Port's stance challenged
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington has asked Agriculture Minister Don McRae to repudiate what she says are “anti-agriculture” remarks made last month by Port Metro Vancouver president and CEO Robin Silvester.
In the October issue of BCBusiness Magazine, Silvester discusses Deltaport expansion plans, which have come under fire from some critics who say port-related development will result in a loss of farmland.
Silvester is quoted as saying: “It’s critically important that the Regional Growth Strategy and the municipalities recognize industrial land must be preserved. Otherwise, the economy will, over time, wither.
“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.”
Huntington has accused Silvester of “denigrating the importance of Delta’s agricultural base.” In the provincial Legislature on Monday (Oct. 31), she challenged Agriculture Minister Don McRae to respond.
“Will the Minister of Agriculture repudiate Mr. Silvester’s attack on B.C.’s most productive land and defend agriculture in B.C., and is he prepared to tell the port that preserving farmland in Delta is not just emotional but is crucial for both the well-being of our farmers and the survival of the Pacific migratory bird flyway?”
McRae responded that he has met with Deltans who have raised concerns about the importance of agriculture and he agrees with them.
“I will continue to advocate for agriculture in Delta. I will continue to advocate for agriculture in British Columbia. It is hugely important, and I think everybody gets it,” McRae said, though he did not denounce Silvester’s remarks.
Huntington said Delta understands the value of the Pacific Gateway to Canada’s economy, but added that “this obsession to turn the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) into an industrial park has to stop.”
She continued that B.C. residents do not want to use jobs as an excuse to “abuse” the province’s agricultural assets or environmental responsibilities. She called on the Minister of Transport to pledge that the province will commit to the current industrial-agricultural balance in Delta, halt industrial creep, proclaim the value of farmland to B.C.’s future and also to B.C.’s role in meeting Canada’s obligation under the migratory bird treaty.
McRae pointed out that migratory birds is an issue to do with the federal government and the ALC (Agricultural Land Commission) is independent from the government. He said he has toured greenhouses in Delta.
“There is no doubt that it’s hugely important that we continue to advocate for agriculture,” he said.
During the same question period, Huntington also criticized Premier Christy Clark’s suggestion that South Delta “take pride in a new identity, not as the agricultural jewel of the Lower Mainland but as the face of Canada to Asia.”
Port Metro Vancouver is currently inviting the public and stakeholders to review and provide comments on the Deltaport Terminal, Road and Rail Improvement Project. Feedback received is meant to help the port authority understand the scope of the potential environmental and socio-economic effects of the project and consider mitigation measures.
Comments will be accepted until midnight on Nov. 10.
For a project description and instructions on how to submit comments, visit portmetrovancouver.com.