Opinion: ALR rules MLA dislikes were brought in by former Liberal government

Re: Agri-tourism industry and summer fun under attack, MLA’s Report, June 27

Delta South MLA Ian Paton seems to have a rather long list of concerns about the rules around events and serving food in the Agricultural Land Reserve. But the fact is, Paton and his colleagues are playing fast and loose with the truth – it was their own government that created those rules.

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The only change we’ve made is to allow all alcohol producers on the ALR the same opportunities that previously were afforded only to vineyard owners. That means better experiences for those visiting farms and more opportunities for farmers.

In September, I always look forward to visiting Westham Island Herb Farm in Delta for their Day at the Farm event. This annual tradition provides Lower Mainland residents with an opportunity to reconnect with the land that feeds them. From learning about chickens and the variety of crops grown in the region to meeting a dairy farmer and going on a hay ride, this event is a great way to celebrate B.C. agriculture.

The current rules on events in the ALR were introduced by the previous government in 2016. They have not changed.People wanting to hold larger events can apply to the independent Agricultural Land Commission. The organizers of B.C. Hop Fest said publicly they were encouraged to apply but chose not to.

When it comes to restaurants, they have always required a decision from the ALC to operate on the ALR. That’s nothing new. The only exception to that was wineries - they got to serve food on the ALR. But the old government ignored our thriving craft beer industry and left out breweries and distilleries. People can now enjoy a bite to go with B.C.’s best craft beer and spirits when they’re out for a summer tasting.

Paton and his colleagues repeatedly failed to stand up for farmers. We made changes to keep farmland affordable for farmers. We’ve also cracked down on garbage dumping and banned mega-mansions on farmland, while supporting multigenerational families. Paton voted against those changes.

When they were in government, they axed the popular Buy BC program that helped farmers market their products as “B.C. grown” to stand out from cheaper overseas produce. We’ve brought it back.

And we’ve started a Feed BC pilot program in the Interior to increase the amount of B.C. food in our hospitals. We’re going to be expanding it elsewhere in the province – it means more opportunities for producers and better hospital food for people.

I am open to considering whether we need to make more changes to the old government’s rules to better support producers, while ensuring we continue to protect our valuable farmland. I encourage Paton to reach out to work together – it will be to the benefit of his constituents.

I will keep working to help farmers farm so British Columbians can rely on a safe supply of locally grown and raised food now, and for generations to come.

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