Background
Saanich has a long history of preserving farmland. The Official Community Plan (section 5.1.1) identifies no fewer than 19 policies that support local food production, preservation of farmland, and lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Additionally, Council has undertaken a number of initiatives to bolster local food security for Saanich residents in recent years.

The ALR is built on the principle that a productive, secure agricultural land base is vital to BC’s ability to maintain agriculture as a viable industry and to secure our food supply. The ALR provides a means for protecting that capability and ensuring BC’s agricultural businesses and farm families are supported over the long term.

In the forty years since its inception, the ALR has become known in North America and around the world as a forward-thinking and effective planning tool. It is the envy of policymakers in many other jurisdictions. The ALR is intended to preserve agricultural land, encourage farming and assist local governments and First Nations in planning for agriculture in their regions.

This summer, BC’s Minister Responsible for Core Review, Honourable Bill Bennett, announced that a review of the ALR and its governing body, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is a top priority. This is despite recent government reviews, including a 2010 Auditor General review, which concluded that the ALC lacks the resources to fulfil its mandate, especially as it relates to local government coordination.

Changes to the ALR, and the mandate and authority of the ALC could have profound land use implications for Saanich and its future. It could also put at risk Saanich’s agricultural businesses, farming families, and the food security of Saanich residents. It is imperative that the Province consult with the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), the agricultural community, and the public on any potential change.

Recommendation
1. That Saanich Council reaffirm its support for the preservation of farmland in the Province’s Agricultural Land Reserve and continue to work with the Agricultural Land Commission;

2. That prior to any potential changes being made to the ALR, its mandate or authority, that a full and transparent consultation process be established with the agricultural community and UBCM;

3. That Saanich ask the Province, the Minister Responsible for Core Review and the Minister of Agriculture to work with the agricultural community and UBCM to identify further opportunities to enhance viability of farming in the Province; and

4. That letters be written to the Minister Responsible for Core Review, the Minister of Agriculture and local Members of the Legislative Assembly to advise that Saanich supports the preservation of the integrity of the ALR and its management by an independent and adequately funded ALC.

Dean Murdock
Saanich Councillor

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