B.C. Liberals must withdraw Bill 24 after new agriculture minister admits lack of support

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KELOWNA – The B.C. Liberals need to withdraw Bill 24 immediately after the new agriculture minister admitted it does not have the support of the agriculture community or British Columbians, say the New Democrats.

“Norm Letnick has been agriculture minister for just two weeks, and he has clearly already heard enough public reaction to know that Bill 24 is a bad piece of legislation that will destroy B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve,” said New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix.

“The B.C. Liberals never received a mandate to bring in such extensive changes. The Liberals need to do the right thing, listen to the public and stand up to protect B.C. farmers by withdrawing this legislation that Core Review Minister Bill Bennett is still championing.”
The B.C. Liberals introduced Bill 24 in March. Passage of the bill would remove protections from most of B.C.’s farmland and open the door for more industrial development.

“Under pressure from B.C. farmers, the B.C. Agriculture Council, the Official Opposition, more than a hundred professional ecologists, and thousands of British Columbians across the province, it appears Minister Letnick is starting to take the concerns about food security and sustainability seriously,” said New Democrat agriculture critic Nicholas Simons.

“Whether he can stand up to Bill Bennett – the driving force in the Liberal cabinet behind the push to destroy the ALR – remains to be seen.”

Bennett is still insisting Bill 24 will proceed despite Letnick’s acknowledgement that the legislation lacks support from farmers and British Columbians.
B.C.’s New Democrats have been fighting against Bill 24 to protect the ALR and B.C.’s farmers, and have launched a campaign at www.savethealr.ca to give the public an opportunity to express their opposition to the bill by writing to the premier and Minister of Agriculture.

They have also proposed legislative measures that actually promote farming, productivity in the ALR and B.C.’s food security. Dix recently tabled the BC Local Food Act, which is being endorsed by farmers and agriculture groups including B.C. Local Food Systems and Farm to Cafeteria Canada. The main elements of the legislation include implementing a comprehensive strategy on government purchasing locally grown food; reintroducing the successful Buy BC program; mandating a legislative committee on food and agriculture to prepare, in consort with the agriculture minister, a plan to increase local food production, marketing, and processing. The plan would set targets and implement policies to meet those targets which would be reported on annually in the legislature.

“Unlike Bill 24, the Local Food Act promotes the ALR, and helps it achieve its intended purpose of increasing British Columbians food security, health outcomes, and improve our local economy,” said Dix.