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'Ten Percent Shift' would help create sustainable economy

"We have been lied to and bought off and this government needs to know we aren't going to let this development happen.

"We have been lied to and bought off and this government needs to know we aren't going to let this development happen." - Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington, Delta Optimist, April 11, 2012

And so begins this community's fight to prevent the paving and pillaging of 600 acres of prime Delta farmland and wildlife habitat.

Huntington revealed last week a $98 million plan by a warehouse developer to buy 11 farm parcels in the Agricultural Land Reserve to complement and accommodate port-related activities.

As Huntington points out, the plan is just one of many incremental assaults on South Delta farmland. Combined, these industrialization machinations could eventually blight the entire agricultural triangle between Highway 17 and Deltaport Way.

According to the province's Pacific Gateway Transportation Strategy document, B.C. is the preferred gateway for Asian trade to North America and the world.

With the urbanization of China and India, demand for our natural resources is expected to soar so that by 2020, the amount of coal moving through this corridor is forecast to increase by 150 per cent at the same time as the increase in forest products could be as high as 100 per cent and the increase in metals and minerals is expected to top 300 per cent (the document doesn't mention B.C. imports more than half the food it consumes).

It seems to me that being the "preferred gateway for Asian trade" means giving up prime farmland in order to make it more efficient to export our natural resources, which we later import as manufactured goods along with food to feed ourselves because we don't grow enough here. What?

Turns out, inexpensive goods manufactured offshore come with a heavy price. Of course, I'm not silly enough to suggest we all stop buying offshore goods - heck, most of us would be sitting around naked and without an iPhone to tweet about it if everything we owned made in Asia suddenly disappeared.

But the pressure to develop farmland to accommodate Asian trade is not without reason - if you buy it, they will come. So what about spending just a bit more locally - not enough to break the budget, yet still enough to help your community?

The Canadian Union of Public Employees calls this the "Ten Percent Shift" and has even created a campaign and devoted a website ( to helping people pour 10 per cent of their existing consumer spending into local business, local products or local materials. The idea is that spending locally keeps more dollars in the community and contributes to a stronger and more sustainable economy.

I don't know if it's too late to save Delta's farmland, but since I started this column with a quote from Huntington, I think it's fitting to finish it with a complementary quote from Margaret Mead, dedicated to anyone who's willing to try: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

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