Fort St. John rodeo grounds built despite ALC ruling

A Fort St. John rancher at the centre of a political firestorm says he's gone ahead and built some rodeo grounds on his land, despite a ruling from the Agricultural Land Commission shooting down his proposal.

Terry McLeod says he should be able to build what he wants on his land

ALC reprimanded Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm for interfering 2:35

A Fort St. John rancher at the centre of a political firestorm says he's gone ahead and built some rodeo grounds on his land, despite a ruling from the Agricultural Land Commission against his proposal.           

Terry McLeod says so far he's stripped a hill to build a race track and seating for 3,000 people as part his rodeo facility.

He told CBC News he believes he should be able to build what he wants because it's his land.

The NDP are caling for the B.C. Agricultural Minister Pat Pimm to resign over the lobbying claims. (CBC)

"It's my own land. there's people running things on their own land everywhere," he told the CBC on Wednesday morning.

Mcleod says, although the farm land in question is listed as high quality, it's not. 

"When people picture farmland in Vancouver or Victoria or Kelowna, they are thinking we are growing apples in Fort St. John. They are out of their mind. We have a hay crop this year we couldn't even get off it rained so much."

He says the rodeo grounds were actually under construction when the ALC toured the land this summer and built by the time the ALC ruled against it, and notes the facility hosted the RCMP musical ride this summer.

McLeod says the region needed a proper rodeo facility and he tried to convince the Agricultural Land Commission that the rodeo could be built on land protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve because a rodeo is agricultural.

But earlier this year the ALC ruled against his proposal, saying the land should be protected. It is not yet clear if the ALC will order the rodeo grounds to be taken down.         

Minister's resignation demanded

Meanwhile the NDP continues to demand the resignation of B.C.'s Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm for his in role in the affair.

In its August decision Pimm was harshly criticized by the Agricultural Land Commission for allegedly using his political influence to try to get the commission to rule in favour of McLeod's rodeo proposal.

The report said several times as an MLA Pimm endorsed the Fort St. John project to the ALC. And then as a cabinet minister he also contacted the commission about it.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says she won't ask Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm to step down. (CBC)

The commission called Pimm's contact with commissioners "inappropriate" because he was trying to influence the ALC, which is supposed to be independent from the government.

Pimm has issued a statement saying he was only advocating for his constituents as their MLA and that he respects the ALC's decisions.

But NDP Leader Adrian Dix says Pimm clearly broke the rules and has called for him to resign as agricultural minister.

"It's hard to believe that could happen, hard to believe that the premier has no response to that, hard to believe that Mr. Pimm could continue to act with credibility in that role," said Dix.        

Dermod Travis of Integrity B.C., a non-partisan government watchdog, is also calling on Pimm to resign.

"I think the land commission took a sledge-hammer to Mr. Pimm in their decision,…because anyone including the Agricultural Land Commission knows full-well he has done something terribly wrong."

"We have to have judicial independence in Canada. Mr. Pimm crossed that line. The precedent is clear across Canada: when a minister crosses that line they have no choice but to resign."

Premier Clark defends Pimm

But Premier Christy Clark says she will not be asking Pimm to step aside because he was simply advocating on behalf of a constituent when he pledged his support for the rodeo proposal.

However Clark says in the interest of the rules being clearly stated, Pimm has asked B.C.'s Conflict of Interest Commissioner to rule on what's appropriate in such a situation for all MLAs.

"The ALC is absolutely an independent body. Its independence must be respected.  At the same time MLAs must be able to bring forward concerns and issues on behalf of their constituents as Mr Pimm did," Clark said.