- Our Town
Councillor lobbies for land protection
Ken Jamieson wants to see city council take more of a stand to protect agricultural land from politicians.
The Salmon Arm councillor, and chair of the city’s agricultural advisory committee, said the B.C. government needs to be careful in how it deals with the Agricultural Land Commission, the independent body tasked to protect agricultural land in the province.
“If we have a wholesale, radical alteration of the mechanism and the framework that we use to protect agricultural land, I think we’d be making a big mistake,” said Jamieson, responding to a letter to council from the BC Food Systems Network (BCFSN). The letter refers to a core review being done by a cabinet committee led by B.C. Energy Minister Bill Bennett. It’s goal is to find $50 million in savings for the next fiscal year, and the letter poses arguments against the minister’s expressed desire to target the ALC and the Agricultural Land Reserve it oversees. Subsequent to the BCFSN letter, cabinet documents were leaked to the media that outline steps for Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm to break up the ALR into two regions, and give greater control of what happens in a proposed northern region to the BC Oil and Gas Commission.
Jamieson said he has spoken to people who would like to see the ALC done away with, and others who feel it should be strengthened.
“There are people that I’ve talked to who say, ‘well, it’s run by bureaucrats, it’s people who aren’t even elected.’ I think that’s the best way of having it,” said Jamieson. “The last thing we want is a bunch of politicians politicizing the buying and selling of land.”
While Salmon Arm council has already agreed to submit a letter to the province, asking that the ALC be protected from possible budget cuts resulting from the core review, Jamieson said he would be making a motion for further action. Coun. Denise Reimer agreed on the importance of the ALC, adding she would rather see the land reserve run by bureaucrats, not politicians, any day.
Jamieson stressed the land reserve and the ALC, are more than just a planning tool, but also a means of preserving land for future use that, despite its flaws, has been successful for the past 40 years.
“In my view, some of the comments by some of the upper-level politicians on this issue are – I’m not sure irresponsible is the right word – but we had one politician suggest that because farmland has never been used, and it’s in a certain location, she believes it will never be used,” said Jamieson. “And I think we should never say that. We may use land some day, we don’t know.”