Why Christy Clark's bridge to Delta threatens the Agricultural Land Reserve

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      The B.C. government has produced a video showing a new 10-lane bridge replacing the four-lane George Massey Tunnel.

      The computer-generated image of the bridge across the Fraser River is surrounded by farmland.

      Set aside the fact that vehicle travel through the four-lane George Massey Tunnel has gone down significantly.

      That's not the only location where this has occurred. Last week, the Seattle-based Sightline Institute's Clark Williams-Derry highlighted how out to lunch B.C.'s traffic planners have been in recent years on other bridge projects.

      But this is just one consideration. The bigger issue is farmland.

      Earlier this year, Straight contributor Daniel Wood wrote a cover story about how the expansion of Deltaport and related projects pose a serious threat to agriculture.

      In the article, Richmond Coun. Harold Steves characterized what was happening as the "Richmondization of Delta".

      That's because more than 400 hectares of farmland would be lost to port expansion and another 100 hectares to housing built on Tsawwassen First Nations land.

      “That’s the best soil in Canada,” Steves declared to Wood.

      Now, there's word from the B.C. NDP that the B.C. Liberal government has included the Agricultural Land Commission and the Agricultural Land Reserve in its core review of government services.

      According to NDP agriculture critic Nicholas Simons, the province has ignored two previous reports, including one from the auditor general, on how to improve the ALC.

      Simons worries that the B.C. Liberals' "goal is...more cuts that will undermine agricultural land protection in B.C."

      Meanwhile, the Fraser Institute, a free market–oriented Vancouver think tank, has in the past condemned the Agricultural Land Reserve as a "costly failure". Directors of the Fraser Institute are among the province's strongest financial supporters of the B.C. Liberals.

      These critics of the ALR could never convince former premier Gordon Campbell to scrap it.

      But Clark, on the other hand, has never demonstrated as much interest as Campbell in land-use issues or climate change.

      So it's entirely plausible that her plan for a new bridge—along with the core review—are designed to undermine the ALR.

      This would open the door for a real-estate rush on Delta farmland similar to what's occurred in Richmond over the past 25 years.

      This massive increase in urban sprawl would likely please many of her party's financial supporters. And it comes as the founder of the ALR, former NDP premier Dave Barrett, is ailing and not in a position to defend his legacy.

      Pipelines and farmland

      Recently, Clark did a one-on-one interview with CBC's Peter Mansbridge to loudly proclaim her concern for the ocean environment.

      Proposed pipelines would lead to more oil tankers along the coast, posing a threat to B.C. waterways. But the main financial beneficiary of these projects would be the Alberta government, which would would collect oil royalties. So Clark has little to lose by putting up obstacles in the way.

      It's a way for her to look green to voters at very little cost to her government.

      Her biggest political risk in doing this is upsetting free-market-loving directors of the Fraser Institute. They've been among the strongest advocates of the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan's projects.

      But if she can throw the Fraser Institute a bone by, say, drastically reducing the ALR, perhaps that will get these corporate kingpins to cool their jets over pipelines.

      It's not a far-fetched scenario.

      And when those who value B.C.'s farmland ask Clark why she didn't mention this before the 2013 election, she could just smile and reply: "I told you I was going to focus on jobs and the economy, didn't I?"

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      Alan Layton

      Oct 7, 2013 at 12:38pm

      The last line is something we'll be hearing constantly for the next 4 years. It's a perfect excuse for her and combined with her other promise 'to reduce the size of the government' she has a one-two punch to basically get rid of the ALR and all of salaries associated with it.

      Gordo In a Dress

      Oct 7, 2013 at 1:08pm

      She is simply pushing much the same Agenda as the Corporate Shill & that convicted, plead guilty Drunk Driver.

      Debbie McBride

      Oct 7, 2013 at 7:07pm

      Its worth remembering that the optioning of farmland in Delta has already occurred by theEmerson Group and other large corporations with connections to the port and warehousing industry. If you're curious, go look up ALR parcels located in Delta, Richmond and Surrey. Options show up on the Title. Delta Mayor Jackson is a huge Provincial cheerleader and has always supported the Port. Interesting that she and Delta CAO recently went to Norway to learn about pipelines and ports. Since they said there are no "current" plans for pipelines going through Delta you can bet your bottom dollar that's exactly what's planned. I wonder if they've already visited Long Beach, California and taken note of the horror that has replaced the beautiful, pristine area that used to exist there. Never mind, all those movers and shakers never live in the mess they create. They just pack up and move to the unspoiled areas they pay to protect. This will only end when they have no place left to run to.

      Dave Markoff

      Oct 7, 2013 at 10:11pm

      Some people are just hysterical. The bridge is simply daylighting 600 metres of road that's already there. It cannot dramatically change regional traffic. My God, the idiocy in this region.


      Oct 8, 2013 at 9:19am

      Yabbut ALR review is something that has been demanded by the farmers for decades. Does it not make sense that the farmers who actually farm, or did farm until Free Trade made that a form of slow economic suicide, actually may have a point?

      On the other side of that is food security, of course.

      Bruce Van Tassell

      Oct 8, 2013 at 10:09am

      We need a leader of this Province who is nock to sell us out to big business or corporations and give away or destroy our natural resources. What does Clark tell her children about the future oh we don't need farm land forests or clean fresh water, put your faith in those nice friendly corporations they will take care of us. Save our farmland build the ALR not diminish it.


      Oct 8, 2013 at 10:37am

      I'm still trying to understand how spending billions on a bridge that isn't needed is considered “fiscally responsible” by the clowns who support the BC Liberals. Wouldn't it make far more sense to invest the money in transit and eliminate the manufactured need to choose between the suburbs and the Broadway corridor?

      Jan Steinman

      Oct 10, 2013 at 12:19pm

      The impending Agricultural Land Reserve review is just coincidence, no?

      It was nice of them to allow a whopping three weeks for public input. Ag groups are scrambling their volunteer forces to come up with a cogent statement in such a short term, while the paid lobbyists for developers have been working on their script for years.

      But it will be good for farmers, who can now sell out at peak dollar and move to Aruba.


      Oct 11, 2013 at 9:37am

      I'm wondering what the "real estate rush on farmland" refers to? According to the ALC, aside from the Terra Nova exclusion in 1987 (which had nothing to do with any freeways or brides), there has been virtually no land taken from the ALR in Richmond in the past 3 decades. And if a new bridge = agricultural land destruction, why hasn't East Delta seen any significant changes to its farm land base since the completion of the Alex Fraser/Hwy 91 project?


      Nov 7, 2013 at 6:36pm

      I think the bridge is a good idea but the only thing is that we're would it be placed?