ALC review could have repercussions

Bold changes to the ALR and ALC could have a significant impact on North Saanich and other areas of the Saanich Peninsula

The B.C. government is undertaking a core review of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) and the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), encouraging ministers to take a “bold approach to ideas they submit to the core review process.”

Bold changes to the ALR and ALC could have a significant impact on North Saanich and other areas of the Saanich Peninsula, as well as the rest of B.C.

Before the establishment of the ALR, B.C. was losing agricultural land at a rate of 6,000 hectares per year. In 2002, the government restructured the commission into six regional panels and in the following three years, the panels approved the exclusion of 70.5 per cent of the ALR lands that were proposed for exclusion. Vancouver Island had the highest rate of exclusions in the province, at 89 per cent.

According to the North Saanich Economic Development Strategy for Agriculture, ALR land represents nearly one third of the total land base of North Saanich.

Some ALR land is controlled by agencies that come under federal jurisdiction (the Centre for Plant Health and the Victoria Airport Authority) and are not under the authority of the B.C. ALC.

North Saanich has the highest average annual farm income of any municipality on Vancouver Island, with average annual gross farm receipts of $119,674 — twice the average for Vancouver Island as a whole.

Gross revenues for North Saanich farms increased by 212  per cent over the last 20 years. In addition, the agri-food sector is the second highest growth sector in the Capital Region labour market.

Food security advocates are concerned that a significant gutting of the powers of the ALC may occur as a result of this review.

For North Saanich, that could have serious ramifications, including for the future of Sandown.

Written submissions can be made to financecommittee@leg.bc.ca before Oct. 16.

Bernadette Greene

North Saanich