Tag Archives: Food Security

Delta Independent MLA Vicki Huntington

Port, Province Set to Steamroll Over Delta’s “Meaningless” Farmland


We’ve known it all along, but at last we hear it out loud. Robin Silvester, the President and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver, has stated that:

“Agriculture is emotionally important, but economically [of] relatively low importance to the Lower Mainland. And in terms of food security, [it] is almost meaningless for the Lower Mainland.”

So there we have it…finally, honesty from someone in a position of power. Our Premiers and their governments have known it was too political to admit to — that Delta’s agricultural land will be turned into an industrial park.

And to put the icing on Delta’s cake, so to speak, the Premier commented at a recent dinner to the construction industry that those silly people in Delta don’t want the Port: how unpatriotic can they be? Look at the jobs, the opportunity to be “Canada’s face to Asia,” to contribute to the good of the province and of Canada!

Well, Madam Premier, we know the value of Deltaport to BC and to Canada. We live with it. We accept its presence. And we have given up more than you can imagine in order to host the port, as well as its access roads, its rail tracks, the overpasses, the highways and the causeways it requires to operate efficiently.

We have contributed to the economic prosperity of our country and region. And enough is enough. Credible alternatives are available in Vancouver harbor and at Prince Rupert so it is irresponsible to destroy more farmland and internationally-significant habitat for world-renowned salmon runs, Canada’s major stopover for migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway, and endangered southern resident orcas.

Now we know that the Premier and her industrial supporters intend to lay waste to what is left of the Fraser estuary. Now we know that any obligation to community, to family, to history, to wildlife (both marine and avian) migrations, to the finest agricultural land in Canada, is not on the provincial agenda. Habitat and farmland are being sacrificed for business and a plan that could ultimately be unfeasible. This is also about rezoning farmland, a lucrative enterprise for the business associates of government.

Many of those fighting to preserve what is left of Delta’s agricultural heritage and the migratory bird flyway that depends on those uplands have known that government policies supported Silvester’s position. It has been clear from its reports that the Gateway Council controls the government agenda. But to hear the comment finally spoken aloud is still a jarring experience.

Yes, Mr. Silvester, it is emotional. Our community – our families, our history, our agricultural industry, our soul and our quality of our life depend on the land. So does the entire Pacific population of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. But the people don’t matter. Nor does wildlife or the morality of protecting an international Treaty obligation to preserve the habitat on which that migration depends.

The people of B.C. recognize the importance of credible business and trade but question the motives of unnecessarily destroying the environment and fine agricultural land.

We deserve a say in the decisions that affect our communities and lives. Does anyone else feel there is a reason people are occupying Wall Street?

Vicki Huntington is the Independent BC MLA for Delta South and a contributor to The Common Sense Canadian

Dana Maslovat of Southlands the Facts, in front of a barley field on the Southlands property

Delta Council Paves Way for Massive Housing Development on Farmland, Over Public Opposition


On the eve of municipal elections, Delta Council has unanimously voted to begin amending its Official Community Plan, paving the way for a highly controversial housing development by Century Group atop the Southlands (aka Spetifore Farm). The October 17 decision could override a recent lengthy public consultation process that rejected changes to the Tsawwassen Area Plan (one of three communities that constitute Delta) to rezone the property for development.

“Given the two years and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars spent on updating the Tsawwassen Area Plan, I am extremely disappointed that Mayor and Council are proceeding with this application,” said Dana Maslovat of Southlands the Facts, a community group fighting to save the farmland.

“The public has clearly indicated their wishes to keep this land agricultural and it makes me wonder why all that time and money was spent to update our Area Plan if it is to be changed almost immediately. Furthermore, they are proceeding with a change to the Official Community Plan without a specific development proposal which is basically akin to giving the developer a blank cheque.”

The 500-plus acre parcel of land in Tsawwassen’s Boundary Bay was removed from the ALR by a 1981 order in council – at the urging of several ruling Scored MLAs who were interested in developing the property at the time. The order overruled the Agricultural Land Commission, which opposed the property’s development, based on its high soil quality – yet the Southlands has remained protected by its municipal agricultural zoning.

Despite numerous polls and meetings over the past several decades that have consistently demonstrated the community’s overwhelming opposition to rezoning the Southlans for development, Delta Council is now poised to override the Tsawwassen Area Plan and push ahead with the unpopular proposal from Century Group that could see between 1,000 and 2,000 homes on the property.

There will be some form of public consultation before the amendment to the Delta OCP is ratified, which sets the stage for yet another round of heated criticism of the plan. According to Maslovat, “A proposed timeline would involve public information meetings early in 2012 with a possible Public Hearing in the spring. The OCP designation change application was submitted without a specific development plan application, which would involve a separate process and Public Hearing.”

It remains to be seen what political fallout will arise from the decision, which comes just one month prior to municipal elections.

Watch this recent documentary by Damien Gillis on the battle over the Southlands

Peterson Farm wheat harvest - 1990s (courtesy of Lynda & Larry Peterson)

Site C Dam: The Folly of Choosing Energy Over Food Security


I recently returned from a trip up to Peace River Country in Northeast BC, filming for a forthcoming short documentary on the Campbell/Clark Government’s proposed Site C Dam.

While I wasn’t raised in the region, I have a personal connection to the land and its history. I spent many summers and winter holidays there as a child visiting relatives. My family were early settlers in the Valley, circa 1910, and most of them still reside in the area. Some fifty years ago we lost our farm – Goldbar Ranch, West of Hudson’s Hope – to the province’s first big hydroelectric project, WAC Bennett Dam.

But that was a different time – guided by a very different vision for the future of a burgeoning young province. While it wasn’t easy for families like mine and First Nations who lost much of their ancestral territories and traditional way of life, there was a real purpose to building those early dams. Knowing what we knew then, it was an understandable decision that Premier WAC Bennett made, with the overall public good in mind (though he certainly should have consulted better with First Nations and local citizens, something that was sorely lacking).

By contrast, today, there are many good reasons why the final of three dams long planned for the Valley – Site C Dam, near Fort St. John – isn’t in the public or environmental interest, despite what our government has been telling us to the contrary.

Besides its breathtaking beauty and tremendous fish and wildlife values, the Peace River Valley is home to some of the best farmland in BC.

The soil is of very high quality: nearly 12,000 acres of good agricultural-grade land would be flooded for the project – several thousand of which bear class 1 and class 2 soils.

But it’s not just the earth that makes the Peace Valley ideal for a diverse range of food production. The valley also produces a unique micro-climate that yields a longer growing season than anywhere north of the Fraser River Delta and Valley (another critical food security region in BC under siege from development – in this case highways, ports, and housing and industrial development). Everything from corn and potatoes to cantaloupes and watermelon have been grown in the Peace Valley.

At one time, a single farm run by Lynda and Larry Peterson provided a quarter of the region’s potatoes and a market garden with fresh fruits and vegetables of a wide variety.

But today, the Valley isn’t producing nearly what it could, due to a flood reserve which has held vast tracts of land hostage to the recurring threat of another dam. Consequently, much of this land lays fallow, while the region has seen many of its farming and food processing services disappear, along with the market gardens that once flourished, supplying residents with locally-grown produce.

For me, the question of Site C Dam really comes down to a choice between energy and food security.

Despite what the public has been told about BC’s energy situation, the province is more than able to meet its own electricity needs without building Site C – or paying billions of dollars for exorbitant, unnecessary private river power. Our electrical consumption has actually been trending down, thanks to a slow-down of the global economy (which shows no signs of reversing) and power smart programs taking effect (from 53,500 GWh of electricity in 2009 to just over 50,000 last year).

Under pressure from BC Hydro’s CEO, a recent panel review of the public utility, and the media and public, the Clark Government appears to be backing away from its ill-conceived and improperly named “self-sufficiency” and “insurance” requirements that falsely inflated the province’s need for electricity.

By contrast, BC is facing a food security crisis. According to data from the provincial Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, as of five years ago, we were less than 50% self-sufficient in food and down from approximately 80% self-sufficiency in vegetables in 1970 to about 40% today.

It’s clear that food self-sufficiency is a far greater concern for the province than electrical self-sufficiency; ergo, the Peace Valley should be preserved for food production and wildlife habitat, not flooded for power we don’t need.

So where is this power really going? To natural gas fracking operations in the region. I’m told by people researching the matter that two of the major gas processing facilities in the Horn River Basin, northeast of Fort Nelson – Encana’s Cabin Gas Plant and Spectra’s nearby operation – could eat up close to a quarter of Site C’s total power output alone. And there are many other large operations being built for natural gas extraction and transmission – in addition to major coal mines throughout the region, all in need of significant power. Energy Minister Dick Neufeld told locals publicly in 2008 that half of the power from Site C was destined for Horn River shale gas operations – evidenced by the fact the government wants to build a major transmission line from the Fort St. John area up to the Horn River Basin, to carry this new power from Site C.

All of this once again begs the question, why are talking about wiping out 12,000 acres of productive farmland and important wildlife habitat to subsidize natural gas and coal operations? (And bear in mind that not only will you be financing the $8-10 BILLION dam as a taxpayer and shareholder of BC Hydro, but you will continue subsidizing large industrial power users – who pay half or less what you pay for electricity – through your much higher power bills and tax bills well into the future).

Clearly this is the wrong direction for BC to be going in. What needs to happen now is for Site C to be cancelled once and for all, for the long-standing flood reserve to be lifted off the Peace Valley, and for local farmers to return to the land. If farmed to its full potential, this valley could feed the whole region and a significant portion of Northern BC.

Watch for a forthcoming short documentary by Damien Gillis on Site C Dam in early 2012.


Vancouver Sun Op-ed: Prosperity Possible Without Growth


Read this op-ed in the Vancouver Sun by Profs. Tim Jackson and Peter Victor on the need to rethink our dogmatic pursuit of growth at all costs.

“Fixing the economy is only part of the battle. We also have to confront
the convoluted social logic of consumerism. The days of spending money
we don’t have on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know
are over. Living well is about good nutrition, decent homes, good
quality services, stable communities, decent, secure employment and
healthy environments. The ability to participate in society, in less
materialistic – and more meaningful – ways, is not the bitter pill of
eco-fascism as Enchin would have it, but our single best hope for social
progress.” (Sept. 19, 2011)


Deltaport - yellow indicates third birth (completed 2010), red indicates area of proposed second terminal expansion

Simply No Need for Deltaport Terminal #2


Oh No!  The port propaganda machine is back and here we go again with a barrage of falsehoods.  Consultants are being paid megabucks to convince us that another expansion is needed at Deltaport, Roberts Bank, involving a new terminal with 3 new berths in order to double container capacity.

Increased container capacity expansion at Deltaport is not needed.  Port Metro Vancouver has never done a proper “needs assessment”.  Credible “feasibility studies” were not part of the process for the last Deltaport expansion or the South Fraser Perimeter Road.  Port Metro Vancouver justified construction of the Third Berth at Deltaport – completed in 2010 – with mythical forecasts of increased container traffic.  Even the lowest case prediction of 2.8 million TEUs for 2010 was not realized.  The total for 2010 was just 2.5 million TEUs.

Now the spin-doctoring is back.  We are told we need a new terminal at Deltaport because Vancouver container traffic will triple to 7.5 TEUs by 2030.  Well guess what?  B.C. already has enough potential to handle this increase in container traffic if we include the Port of Prince Rupert.  Port Metro Vancouver has the potential to handle 6.7 million TEUs with efficiency improvements and without a new terminal at Deltaport.  Prince Rupert has the potential to expand and handle 5 million TEUs.  That would more than quadruple our current container traffic.

Expansion at Prince Rupert is cheaper for taxpayers as the infrastructure for moving containers across B.C. is already in place.  In addition, expansion at Prince Rupert does not threaten farmland, migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway, resident orcas, and critical Fraser River fish habitat.

The current world economy makes it anyone’s guess just how the container business will unfold.  Canada does not need the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 – now, or anytime in the foreseeable future.  B.C. container ports have capacity to handle container volumes for years to come without damaging the habitat at the mouth of the mighty Fraser.

Port Metro Vancouver is still dreaming about its proverbial ship coming in.  Meanwhile, the managers proceed to build and expand without accountability to the economy, the environment or the public.  You may ask why this is happening.  The answer is simple.  Port Metro Vancouver, associated crown corporations, and government-friendly corporations are accountable to no one.  They plot, lobby, and make deals with our governments to use up public assets and taxpayers’ dollars.  Unlike real businesses, they do not suffer losses because it all falls on the taxpayers.  If the business doesn’t materialize, they lose nothing.  In fact, they make huge profits from contracts, lucrative land deals, rezoning and real estate developments that are associated with port expansion.  Once cooperative politicians and bureaucrats leave their jobs, they find themselves well situated on various Boards and in associated private companies.

In 2009, B.C. Rail spent $15 million of taxpayers’ money to purchase large tracts of the Agricultural Land Reserve along the Deltaport corridor.  This was six years after B.C. Rail had been sold.  A government-friendly non-profit organization has strangely managed to acquire four properties of the Agricultural Land Reserve along the Deltaport/South Fraser Perimeter Road corridor.  One property appears to be a great location for a future rail yard.  Also, the Emerson Group, which specializes in industrial properties, has been purchasing options on Agricultural Land Reserve properties near the Deltaport corridor.  Put all of this, and Tsawwassen First Nation plans, on a map and you will find a blueprint for transforming the Agricultural Land Reserve into an industrial, commercial and residential corridor stretching from Deltaport to the waterfront.

The federal and provincial governments are involved in all these sweetheart deals.  In 2006, the B.C. Government removed environmental protection from 2,852 acres of crown waterlot at Roberts Bank and gave the property to the federal government to be managed by Port Metro Vancouver for port development.  Previously, this environmentally sensitive property surrounding Deltaport was earmarked to become part of the Roberts Bank Wildlife Management Area.  Other give-aways of crown waterlots for port development at Roberts Bank bring the total to well over 5,000 acres.  There are plans to remove another 665 acres of protected waterlot for Terminal 2.

The federal and provincial governments cooperate by paying lip-service to environmental assessment laws.  They offer assistance to crown corporations and ignore excellent reports by government scientists.  Emails from 2004 reveal that lawyers from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans advised Port Metro Vancouver how to avoid an Independent Review Panel of port expansion at Deltaport.  Government agencies are supposed to facilitate an independent assessment, not conspire with proponents.  Thanks to their assistance, the port held a lesser type of environmental assessment.  Concerns raised by the public and government scientists were then easily ignored.

The rubber stamp came out again for the environmental assessment of the South Fraser Perimeter Road.  Both levels of government failed to disclose the important fact that the project would be built on federal lands with species at risk.  This is in contravention of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Species at Risk Act.  The implications are far-reaching as the public was denied due process and Environment Canada was denied any decision-making powers.  Also, in a highly irregular process, an additional environmental assessment addressing the issue of species at risk on federal lands took place six months after the project was approved.    

Mitigation is a joke undertaken by contractors.  Government permits for construction are easily acquired.  Compensation money goes to government-friendly organizations who dabble in environmental improvements which are based on little or no science.  They do not begin to make up for the loss of salmon, orca and migratory bird habitat.  They do not begin to address concerns raised by government scientists during the environmental assessments of the Deltaport Third Berth.

There are no substantive advantages to these developments.  Maybe they will create more jobs but how many of them are temporary jobs paid with money borrowed by taxpayers?  The provincial Liberal Government increased taxpayer-supported debt for transportation by 80% between 2001 and 2010.  Obligations for contracted transportation projects which are taxpayer-supported and supposedly self-supported (i.e. fees, toll, etc for taxpayers) add up to $16 billion. 

Further port expansion at Deltaport is a bogus deal that will be lucrative for a few and expensive for taxpayers.  How can we, in all conscience, do this to the Fraser River estuary where we had plans to protect Canada’s major stopover for millions of migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway?  Despite recognition of the Fraser River delta as the most Important Bird Area in Canada and despite signing three international bird habitat conservation treaties, our governments are willing to forfeit this international treasure and hand over public treasures to be destroyed by unaccountable crown corporations and their friends.

Are we, the people, going to allow this disgrace?

Susan Jones in a longtime resident of Tsawwassen.




Lantzville lawyers up in farm fight – Seeks to stop landowner from selling produce


From the Nanaimo Daily News – June 18, 2011

by Walter Cordery

The District of Lantzville has threatened Dirk Becker with legal
action if he doesn’t stop using his 2.5-acre farm as a commercial

The district has hired Victoria law firm Staples,
McDannold, Stewart to help enforce its residential zoning bylaw. People
can grow food for personal consumption, but they cannot sell the food
for profit, according to the district’s bylaws.

Lantzville has
tried to accommodate Becker by bringing in a temporary use permit bylaw
but he has refused to apply for one to allow him to continue farming
on his Fernmar Road home.

“Initially we gave them 90 days to apply for a TUP and then we
extended it to 180 days,” said Lantzville administrator Twyla Graff.

hasn’t applied, (so) we have no choice but to pursue litigation as
Compassion Farm is in a clear violation of our zoning bylaw.”

farm is zoned “residential 1” and does not allow the use of the
property for other than those permitted under the existing bylaws,
states a letter from the district’s lawyers to Becker.

“You have
been made well aware of the violations of the bylaw, which include
using the lands for agricultural and commercial purposes.”

law firm goes on to say “please be advised that we have been instructed
to take legal action as may be necessary for court order requiring
that the use of the lands be brought into compliance with the bylaws of
the district without delay.”

The letter warns Becker that if he
doesn’t comply with the bylaw in three weeks, the law firm will
commence legal proceedings without further notice.

“You should
be further advised that if legal steps are required to be taken, we
will seek to recover legal costs expended by the district.”

Becker has no intention of shutting down his farm nor any intention of applying for a temporary use permit.

council held a public community meeting last March to discuss TUPs,
the vast majority of those in attendance were opposed to them,” said

“The problem with TUPs is that they are just that temporary and council can revoke them whenever they want.

Nicole (Shaw) and I sought legal counsel and we were told not to apply
for one as that could legitimize them. After eight months, we are
feeling harassed and tired.”

The district’s decision to threaten litigation irked Lantzville resident Glenda Barr Allard.

member of the Friends of Urban Agriculture in Lantzville, Barr Allard
is furious “the district is willing to spend scarce resources to hire a
law firm to take Compassion Farm to court.”

“The district, in my
opinion, has not listened to the community and are steam rolling over
the wishes of people in Lantzville.”

Read original article


Site C Would Destroy Prime Farmland, Fuel Fracking & Tar Sands


At a recent event in Vancouver, biologist and Peace Valley Environment
Association representative Diane Culling discussed the enormous
consequences of the proposed Site C Dam – including the flooding of
prime farmland at a time when the province faces major food security
challenges. Culling also pointed out that much of the electricity
generated from the project would go to fueling destructive shale gas
development in northeast BC, and, by extension, the Alberta Tar Sands. (3 min)


Manitoba Premier Selinger launching campaign to save the Wheat Board – article & video


From the Winnipeg Free Press – June 13, 2011

by Staff Writer

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is trying to enlist the
public’s support in protesting Ottawa’s plan to eliminate the Canadian
Wheat Board’s monopoly on grain.

The federal Conservative government will introduce legislation this
fall that will effectively end the Winnipeg-based grain-marketing
monopoly by Aug. 1, 2012, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced two
weeks ago, fulfilling a long-time pledge by his party.

The plan has proponents among wheat and barley producers, especially
those closer to the Canada-U.S. border, as well as among industry giants
such as Viterra. Other producers and industry groups oppose the plan.

Selinger launched a campaign to “save the Canadian Wheat Board” in
the lobby of the board’s Main Street headquarters this morning. The
premier was joined by Wheat Board chairman Allen Oberg and Doug Chorney,
president, Keystone Agricultural Producers.

 Mayor Sam Katz, who is attending a conference in Israel, has not commented on the pending loss of the Winnipeg-based entity.

Read original article and watch video


Aid Agency Warns Food Prices Set to Double


From The Toronto Star – June 1, 2011

by Arthur Max – Associated Press

AMSTERDAM—As food costs spike for the second time in three years, an international aid agency predicts the price of some staples such as corn will double in the next 20 years amid a permanent crisis caused by rising demand, flat crop yields and climate change.

The report by Oxfam released Tuesday said the demand for food will grow 70 to 90 per cent by 2030, without factoring in the impact of climate change. Increasingly frequent droughts, floods and changes in agricultural patterns from global warming will add pressure to what the agency calls an already broken system.

“The food system is buckling under intense pressure from climate change, ecological degradation, population growth, rising energy prices, rising demand for meat and dairy products and competition for land for biofuels, industry and urbanization,” Oxfam said in its report, “Growing a Better Future.”

It said 925 million people — one out of seven — are hungry, and the figure is likely to surpass 1 billion by the end of this year.

“If you think we have a crisis here, in 30 years it will be a cataclysm if the status quo remains,” said Gonzalo Fanjul, a policy adviser for Oxfam.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says food prices are higher than they have been in the last 20 years, surpassing the 2008 price spike that set off food riots in cities around the world. Instability fueled by high oil prices is likely to continue, the Rome-based FAO said.

“Prices will never come back to the levels of the 90s, but there will be ups and downs,” said Fanjul.

Oxfam’s report assigned part of the blame to commodities traders, saying three companies control 90 per cent of the trade in grain. It urged greater regulation of speculation in the international food market.

But the system that controls global food production and requires reform is far broader, it said. It includes large-scale landowners in poor countries, farm lobbies and seed manufacturers in wealthy countries and high-carbon industries blocking action on climate change.

“For too long governments have put the interests of big business and powerful elites above the interests of the 7 billion of us who produce and consume food,” Oxfam’s executive director Jeremy Hobbs said in a statement.

The report called for building a multilateral system of food reserves, ending biofuel subsidies so more crops go toward edibles, and more investment in the 500 million small farms in developing countries that support 2 billion people.

The long-term problem is that the growing number of people on Earth and their increasing demand for an animal-based, Western-style diet is outstripping the growth in agriculture. Oxfam said global crop yields grew an average 2 per cent between 1970 and 1990, but then dropped to 1 per cent and are still declining.

“The dramatic achievements of the last century are running out of steam,” it said.

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