FORT ST. JOHN – Independent B.C. MLAs Bob Simpson and Vicki Huntington’s visit to the Peace allowed them to see the region’s natural resource face to face, resulting in questions and concerns they plan to bring to the provincial government’s attention.
“I raised this issue in the legislature, [and] a number of organizations … stood with us on a call for a parliamentary committee to be struck,” said Simpson, Cariboo North MLA. “Not to do a moratorium or to strike the industry down, but to simply ask the question: do we have the right public policy, do we have the right frame work, not just for the industry as it is, but for the intended expansion of the industry.”
The two MLAs addressed the concerns they had to media following their week-long visit.
Huntington, Delta South MLA, said there was a disconnection between regulators and regulations.
“As you speak to other people through the system, both professionals and residents, you find that there are significant gaps between what is being regulated and perhaps what ought to be regulated through a change of public policy,” she said…
Transcript from CBC Early Edition, April 9, 2012
Huntington: Well, we’ve learned that the offers made on the 11 parcels amount to $98m. It’s money that’s hard to refuse, let’s put it that way. But what is going on, really, is the desire to build out what they call an intermodal yard and a logistics park, which is basically a fancy name for a big, huge industrial park that’s close to the intermodal facilities, and they want to do it on agricultural land that is basically the best soil in the country and also other than just the agricultural value, which is enormous, it is also an environmental value because it provides that upland forage for the migratory bird flyway. These guys want to build a facility that will service the port and be part of the Gateway structure.
Cluff: Describe for us the land in question. Exactly where is it?
Huntington: Well, as you come into Delta and you’re driving along Highway 17 down to the ferry terminal, you will notice another highway that goes down towards the Deltaport container facility. It’s a big chunk of land that abuts the Tsawwassen First Nation and goes all the way up to Highway 17. So it’s that whole triangle bordered by Deltaport Way and Highway 17 that’s at issue here.
Cluff: And why is this particular parcel of land significant?
Huntington: Well, it provides, in the developer’s mind, in Gateway’s mind, in the province’s mind and in the port’s mind that backup industrial land to the Deltaport, which is that big huge container facility, which they intend to double in size if they get through the environmental assessments. So you’re looking at large-scale industrialization of the best agricultural land in the country.
Cluff: What do you make of the way, Vicki, the quiet way this company has gone about assembling this land, buying up this land — or at least having options to purchase this land — so quietly?
Huntington: It was done very quietly, and it’s done quietly deliberately. There was a confidentiality agreement attached to it. There were rumours. A couple of the farmers or the individuals living on the land actually commented on the fact that they had been approached to consider options, and they let a few people know. So it’s been rumoured for, oh, a year and a half or so that options were occurring out there.
So my office decided that we would try and pin down the rumours, and we did spend a lot of time looking into everything and did title searches and discovered exactly which parcels of land had been optioned. I have spoken to Mr Emerson. I met with him the other day. There’s absolutely no doubt that there is an intermodal park and logistics park planned in there. There’s absolutely no doubt that the province is fully aware of it. The province I’m assuming for political reasons has said we’re going to remain neutral about it, but I know they’re excited. They’ve been met, they are very excited about the potential for this, and I’m just saying it ain’t going to happen. You can’t keep doing this to the agricultural land of this region and expect either the third-largest industry in the province, which is agriculture, to sustain itself or have an environmental value, which is attached to that land. It’s all that’s left of the migratory bird flyway and the upland forage capacity.
Cluff: But as you say, this isn’t going to happen. Isn’t this land protected under the ALR, and wouldn’t there be a large legal wrangle to try and remove it from the ALR for development?
Huntington: Well, if they go through the Agricultural Land Commission there would be a large legal wrangle. But just consider for a moment the interest the province has in the Gateway Project, it’s practically all they talk about, and I have no doubt that if there was a concern that the Agricultural Land Commission might not release this land then I think the province would do it, just like they did with the Tsawwassen settlement lands. They would do it by order-in-council.