About 100 years ago, when I was a youth, my journalist father mentioned that newspapers had a 48 hour rule. That meant you could not print a contradictory story less than 48 hours after the story being contradicted because it took that long for people to forget. I think Father was upset about something at the time.
When I was the Director for Electoral Area A in the RDEK, I resisted development in the ALR. That’s not easy when there are nine mayors and only six rural directors on the Board, most of who thought hayfields and grazing lands are expendable. I don’t; and having grown a 2,000 sq. ft. organic garden in West Fernie for 24 years, I also know what vegetables are supposed to taste like.
Mr. Bennett tells us the new ALC process will allow farmers to use a portion of their land in a way that helps them stay on the land. Since it’s been more than 48 hours, perhaps Mr. Bennett has forgotten that his government created the existing model of six regions and six regional panels made up of appointees some of whom were selected by Mr. Bennett. Now he says it didn’t work out but if they formalize it into law, establishing governance and accountability frameworks and service standards consistent with other government boards, agencies and commissions, as well as filling staff vacancies and appointing a CEO, it will work perfectly. Sounds to me like job creation for the right kind of people.
The Agricultural Land Commission as originally created by the NDP consisted of four or five knowledgeable retired farmers. Their offices were in Burnaby. I made a presentation to them on behalf of a gentleman who owned a large piece of property adjacent to Fernie Alpine Resort. They had no problem removing it from the ALR. It remained in the Forest Reserve.
When the Fernie Brewing Co. applied to start their business on a small ALR acreage on the west side of Hosmer they included the proviso that if they were successful they would relocate to the Fernie Commercial Zone. I trusted them and as the Area A Director recommended the Board support their application. They succeeded and they relocated. In that same area, on a similar lot, a young couple applied to start a blacksmith business. We supported that application also. I understand they are doing all right. None of these three applications came from farmers needing to save their farm. Farmers usually applied to subdivide a couple of acres off for their retirement home. How could you say no?
The decisions made by the ALC created by the NDP worked to preserve the ALR and protect farmers because the commissioners were farmers and understood what would accomplish those objectives. Mr. Bennett’s version of the ALC consists of six regions and six panels of politically appointed locals who may or may not know anything about farming, but in any case will be hampered by the confines of the legislation he intends to pass and also by the complexity and cost of the ALC organization he is creating. And that is notwithstanding the possibility of locals quietly making their own rules. I can see developers and legal challenges in the future.
Anyone can apply for a variance, that’s always been available, and if it doesn’t impair agricultural capability the application should succeed. The ALC should be returned to the original NDP version. It worked, and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.