Changes coming to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)…. With this B.C. Liberal Government the Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Here is a factual behind the scenes insight into our big win in protecting the ALR!

Posted: November 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

Pat Pimm, the Minister of Agriculture for our B.C. Government should resign for his attempted influence (about 5 times before and after being appointed Agriculture Minister) of a Quasi-Judicial Commission that was and is in place to prevent political influence over the Agricultural Land Commission and to maintain its independence. Premier Clark’s explanation and support of her Minister today (Tuesday Nov. 12th/13) was pathetic, however it does show the Premier for what she is really all about. It displays her support of and for a commitment to a common theme of her government, a clear lack of respect for and arrogance towards the taxpayers, they were elected to serve. It is all about looking after friends and insiders and it runs very deep within this B.C. Liberal Caucus, it should not be surprising to any of us in the Township of Langley! You know Rich Coleman’s support for the Wall (significant contributor to the Liberal Government and some members of Council) proposal (69 Townhouses in the middle of the ALR) among others.

First, I want to start off this post by singing the praises of the Chair of the B.C. Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), Richard Bullock. I had the privilege of meeting Richard in my capacity as Mayor of the Township of Langley and Vice Chair of the Metro Vancouver Agricultural Committee. It was during Metro’s invited presentation to the ALC when the ALC was conducting a series of ALC Review Meetings throughout the Province that I had the opportunity to get to know a man that I gained huge admiration for. The issue we were dealing with was the now infamous Mufford Crescent Diversion Overpass, probably the most contentious Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) issue of at least the last decade within the Township of Langley. But first a little history!

The start – The Mufford Crescent Diversion was and is a product of the 2007 multi-stakeholder (Federal, Provincial and Municipal Governments / Private Industry) Roberts Bank Rail Corridor agreement featuring nine projects (overpasses) in the lower mainland of British Columbia. This agreement was signed in secret in the Township of Langley Council Chambers. The issue, not questioning the need but questioning the lack of process i.e. location and secret decision that was foisted upon the unsuspecting residents of the Township of Langley. The secrecy of this project was sheer stupidity on the part of the traffic transportation engineers and designers complicit with a high level attempt at removing a significant amount of Agricultural Land out of the ALR. The result of this plan, an unnecessary highway separating a large amount of prime agricultural land away from the real life farming viability for agriculture on this property. The ultimate result of this action would have been an application to remove this land from the ALR, as it would ultimately prove to be non-viable for agriculture.

What was being planned that you were never told about? (Not a surprise in the Township of Langley)

Leading up to the 2008 election we discovered information on this project. It took three visits to the Township Engineering Department by three different citizens to have someone admit, confidentially, to the facts complete with leaking a map of the project. The secret plan for the Mufford Crescent Diversion (Overpass and highway) was a design that split the historical Hudson Bay Farm and Bella Vista Farm properties in half, funneling 500 cars an hour onto 64th at 216th, onto farm roads incapable of handling this traffic.

For the record, the then Mayor Kurt Alberts, in answer to questions from a resident in mid-October 2008 said NO application had been made to the Agricultural Land Commission. THE TRUTH? Contrary to what the Mayor said (surprise) an application had been made in September of 2008. (Should there not be a law against a member of Council misrepresenting the facts to the public?) The decision to give conditional approval of this ill planned highway by the ALC was given the week after the election in 2008, a week and a half before the swearing in of the new Council. No public consultation, no notification, no advice, just the same members of Council once again misrepresenting the facts!

Important, for the record! – As the Mayor Elect I contacted the Agricultural Land Commission the Wednesday following my election and served notice that despite what they may do in their deliberations I would follow through with my promises made during the election campaign and bring this project back to a public consultation process. The ALC went ahead with conditional approval that week in spite of my call and I initiated a public consultation process.

Public Consultation as promised and the RESULT! – Two Open Houses and a Public Meeting later that saw over 1,000 people involved with 97% in opposition. This was the measure of public interest and public opposition. This level of public response was and is unheard of.

Throughout this consultation process we tried, unsuccessfully, to have Translink, the lead agency initially, move the dollars for this project to another Langley location. The Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Agreement states “In the vicinity of 64th and Glover Rd.” The response from the nine funding partners to our request was NO. The then Minister of Transportation Kevin Falcon wrote me an open public letter stating this plan was the only option.  Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender wrote an open letter saying the City of Langley had no interest in another plan. What a great start post-election. An interesting neighbor showing no courtesy of a phone call, no class and believe me nothing changed throughout my three year term.

The Vote – At the conclusion of the public process the Council of the day at a 4:00 PM afternoon Council meeting (nobody in the audience) indicated they wanted to have a vote on the Mufford Crescent project as presented. I advised members of Council that if their wish was to vote and it was in favor I would use my Mayor’s authority to bring the vote back for another vote in two weeks at a public televised evening meeting. Council still chose an immediate vote which we held; the result 6 – 3 in favor of the project. I served notice as promised that I would bring it forward for another vote as promised. My point was that on such a contentious issue you cannot hide behind an afternoon meeting with nobody in the audience. Well, not that it was a surprise, but two weeks later with over 300 overflow in the Council Chamber audience and on TV the second vote was held, the result a 6 – 3 in favor. Mayor Green, Councilors Richter and Kositsky opposed, Councilors Ward, Ferguson, Fox, Dornan, Long and Bateman in favor. These six dismissed the results of the public consultation process and the wishes of the electorate.

So that was that, or so I thought. You see the approval given by the ALC back in November of 2008 was conditional on nine very specific conditions that had to be met. In June of that year, upon hearing that the funding partners had submitted their report through their consultant, the Pacific Land Group, I asked for a copy of the report. After reading their submission it was very obvious to me that I had to make my own submission, along with three community members, to correct the facts as presented. The inaccuracies in this report were outrageous. As my introductory letter said in our submission to the ALC staff, I was NOT fighting the vote of council and I was not there in any way representing council. I wanted to be assured that the ALC Commissioners, when making their final decision, would do so based on the facts.

Unfortunately, Councilors Jordan Bateman, Charlie Fox and Grant Ward were outraged (not letting the truth get in the way of a good story) they met with ALC Staff to counter our presentation. I am not sure to this day on what basis – but all of this was a major controversy as these Councilors, who were tied at the hip to Kurt Alberts and his actions, objected strongly to our presentation to ALC staff. Another case of “Inconvenient Facts”.

So back to the occasion of meeting Richard Bullock, Chair of the ALC – It just so happened that our meeting with the ALC and Metro occurred late in the week before Richard was hosting a Mufford Crescent Diversion / Overpass ALC Public Hearing at the Langley Events Center, the Monday evening following. On wrapping up our ALC/Metro Committee meeting Richard came up to me, gave me his business card and asked me to contact him at home over the weekend, which I obviously did. He made it clear that he had talked to other principles on the issue. That included Mayor Fassbender of Langley City, a Public Meeting with the Agricultural Community held at the Coast Hotel and a Private meeting with those members of the Agricultural Community directly affected. This meeting was held at the Milner Church Hall.

To the telephone conversation I had with Richard Bullock, Chair of the ALC – He wanted to know (obviously) my position on the issue. Paraphrasing our conversation:

Mayor Green – Forgive me for being blunt but I don’t see that you have a choice.

ALC Chair Richard Bullock – He asked what did I mean?

Mayor Green – I said it was quite simple, if your responsibility as Chair of the ALR is to protect Agriculture land, which it is, you have no choice. It is not your mandate to help with the design of a highway and/or overpass, it is to protect agriculture. If the Provincial Government wants to override your decision by Order in Council (which threat was mentioned by a couple of Commissioners in the meetings they held), so-be-it, you will have lived up to your commitment and your responsibility.

ALC Chair Richard Bullock – What would you do if you were in our position?

Mayor Rick Green – I said that is easy, reject this proposal (he mentioned our brief which he had seen). Send it back to the funding partners for a new design. I stated I would move heaven and earth to come up with a far more acceptable proposal to the community.

The Result – That is exactly what was accomplished. I am not pleased with the option the Provincial Government selected, unfortunately the Provincial Government was and is consistent in breaking their promises to work with communities. We were promised input which was never allowed.

It is interesting to me that the original proposal for Mufford Crescent was finally defeated based on our two main objections to the submission made by the funding partners. It was returned to the funding partners for a new proposal.

Provincial Government undue ALC Influence –  What has been made public is only the tip of the ice-berg and consistent with the behind the scenes objective of this Provincial Government. The backlash, which has just started has them scrambling to protect their backside. The Core Review by Bill Bennett and it’s real objectives?  Given the actions and words of Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm, the actions of his constituent, who has ignored the ALC decision and initiated construction on the site, as well as the leaked internal documents, the public is once again being treated like idiots. I can tell you first hand, this Provincial Government and their friends on this and our former Township of Langley Council – Ferguson, Fox, Bateman, Long, Ward and Dornan were furious at the decision of the ALC. Don’t think that the ALC did not receive significant pressure from a number of sources. We owe a lot to Richard Bullock for having the guts of his conviction to protect Agricultural land despite insurmountable odds!

Summary – The whole issue of protecting the ALC is personally a very interesting development in my growth as a person. During my term as Mayor I was invited to speak at a salute to Harold Steeves who is considered to be the father of the ALC. As a surprise to all in attendance I started my salute to Harold by being very honest – “In 1975, my wife, I and our two kids at the time delivered pamphlets up and down the slopes of North Delta on behalf of the Social Credit Party to defeat the NDP, as did many thousands of others:

Why – Because of their imposition of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

I was wrong! That is the issue that got me into politics, something I never thought was possible. For 39 years since that election I am still fighting, now to protect the Agricultural Land Reserve. I have no problem admitting today that I was wrong in my original position relating to the ALR. I have a strong record while on Council in Delta and as Mayor for the Township of Langley for fighting to protect Agricultural Land. I am still a staunch Free Enterprise supporter but that doesn’t mean I follow nor agree with this so called Free Enterprise Government, I don’t! It’s blatant record of corruption starting with B.C. Rail (the list is just too long to get into here) is non-supportable by any clear thinking taxpayer of this province. The NDP lost the last election, the Liberals did not win it – Unfortunately, you are now seeing what we are having to deal with within this pompous arrogant government, Premier and many of it’s MLAs / Cabinet Ministers.

RG

I am working on a few posts at present that I believe are of significant concern to Township of Langley Residents, come back often for news of interest to Township residents.

Protect your Democratic Rights – Protect your NEIGHBORS Democratic Rights – stay informed, stay involved and VOTE!!!

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Comments
  1. Mei Lin Yeoell says:

    I agree ….. Mr Pimm should resign… and/or Clark should fire him. Pimm showed both an ignorance of the legislative realities involving the ALC and a truly regrettable tendency to bully people into accepting his views. With regard to this government’s tendency to ignore public input …… I along with hundreds of others have provided written input to the proposed legislative changes to water protection in BC. Respondents/private citizens are quite clear on the need to protect water (fresh, saline, in aquifers, rivers, streams and the ocean) from corporate raiders, whether in the form of Nestle using BC’s water to bottle for profit, or oil and gas companies using water for fracking and endangering our coastline and its wild species so that LNG can be sold elsewhere, or for exporting coal to perpetuate the continued overloading of the global atmosphere with GHG’s. The message from private citizens is clear: preserve and protect water resources for residents and for the future. Check out the website for yourself! It will be interesting to see how Clark and her government wriggle out from under this input to stop Nestle, to stop fracking, to stop LNG and to stop coal export.

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