John Rustad is the current leader of the B.C. Conservatives. Mr. Rustad has visited the Cowichan Valley multiple times to inquire about, and look into, the flooding of the Cowichan Bay estuary that has become such a hot-button topic.
Mr. Rustad has brought forward the concerns around the flooding of the farmland to the Agriculture Minister (Pam Alexis) on a couple of occasions. Previously Minister Alexis had stated that she knew nothing about this project, however her ministry had been involved in discussions. It has been revealed that the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) had been contacted by Nature Trust, but had not gone through the next steps to fill out an application with them.
At the Legislature on October 24th, once again Mr. Rustad questioned the Agriculture Minister.
Tuesday, October 24, 2023 – Question Period
J. Rustad: Weeks ago this NDP Agriculture Minister was caught red-faced when she claimed she was unaware of the impending flooding of prime agricultural land in the Cowichan Valley. Can the Minister of Agriculture please explain why her NDP government was prepared to ignore the ALC and its mandate in order to turn 100 acres of food-producing B.C. Farmland into a marsh?
Hon. P. Alexis: There are pressures on agricultural land all across the province, and I recognize the importance of preserving suitable agricultural land so the B.C. Agriculture sector can continue to grow in terms of food security, economic activity and community strength throughout the province. The ALC has a mandate to preserve agriculture land and encourage farming that can include both traditional agriculture and on-farm value-added activities. The project that the member mentions would require a non-farm-use application to be granted by the ALC. And as of today, no application has been made.
J. Rustad: It’s interesting that this government has given $1.5 million for the project without even asking for the application. Clearly this government is prepared to destroy productive farmland. And right now there are thousands of acres of marginal agricultural land available in British Columbia where homes could be built. To the Minister of Housing, why is this government more concerned with creating homes for ducks than creating homes for people?
Hon. R. Kahlon: I appreciate the question. You know, when I travel throughout the communities, I hear from people who say: “Well, you know what? We have agricultural land. Why don’t we just build homes on it?” In fact, I’ve heard the Leader of the Opposition suggest something similar as well. Our message to folks is that, that land needs to be used for agriculture purposes. We need to ensure, coming out of a pandemic.. We learned clearly from the experience of the pandemic that having the ability to grow food locally is vitally important to handle pandemics, to handle any challenges, economic challenges, we have in the future. There are ways to build housing that don’t touch agricultural land, and that’s what we’re doing here. We’re finding ways to get greater opportunities for housing around transit, built around the infrastructure that we already have in our communities, and we’re going to continue to do that work.
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