British Columbia's Agricultural Land Commission was told last week to "defer any … decisions" related to essential work, according to a letter sent to the independent Crown agency by the Ministry of Agriculture.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix said the letter, together with a cabinet document leaked last week, shows the Liberal government has a secret plan to dismantle the ALC – and he called for the resignation of Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm.
But Mr. Pimm has accused the NDP of distorting the issue. "The NDP today are taking the words of a senior bureaucrat and trying to twist them to fit their own political agenda and reach a conclusion not supported by his letter," Mr. Pimm said in a brief e-mail. "It was very clear from the letter that the deputy was not directing any stoppages, simply reminding the ALC that they were part of core review."
At a news conference in Vancouver, Mr. Dix released a letter from Mr. Pimm's deputy to the ALC, which appears to direct the commission to halt its review of Agricultural Land Reserve boundaries in B.C.
"It's a stop-work order on the Agricultural Land Commission," Mr. Dix said. "This is more evidence showing that the Liberal government has already started the groundwork to implement their proposal to shatter the ALR."
He said the letter and the leaked cabinet document show that while Premier Christy Clark has been voicing support for the ALC in public, her government is quietly working to dismantle it as part of its core review.
"The actions by the Liberal government … undermine the Agricultural Land Reserve and undermine the Agricultural Land Commission in a way we have not seen before," Mr. Dix said. "The letter … is yet another example of that. It shows that the cabinet submission that was leaked last week and published in The Globe and Mail … is in fact government policy. … This is the direction they are preceding and we as British Columbians have to fight back."
The letter, from Derek Sturko, deputy minister of agriculture, was sent to Richard Bullock, chair of the ALC, on Oct. 4.
"Given the current core review process that is under way, I believe it would be prudent, during the period of the core review of the ALC and the ALR, to defer any ALC decisions that would fundamentally affect the ALR (for instance, inclusions or exclusions of major blocks of land)," Mr. Sturko wrote.
The letter also made specific reference to a boundary review under way in the East Kootenay region, which is the riding held by Energy Minister Bill Bennett, who is conducting the government's core review.
Mr. Dix said the core review is looking at a wide range of government operations, but only the ALC has been told to stop work.
Mr. Pimm has been in the news this week because of the cabinet document that showed he developed a proposal to restrict the ALC's power and to give the BC Oil and Gas Commission more authority over decisions concerning farm land.
The Globe reported that Mr. Pimm was admonished for "inappropriate" lobbying efforts, in an ALC ruling this summer which rejected an application by Terry McLeod, who sought to remove farmland near Fort St. John. Mr. Pimm met with ALC officials when they went to inspect the land and later, while the application was under consideration, the minister's office contacted the ALC "looking for information."
Ms. Clark has defended his actions, saying he was simply advocating for a constituent.
On Wednesday, The Globe reported that the rodeo complex Mr. McLeod wanted to build had been constructed – including a five-acre parking lot and seating for 3,000 – despite the ALC's decision.