OPINION: NDP goes after landowners

This is a significant assault on ranchers and farmers

Last week agriculture minister Lana Popham released the second phase of her changes to the Agricultural Land Commission that are intended to “strengthen” its independence. The big question is, at whose expense?

The short answer is: landowners.

The people who know best how to work their own land will now experience an even tighter grip by the ALC.

The first phase of the NDP’s changes took place last November when Popham eliminated the division of the Agricultural Land Reserve into two zones.

The whole purpose of having two zones was to give ranchers and farmers in northern B.C. greater flexibility and more opportunities to earn income off their land.

Phase two will essentially strip away the fundamental rights of landowners.

READ MORE: Ranching industry being overlooked by review committee, MLA says

Under Bill 15, private property owners will no longer have the right to petition the ALC for removal of land no matter what circumstances have changed. Only a local government or First Nations government will have the right to apply for changes.

This is a significant assault on ranchers and farmers.

Popham says she will be “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.”

She also wants to concentrate power in Victoria by eliminating the ALC’s six regional panels, essentially sidelining the expertise of local farmers and ranchers who know the needs of their region best.

The NDP wants to replace that valuable local knowledge with bureaucratic controls that create more red tape and uncertainty among landowners.

Now that we are past the halfway mark of this minority government, the NDP appears to be rushing as many changes through the backdoor as possible before people have a chance to have their say.

The fish farm industry got hit first when the NDP lowered the boom on them last December. Now the agricultural and forest industries are waiting for the other shoe to drop on land.

Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.

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