Agricultural Land Commission put out to pasture
Thursday, September 24, 2015 @ 3:45 AM
By Bill Phillips
Maybe it’s just bad karma for the Agricultural Land Commission.
There is a piece of land near Fort St. John that was the epicentre of ALC battle a couple of years ago. It was a battle that led to calls for MLA Pat Pimm’s resignation and likely was one of the catalysts for the Liberals making it much, much easier for land to be removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The piece of land was being considered for rodeo grounds. Pimm, who felt his stature as an MLA gave him absolute authority, actively pressured the Agricultural Land Commission to approve removing the land and even stormed onto the site when commission members were examining the property.
The commission, along with the NDP and others, fired back, saying Pimm, as an MLA, was in a conflict of interest. He didn’t think so and was eventually cleared of conflict allegations. But the damage was done. The Liberals have since replaced the chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, changed agriculture ministers, and revamped the entire Agricultural Land Commission itself.
Granted, not all that was done because of Pimm’s misguided attempts to get rodeo grounds approved in Fort St. John, but the events up there definitely played a part.
With the rodeo grounds nixed by the Agricultural Land Commission, the owner decided to dump the property.
Enter AltaGas with a proposal to build a $100 million natural gas processing facility on the site.
Wow, one would think that if rodeo grounds don’t pass muster with the ALC then a natural gas processing facility doesn’t stand a hope.
Hold on. There’s a catch.
According to the Alaska Highway News, AltaGas is applying to the Oil and Gas Commission for non-farm use of ALR land. AltaGas told the News that under a special agreement, the authority to make ALR decisions regarding oil and gas developments has been delegated to the Oil and Gas Commission.
That sound you hear is the Agricultural Land Commission getting plowed under.
Now we hear news this week that the Peace River Regional District is objecting to more than 5,000 hectares of land being removed from the ALR, without an Agricultural Land Commission review, for the Site C dam.
Regional district representatives will be at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention this week hoping that body will pressure the provincial body to rescind cabinet’s behind-closed-doors decision to exclude the land from the ALR until it goes through the regular process. Good luck with that, as construction has begun.
It’s also interesting to note that leading the Peace River Regional District delegation is district chair and Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman, who, coincidentally, was with Pimm, and supported him, when he stormed onto the aforementioned rodeo grounds demanding that the commission remove the rodeo grounds land from the ALR.
The upshot of is this if anyone believed that the recent changes to the Agricultural Land Commission were going to help keep agricultural land in the hands of ranchers and farmers, think again.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org