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Delta South MLA calls on government to protect Brunswick Point

Paton says he hopes the NDP government and opposition can put aside partisan differences and call his bill for debate
Not only does that area have prime farmland, it is also an important stop for migratory birds, says Paton.

Delta South MLA Ian Paton has once again re-introduced a private member’s bill he says is aimed at protecting Brunswick Point farmland from future development.

Paton, the Liberal agriculture critic, said the hundreds of acres of prime farmland held by the Crown should be kept for agriculture and wildlife habitat in perpetuity, and be offered back to local farmers with long-term leases.

“Brunswick Point is an incredibly special piece of land that borders the ocean and the Fraser River, with beautiful walking trails along the dike,” said Paton on Thursday morning in the Legislature in Victoria. “This farmland also boasts exceptional Class 1 soil that grows B.C.’s very best potatoes, but most importantly, Brunswick Point is world-renowned as a resting stop for migrating birds.”

In 1968, about 4,000 acres of farmland in Delta was expropriated to support a future port at Roberts Bank.

Many years later, after realizing the expropriated lands were not needed during that time, the province offered to sell most of the farms back to the original owners who had been leasing the properties.

However, just over 600 acres of Brunswick Point farmland were held back by the Crown, only offered to longtime farm families who originally owned them through short-term leases.

Farmers and the City of Delta had been calling for an opportunity for the farmers to buy the land or get longer-term leases.

The worry is that the lands are now seen as important for industrial development, given Brunswick Point’s proximity to the port and the shortage of available industrial properties in the region.

Delta council two years ago sent the province a letter of support for a Delta Farmers’ Institute’s (DFI) correspondence supporting Paton’s earlier private member’s bill, calling on the government to take steps to ensure the lands remain in agriculture.

Mayor George Harvie wrote to Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, saying that despite the current restrictions on the land use, Delta is concerned that the lands could be sold to speculators with no interest in farming.

Donaldson in a letter of response stated, “We will continue to work collaboratively with the Tsawwassen First Nation and the City of Delta with regards to land management in Brunswick Point and will consider the interests of all parties when determining the long-term future of these lands.”

The Brunswick Point families had earlier filed a lawsuit asking the court to grant them first right of refusal to buy the lands back. That would have conflicted with the Tsawwassen First Nation’s (TFN) treaty.

A subsequent agreement would allow the farm families to regain title at a pre-negotiated purchase price. The TFN still has first right of first refusal should the lands be sold outside the Brunswick Point families.