed Site C Dam. A Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson recently informed the ECOreport that the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) makes the decisions regarding land zoned for agricultural use . “The ALC is an administrative tribunal – arm’s length from government – and government does not interfere in that independent decision-making process.” He did not mention the fact two weeks prior to our interview, Cabinet Removed Land from ALC for the Site C Dam.