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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chemainus animal sanctuary needs your vote in nationwide contest

RASTA is up for $5,000 from Nutram; contest runs until May 31

Heartfelt memories of Derek Descoteau four years later

Victim of Chemainus murder and his brother leave a huge impact on a large group of friends

Ladysmith PRC restarts registered programming June 1

The programming will feature a mix of live Zoom classes, and outdoor in-person classes

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Chemainus family pledges $50,000 to Chemainus Theatre Crisis Relief Fund

The Hilton family pledged $50,000 toward a matched fund. If fully matched, it will raise $100,000

B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

Good news comes despite 11 new test-positive cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Tahsis opens its gates to visitors to save local economy

Seasonal local businesses that rely on tourism hope to survive despite drop in tourist numbers

BC Corrections to expand list of eligible offenders for early release during pandemic

Non-violent offenders are being considered for early release through risk assessment process

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

Study looks at feasibility of Vancouver Island abattoir

South Island Prosperity Partnership funds study looking at local meat processing

Island city cancels plan for homeless camp; exploring alternative option

The plan heard strong objection from neighbouring residents and businesses

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

Most Read