Friday, May 16, 2014

Land, LNG issues up for discussion for MLA in Legislature

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice joined in on discussions involving the Agricultural Land Commission Act this week, taking advantage of the topic to weigh in with some thoughts on land in Northern BC and the impact of LNG exploration and development.

For the majority of the discussion on the topic, those participating in Tuesday afternoon's discussion focused on matters of the Agricultural Land Reserve and potential encroachments on those lands.

Ms. Rice entered the discussion to express her objections to any proposed changes to the Bill in question, Bill 24.  Outlining her concerns that any change could have impacts on climate change and food security as well as concerns that it puts the provinces objectives and goals at risk..

 I rise today to also voice my objection to the proposed changes to Bill 24. My objections are threefold. I completely oppose the changes to the ALR being divvied up into two zones and the dismantling of how the ALC will operate under a new regional-based commission or commissions. I also just object to the lack of proper consultation and the confusion all around how the consultation process is or is not unfolding. 

Our ALR is considered one of B.C.'s biggest successes in land-use planning, and it is admired around the globe. The purpose of the ALR is to protect agriculture lands from other forms of development and encourage farming and to work with other governments to fulfil these objectives. I feel that the proposed changes we're debating right now are putting all these objectives and goals at risk, particularly in the day and age of global climate change. 

I'm on the backside of 40, and I have quite a contingency of young followers in my community that talk quite frequently about climate change and food security. I think it's an issue that is uppermost on many British Columbians' minds regardless of what part of the province or what part of the country that they live in. I think Bill 24 is disregarding this huge global concern of global climate change. 

I think protecting agriculture lands in this day and age of global climate change is more important than ever. I think that we should be taking steps forward in protecting our food security, not backwards and putting it at further risk in this day and age. I wasn't yet born when the ALR and the ALC became legislation. 

Nonetheless, I am grateful for the people who were looking out for me and my future in 1973. It is this type of forward thinking that we need more of, not less of. It's our duty as legislators to be thinking ahead and passing laws that consider the health and well-being of future generations.

She also observed some of the concern over any impact to food supplies in Northern BC with any potential change to the bill and highlighted some of those thoughts to the Legislature.

It's interesting to note that food security has been an issue that has come through my office door increasingly because of the threat of oil tankers to the north coast. People are fearful of their ability to harvest their own food. People in my community are very much a subsistence community, whether you're First Nations or not.

We have access to so much seafood, and in Haida Gwaii this is an issue that constituents raise with me frequently. They are fearful that the lack of ability to harvest healthy marine food further puts their lives at risk. If a may add, in the grocery store in Haida Gwaii a bag of stay-fresh salad is $8. Ironically, it's called stay fresh, because by the time it gets to Haida Gwaii, it's usually not very fresh, and it's semi-wilted.

And in my community, Prince Rupert, I can get two bags of that stay-fresh salad for the same amount — for $7.50 when it's on sale or $8 regularly.

So, again, food security is a big issue in the north, whether it's seafood or whether it's traditional farm foods.

As part of her review of the impact on proposed change to Bill 24, the North Coast MLA also managed to shoe horn in a reference to LNG development across the Northern portion of the province, suggesting that the moves by the BC Liberal government were designed to open up portions of Northern BC to make it more accessible for industrial development.

I think it's quite apparent what a lot of this bill is about, even though we're not having this dialogue or having this conversation, even though it didn't come about during the 2013 election. I think a lot of this is about opening up the northern part of the province, where I live, to make it extremely accessible and easy for industrial development, such as LNG, to occur.

 While we understand that the province is putting all of its financial eggs in the LNG basket, I think this is a detriment to the other sectors of our province, such as agriculture. I think it's a detriment to future generations. I think it's a detriment to our current farmers who are working very hard to make a living at farming.

The topic provided Ms. Rice with opportunity for one of her longer contributions to the Legislature this year, much more than some of the talking points that we have highlighted above.

Those wishing to review the full exchange can consult the Legislature Archive, her contribution runs from the 1715 to 1740 mark on the timeline.

The Video Archive also provides a snapshot of Tuesday afternoon's (May 13) discussion, you can view the conversation from the 226.00 mark of the Video Player or the 17:15 mark on the clock.

We have more on developments in Victoria available from our Archive page.

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