Video & transcripts

  • This video was banned by Delta Council about the Southlands farmland, again in the middle of controversy of the debate about whether to return it to the Agricultural Land Reserve or not.
  • This video below shows Richmond City Councillor Harold Steves, one of the founders of the Agricultural Land Reserve in British Columbia, taking a media interview right after the Metro Vancouver Board voted to send the Regional Growth Strategy to municipalities for acceptance. He predicts big trouble. Says many environmental leaders spoke against the RGS during the consultation stage but were ignored.
  • Vision Vancouver Raymond Louie, just after Metro Vancouver Board votes to send Regional Growth Strategy to municipalities for acceptance. He says it does protect farmland and greenspace, and there are no problems with municipalities losing local autonomy. He suggests that Vision, which hold all six board positions from Vancouver on the Metro Board, fully intends to support the RGS.
  • More Steves: Media ask Richmond Councillor Harold Steves (one of the founders of the Agricultural Land Reserve), “How did you feel after your impassioned warning…” when the Board ignored him and passed the RGS. He answers that people say we’ve been doing this for 9 years, and that is correct, “however, the items I talked about today only happened in the last year, when it was decided to open up the green zone to two different types… agricultural green zone and park green zone, and those types of green zones that were developed in certain areas fell through the cracks. “

Coming next: Sound from 14-Jan-2011 Metro Board meeting when Clr Harold Steves made an impassioned plea to preserve farmland, just before the Board voted with only one opposed (him) to the RGS. For now, we post a rough transcript of that part of the meeting.

14-Jan-2011 Metro Vancouver Board meeting, just before the vote on the RGS. [Bolding is by MetroVanWatch. ]
Director Steeves:    Thank you. I expect that this item will pass. However I will be voting against as a warning to what is yet to come in the future. Mr. Carline talked earlier about the hearings that were held and I agree with his analysis of the hearings with one minor change. He talked about Items One and Three. In Item One there was a tremendous amount of opposition to the plan in terms of too much authority being given to local governments and not enough authority to Metro Vancouver on Agricultural Land Reserve and environmental issues. And that’s not in there and I think it’s important to point out. I would also point out that it was most of the environmental leaders, while the numbers were small, it’s the environmental leaders throughout the rural communities and the urban communities where these, the study areas and ALR is being threatened, that came out to speak. And we can expect that every community where there’s land being taken out of the ALR or any land being threatened, that those leaders will have a lot more people out to those hearings when they come out to the local communities and later on when it comes back to Metro for a 50% vote.

Item Three, Mr. Carline mentioned that’s, there’s only one or two people, if you read it carefully, suggested that the Region has too much authority in land use decisions for a board that is not elected and I would suggest that if you believe that then this Board should be elected.

The main point that I wanted to make is that in terms of this plan, the big threat is against agriculture and the environment. Everything else is great. But agriculture and the environment are under pressure. When the Agricultural Land Reserve was brought in 1973, Greater Vancouver Regional District was given three years to fine-tune the ALR. After that there was supposed to be a firm boundary around the ALR. But with this plan, we’ve extended those three years to forty, to fifty years, which is simply incomprehensible to me that this could have even happened this far. Monster properties, for example, hotly debated 20 years ago, I suppose had a firm line around them and now that’s up again for expansion. (1:09:23) In terms of what this, the Agricultural Committee that was set up n 2006, we anticipated that the time frame, in terms of food security world-wide, problems probably would arise sometime around the 2030 era. When the Land Commission was brought in we’re looking at population creating problems some time in the future but we couldn’t pinpoint when. After the Committee had been meeting we had reports from the BC Ministry of Agriculture suggesting that 2030 is too late; that 2020 we should be adding 240,000 acres of irrigated farmland in this region to feed this, our growing population. That didn’t take into consideration climate change. We found a few years ago that as we’re studying the agricultural impact of this region, that biofuel had suddenly changed the world. And in 2008 we had the world’s first food riots and now climate is dramatically affecting the world food supplies with floods in the wrong places, with droughts in the wrong places and only last week we saw this headline that we’re expecting food riots again. So it’s not sometime way off in the future. It’s not 2030. It’s not 2020. It’s now. The headline says “Record Food Prices Could Trigger Riots, Protectionism. Increases Have Greatest Impacts on the World’s Poorest People”. And yet we are allowing agricultural land to be threatened in this Metro Vancouver Regional Plan. The interesting thing, I can see is the change in philosophy shown in this plan. It used to be the Livable Region Strategy. Now it’s a Regional Growth Strategy and there’s quite a difference and change just in the name and the total concept of what we’re doing. I’m not just going to go on and on because the debate is just starting on this issue and I believe there’ll be a pretty intense debate coming in the future. But we’re really breaking the law. And I refer to, on page 102, the letter from the Agricultural Land Commission. This is the second letter from the Agricultural Land Commission telling us that Metro Vancouver is breaking the law. And I will quote “Reference is made to Section 46 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act which requires that a local government, in respect to its bylaws must ensure consistency with the Act. Otherwise the bylaw is deemed to be inconsistent with the Act.”  And this bylaw we’re passing today is inconsistent to the Act and here are the inconsistencies: In the City of Richmond, two parcels of AR land totaling 112 hectares have been designated for general urban development. Adjacent to Aldergrove and the four areas of the ALR totaling 160 acres in total containing 19 parcels have been designated general urban development and immediately to the west of Aldergrove’s urban area, to the north of its existing industrial area, five parcels of ALR land totaling 17 hectares have been designated for industrial development within the urban containment boundary. So basically we are passing a bylaw today that is illegal under provincial laws. And I think we’re going to hear a lot more about that in the future. (1:12:34)

[brief inaudible speaking]

Chair (Lois Jackson):    Certainly. Would you like to conclude your remark or…

Harold Steves:    I’m just about to finish up.

Chair:    That’ll be fine. I won’t have a clarification of that statement as Director Steeves has concluded.

Harold Steves:    What the Land Commission has said that basically, while they are not going to take us up on that particular act, that they regard, as from the previous letter to this one, they regard this aspect of our plan to be null and void and to have no effect whatsoever. That’s the way the Land Commission looks at those, at those urban designations within our plan. And that was in a letter from Brian Hunter of the ALR which we received earlier than the one from the Chair of the Land Commission.

Secondly, the Commission is concerned about the study areas and while they say the study areas are legal under the Plan, because we can study anything we want, it has to go through the Commission process. (1:13:22) My concern about this is that we’re continually, with every regional plan, we are continually having study areas every time a new plan comes in. It’s been going on, my friends, since 1973 and after this plan is concluded, we can expect it in the next plan if this continues. And what that does is increases land speculation and the hopes of developers. The developers and the speculators never give up. In fact they are relentless. And that’s what we’re encouraging under this plan. So I cannot support the plan. I would urge the Board to turn it down until those communities that want to have the study areas and that want to have agricultural lands designated urban, that they cannot do so. I’m told by the Director for Burnaby that some of those particular communities would leave Metro Vancouver. Well so be it, because I don’t believe the Provincial Government will allow them to leave Metro Vancouver. We are coming to a crisis and it’s time that we started dealing with that crisis now, not some time off in the future. Thank you.

Chair:    Thank you very much. I did promise to have Mr. Carline address the questions which have come forward regarding communities and the legislation ??? along with the Agricultural Land Commission. Mr. Carline, please.

Johnny Carline:     Thank you, Madame Chair. On the, I guess the first thing I would say is the plan does include strong (1:15:00) pro-agricultural policies and in fact, will be stronger implementation proposals than the previous plan with respect to agriculture and certainly the intent of what Director Steeves is saying in terms of support for agriculture in this region is reflected in the agricultural policies in the plan. I’ll deal with two issues: the study areas and the ALC conflict, in that order. I dealt with the study areas earlier on. I’ll just simply repeat that the study areas have underlying agricultural designation so they are designated agriculture. They are consistent with the ALC designation. It is out of courtesy to those municipalities that say they have planning studies under way that we have included the study area designation. It does not change the policies that apply to those pieces of land at all. The only thing a study area designation does is say “If the local municipality gets its proposal through the ALC”; and that’s the prerequisite: it doesn’t go anywhere unless the ALC agrees. And “If, as a result of that the municipality wants to change the designation to those lands, then the voting threshold of this Board is 50% plus one.” But it only follows if the ALC has already agreed that the land is not appropriate for agriculture and should be redesignated. So I think that deals with the study areas. It isn’t a change. It isn’t a threat. It is simply a recognition that certain municipalities are dealing with the ALC and what happens if they come to an agreement, why should they be bound by a 2/3 vote of the Board. It’s more appropriate to have a 50%. There are two points; there are two areas, as Director Steeves has pointed out, which are designated urban in this plan but are in the ALR under the ALC. And those are the lands in Richmond: the Garden City lands and the lands in the Township of Langley. With respect to that, the two ??? both of those areas were in fact designated urban in the Livable Region Strategic Plan. We are dealing with a situation where a 50-year old plan, the intents of the municipality being reflected in those plans and were an ongoing source of obviously, difference between the municipality and the Land Use Commission. And we approached those municipalities and both of them so far have said “We don’t want to roll that back. We want to still hold our position. ??? should remain urban designation in the plan.” Which raises the issue that Director Steeves correctly raises: “Can you do that and still be compliant with the legislation?” And the way we have dealt with that and obviously it’s a tricky issue to deal with. But the way we have dealt with that is with Section 6.11.2 where we write into the plan in accordance with the Agricultural Land Commission Act, In the event there is an inconsistency between the regional land use designation or policies set out in the Regional Growth Strategy and the requirements of the Agricultural Land Commission Act or regulations or what is made pursuant thereto, the Agricultural Land Commission requirements will prevail. And that is not only reflected in what the law is, but it makes it part of this plan. That this plan is saying “OK, you’ve got an urban designation, but if you’re designated ALR, then this plan also says the ALR shall prevail.” And that brings us into consistency with the plan. (1:18:43)

(1:24:53) Chair:    …the one thing I must say is that this Board has got to challenge every single MLA in this province, including what leaders may come forward, to have an understand (sic) what this regional government does for the people they all represent. I do not have the feeling that that is something that the MLAs understand, whether it’s land use planning, transportation, agriculture or any of the other portfolios that many of them hold. The others that are not ministers of the Crown, and they do change from time to time and we have to continually re-educate every Minister that come forward and that is a huge, that’s a huge undertaking for us. But we have to continue to educate these people. Why? Because we are the child of the provincial government. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work in our, in all circumstances. However, as I mentioned earlier, this plan will be taken forward once it has been approved. If it is not approved and it has to go to other methods of conciliation and so on, then that will be another story. (1:26:11)


Below: Burnaby Mayor Corrigan, acting as as Chair of the Regional Planning Committee (at Metro Vancouver) explains that it is illegal for this committee to hear from the MetroVanWatch delegation on Feb 18, 2011. Our approval to speak was revoked after Metro staff claimed that the public hearing process prevented elected officials from hearing from the public after a public hearing. Our legal council tells us that this is not correct and we are seeking a written explanation from Metro Vancouver on this topic. See our “Learning Centre” for correspondence with Metro Van on this topic. It has signs of becoming an oppressive organization.

“Saving the Southlands” tells the story of the 30-year battle to protect a 500-acre parcel of prime farmland in Tsawwassen from proposed housing development – set against the backdrop of an emerging food security crisis in BC. The film features a number of Tsawwassen residents, Richmond City Councillor and ALR co-founder Harold Steves, agrologist Arzeena Hamir, and also profiles several local community farming success stories. Funded entirely by local citizens, a number of whom were also involved in the production, its release comes in the midst of a landmark public hearing after which council will vote on whether to apply to the Agricultural Land Commission to return the Southlands to the ALR. The property was removed 30 years ago under questionable evidence, but has remained protected by its municipal agricultural zoning thus far. Owner Century Group has been ramping up its efforts over the past year to get that changed. Now inclusion in the ALR could finally bring this saga to a close, opening the door to other potential models, such as a land trust with urban farming and nature conservancy components, favoured by many int he community.

1 Response to Video & transcripts

  1. Pingback: Public vigilance needed: Mayors, councillors eye Metro Vancouver board chair, vice-chair roles Dec 16 | MetroVanWatch

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