Agriculture Minister Lana Popham visits a Fraser Valley cranberry farm during a provincial tour to begin her new job in the NDP government, October 2017. (B.C. government)

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

The NDP government’s overhaul of the Agricultural Land Commission is causing grief for B.C. families who are trying to keep family farms going with new restrictions on secondary homes.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham’s drive to protect farmland is based on a couple of long-standing NDP assumptions. One is that there is massive property speculation, with buyers applying to have farmland released from the Agricultural Land Reserve to cash in on its increased value. Actual statistics from the commission didn’t show that, but Popham pushed through legislation that prevents property owners from applying directly for exclusion by declaring that owners are not “persons.”

The second assumption is that additional residences are a form of creeping development that has to be reined in. This was accomplished with legislation that passed last November and took effect in February, giving the commission the final say on secondary residences.

These changes are filtering through to local governments, and there have been some alarming results. The Langley Advance Times reported on one last week, where retirees Cathy and Brian Fichter planned to move their daughter, her husband and six children to an extended family farm as they deal with Brian’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

RELATED: Langley family’s grandparent home awaits farm decision

RELATED: B.C. farmers aren’t ‘persons’ under new NDP legislation

The family’s purchase took effect Feb. 26, four days after the new rules took effect. Previously, secondary residences could be justified by the extra work needed to raise livestock. But now local governments have to approve it, and then the commission can overrule them. As of last week the Fichters were still waiting for a final decision.

Dave Strachan of Nakusp has a similar situation. His wife has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, and his daughter and her husband decided to move with them to a small farm to help out. He describes the land as marginal for farm production, as is much of the ALR outside the key food production regions of the Lower Mainland, Okanagan and Southern Vancouver Island.

Both families went to substantial effort and expense of buying modular homes and arranging servicing to meet the temporary residence rules of the ALR. They didn’t know the rules were changing, and it’s likely their local governments didn’t either. They await their fate under the new centralized commission that runs the whole province from Burnaby.

When this change was debated last November, Popham acknowledged that the commission would have a veto.

“We are transferring that approval process to the Agricultural Land Commission because we feel that they are better suited to analyze whether or not an additional dwelling would be required for agricultural activities,” she said.

It would be easy to say that the above examples are merely “hobby farms,” a few acres with some horses and goats. What else could be done with a remote five-acre parcel, since there is no chance the new regime will allow it to be removed?

For larger farms, the residence restriction creates problems even if a second house is allowed.

“For instance, if you’re a dairy farm in my area of east Delta, and you have two or three kids who say, ‘I want to continue farming,’ they say, ‘Well, you can’t live on this farm,” B.C. Liberal agriculture critic Ian Paton told the legislature. “We’ve only got one extra house. You’re going to have to rent a house up in North Delta or Richmond or something.”

Agriculture ministry staff tell me they are looking at these kinds of cases and considering changes. That’s good.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Special memorial service to say goodbye to murdered teen

A memorial service and celebratio of life was held Tuesday for murdered teen Elijah-Iain Beauregard

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: cloudy, rain expected

Environment Canada is calling for a risk of thunderstorms tonight across the Okanagan

Juno-Award winning musician Bill Bourne to perform in Keremeos

Concert at the Grist Mill and Gardens starts at 7 p.m. on July 19

10th year for Great Naramata Cherry Pit Contest

The event is a fun-filled way to celebrate the local harvest

VIDEO: Plant-based burgers may not be as healthy as they seem

Both the Impossible and Beyond Burger have more saturated fat than beef burgers

Time is short for baby Okanagan deer, Gilbert: Dr. Oz

West Kelowna’s Dr. Oz needs the public’s help finding sanctuary for injured deer

Thunderstorms forecast across B.C.

Environment Canada has issued a thunderstorm watch for B.C.’s central Interior

Man fleeing police arrested in Summerland

Incident occurred on Tuesday evening

B.C. mom to go to Europe court in hopes of getting alleged abducted daughter back

Tasha Brown alleges her estranged wife abducted their daughter Kaydance Etchells in 2016

Missing South Okanagan kayaker last seen on Okanagan Lake

Penticton RCMP are asking for assistance in locating a missing kayaker

Lower gas prices slow annual inflation rate to Bank of Canada’s 2% bull’s-eye

Prices showed strength in other areas — led by a 17.3 per cent increase in the cost of fresh vegetables

Part One: The opioid crisis and the B.C. Interior

A personal connection to the crisis: Recovering addicts share their story

B.C. moves to preserve 54 of its biggest, oldest trees

Fir, cedar, spruce, pine, yew set aside from logging

Most Read