In his latest column, Columbia River–Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald says the Agricultural Land Reserve is under threat. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

By Norm Macdonald, MLA for Columbia River–Revelstoke

Why should the firing of Agricultural Land Commission chair Richard Bullock matter to you? Because exclusions of land from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) can make property developers a great deal of money, and Mr. Bullock was determined that agricultural land should be used for agricultural purposes, standing in the way of friends of government who want to make a lot of money.

How do I know this is true? A prominent BC Liberal, a politically appointed Ministerial Assistant to the Minister of Finance, pled guilty in court to taking a $50,000 bribe to get a specific piece of land out of the ALR. Imagine how much money that developer knew he was going to make if he was willing to pay someone in government an amount that for many people is more than a year’s salary.

A top BC Liberal admitted to this under oath, the land was removed, and the developer saw the value of the land in question drastically increased.

Since this time, the BC Liberals have taken further steps to make it even easier for property developers to buy agricultural land and change the zoning with no regard for the needs of the province to feed itself. Last year, the BC Liberals passed a law that changed the criteria for getting land out of the ALR to rules that were so loosely defined and nebulous, that virtually any request could be granted.

Prior to his firing, Richard Bullock had been outspoken in his support of the ALR, and critical of the changes that the government was forcing on the Agricultural Land Commission. He knew that Bill 24 was the final step in undermining the ALR and was going to make it difficult for government every time an inappropriate exclusion was pushed through.

Mr. Bullock understands that we have a great responsibility to protect our agricultural lands, not just in the present, but for future generations. We need to do everything we can to increase food security, and we cannot do that if we have destroyed our agricultural land base.

If you look at the BC Liberal record on food security and protecting agricultural land it is more than just an example of simple failure. It is a record that includes bribery and corruption.

The firing of Richard Bullock reminds us just how far we’ve strayed from the original intent of the Agricultural Land Reserve. And the price we will pay will be felt for many generations.

Norm Macdonald is the MLA for the provincial riding of Columbia River–Revelstoke