MLAs PIMM AND LEKSTROM ON ALR/ALC DELEGATION AGREEMENT FOR PEACE AND NORTHERN ROCKIES
During the 2011 fall session of the Legislature we had the opportunity to debate Bill 19 which is the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. A major section in this act is the amendments to the Agriculture Land Commission Act. Several problems are identified with the ALR in our region. I had great difficulty with this bill. Minister Lekstrom and I fought extremely hard on behalf of our local residents to have some positive changes made to this act. The biggest problem with the ALR, for our area, is that we put a priority on saving agriculture land within our region without considering the effect on the farmer, the farming community, the farming family, succession planning and the ability to have some form of non-farm use on the farmers land.
We have few opportunities to discuss the ALR. We knew this would be our best opportunity to make changes to the ALR and the ALC.
Some of the changes made are positive. One is that the commissioner will now have the ability to send a decision to an appeal process. That is something that wasn’t available before. Another positive is that we received a little bit of extra money put back into ALC, approximately $600,000.00 this year and another million dollars for next year. The ALC will be able do some work that has been long overdue, for example, proper boundary mapping.
The points that we fought against were the fact that once an application goes to the ALR you are not able to re-submit the same application for a 5 year period. The second piece that we had difficulties with was the increase in application costs, when in many cases the land should not have been in the ALR in the first place. Minister McRae has noted that the new fees have not yet been established. He agrees that land that should not have been in the reserve in the first place should not be subject to any new fees.
During the past year we have been working closely with the Committee for Agriculture Land Reserve Reform, a group of North and South Peace constituents. This committee has been trying to get a pilot project for the Northeast that would put the ALR in the Peace Country on an equal playing field to our Alberta counterparts. Although we were not successful in getting this commitment, we did receive positive feedback on the possibility of delegation agreements for the Peace and Northern Rockies Regional Districts.
Delegation agreements are not new to the ALC as they have been offered to all Provincial Regional Districts in the past. However, very few regions accepted the offer as they felt the agreements did not give the local governments enough authority to make the proper decisions for their Districts.
Minister Lekstrom and I have received information that would lead us to believe that if we could get our area residents to agree to issues that could be addressed through a delegation agreement for our area, then the ALC would consider establishing an agreement between our Regional Districts and the ALC.
On March 2, 2012 Minister Lekstrom and I met with the North and South Peace Cattlemen, Grain growers, Bison Association, Forage Association, Association for ALR Reform, Woman’s institute and landowners with no affiliation to see if we could come up with some areas that all of the groups felt that would work for them and the group came to consensus on eight issues that could help our area farmers and landowners.
Minister Lekstrom and I have sent a letter to the Peace River Regional District that listed the eight items and we asked for a further meeting to discuss the issue with the board and that meeting happened on April 12, 2012.
The following items are what Minister Lekstrom and I have asked the board to discuss including in a delegation agreement with the ALC Commissioner.
- Permit communities proper opportunities to expand, and allow for special consideration if a parcel is of great benefit to a community’s future plans.
- Lessen restrictions to allow subdivisions around home sites for farm family members and succession planning purposes of approximately 10-15 hectres per ¼ section parcel of land.
- Allow subdivisions on land that is non-farmable because of creeks, railroads, roads or any other topographical restraint that prevent proper farming practices.
- Allow subdivisions on ALR lands that have low agricultural potential based on poor soil ratings such as Class 5, 6, and 7 with the exception of 5C.
- Expand Industrial uses on ALR lands to accommodate non farm uses that could enhance the sustainability of agriculture and allow approximately 10 – 15 hectres per ¼ section to provide the additional flexibility. You would also have to address employee numbers, building size etc to accomplish this.
- Re-instate the ¼ section as the standard size agricultural parcel allowing sections and ½ sections to be subdivided down to ¼ section titles and also make some similar accommodation for Community District lots.
- The subdivision rules established in the Delegation agreement should also apply to non ALR lands. Providing it does not reduce their present opportunities.
- Initiate a proper appeal process.
We have an opportunity to help repair the ALR and the ALC for the Peace Country and the Fort Nelson area. Now we must work with our local government to establish this delegation agreement for the benefit of our residents.
Minister McRae is pleased with the legislative and financial changes for the ALC and he is committed to working with the ALC to ensure they are a proactive organization that meets its mandate but also respects the regional, geographic and agricultural differences that face this vast Province.
Pat Pimm, MLA Peace River North
Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Transportation, MLA Peace River South
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