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British Columbia B.C. agriculture minister sought to influence an ALC decision prior to reform proposal

Pat Pimm, M.L.A. for Peace River North, Province of British Columbia on the streets of Fort St. John on January 16, 2013.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Just a few months before B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm drafted a cabinet proposal to curtail the powers of the Agricultural Land Commission, the Crown agency issued him a stinging rebuke.

In an August decision, in which it rejected an application by a local resident to withdraw land from the Agricultural Land Reserve, the ALC criticized both Mr. Pimm and Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman for trying to sway its deliberations.

"In our respectful view, those representations were not appropriate. They could create the impression for both the Commission and the public that these officials were attempting to politically influence the Commission," the ALC said.

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The ruling was also critical of an unnamed ministerial assistant to Mr. Pimm who asked the ALC for information on the land application while it was still being deliberated.

Two months after the ALC rejected the land application, Mr. Pimm drafted a proposal calling for cabinet to restrict the powers of the ALC and to bring the autonomous Crown agency directly under the control of his ministry.

Richard Bullock, chair of the ALC, said he didn't think Mr. Pimm's proposal, which would essentially dismantle the commission, was triggered by the ruling – but others are not so sure.

"It raises issues, frankly, as to whether he should be Minister of Agriculture," NDP Leader Adrian Dix said Friday. "It's disturbing. For the Minister of Agriculture to be intervening as an MLA in this case is inappropriate and the commission justly chastised him. For the same Minister of Agriculture to then … be caught trying to essentially eviscerate the Agricultural Land Commission, in a document for cabinet decision, seems equally inappropriate."

Mr. Dix said Premier Christy Clark should issue a statement clarifying what Mr. Pimm is proposing to do with the ALC, and explain his contact with the commission.

Mr. Pimm said in a statement when he contacted the ALC in May he was acting as an MLA "advocating for an opportunity … that in my mind, would offer some real benefits to the community." And contact with the ALC by his ministerial staff was made "to enquire about the timeline for a decision – just as we have done, and would do, for all MLAs."

Mr. Pimm said the ALC "makes independent decisions about land use in British Columbia, and I fully respect their decisions."

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