Paton says it’s agriculture minister who’s playing fast and loose with the truth

Editor:

Re: ALR rules MLA dislikes were brought in by former Liberal government, July 4

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It is Agriculture Minister Lana Popham who is “playing fast and loose with the truth” when it comes to the impacts farmers are feeling from her flawed legislation.

Instead of listening to their concerns and those raised on their behalf by our Official Opposition, she continues to play the typical blame game the NDP is known for. The reality is that two years into their mandate, the NDP can no longer blame the BC Liberals for everything. They need to show some accountability for their damaging actions.

Popham is trying to claim the ALR rules in question came from our former government. But if that were true, why is the massive uproar from farmers coming now, mere months after she instituted her flawed bills 52 and 15?

The one thing we can agree on is that regulations regarding events has not changed since the BC Liberals were in government. What has changed is the fact events that have operated in the past are no longer permitted as there seems to be a reinterpretation of the rules, possibly because the chair of the Agricultural Land Commission and the majority of its members have been appointed by the minister.

Popham is also trying to cloud the fact there are two ways events can happen in the ALR. One is where a farmer, without applying to the ALC, holds a seasonal event on their farm to promote or market products from the farm. This is clearly what the B.C. Hops Festival was trying to do. The other is where a farmer, who makes an application to the ALC, holds an event on their farm with clear rules about size, duration and parking. This minister keeps mixing up what farmers can do with products from their own farm, and what farmers can do to earn money from their land.

The minister also appears confused about the ability to have a restaurant, which again is governed by two areas of the regulations. One is where the farmer produces alcohol first, and then wants to sell it in a restaurant with some food. The other is where a farmer has prepared and processed or cooked, with at least 50 per cent of their own crops, a farm product that the farmer sells in a designated area such as a restaurant.

It may sound a bit technical, but that’s the nature of this industry as well as the minister’s portfolio. What is clear is that she either doesn’t understand the negative impacts of her heavy-handed policies or she is purposely trying to mislead the community.

Farming for this minister is solely about the land — not the farmer or the business of agriculture. The intense recent outcry by farmers is further proof of this.

The fact is, Bill 52 and Bill 15 are NDP bills that our entire BC Liberal caucus opposed. These bills are hurting B.C.’s farm families and their ability to make a living. Try as she might to backtrack on them and blame the BC Liberals, these harmful pieces of legislation will be Popham’s legacy and hers alone.

Ian Paton

MLA, Delta South

BC Liberal Critic for Agriculture

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