British Columbia

Richard Bullock, fired Agricultural Land Reserve chair speaks out

Richard Bullock, the now former chair of B.C.'s Agricultural Land Commission, alleges he was fired by the province because they wanted him out of the way while they implement changes to how agricultural land is preserved.

Richard Bullock says his firing doesn't bode well for retention of farmland in B.C.

Under the proposed changes to B.C. Agricultural Land Reserve, farmland will be divided into two zones, with one zone protected, and the other opened to some types of development. (CBC)

Richard Bullock, the now former chair of B.C.'s Agricultural Land Commission, alleges he was fired by the province because they wanted him out of the way while they implement changes to how agricultural land is preserved.

The government announced in a news release on Thursday that former Saanich mayor Frank Leonard has been appointed as the new chair of the independent commission. Bullock was not mentioned in the release.

But Bullock, who had been chair for five years and whose term wasn't up until November, says he was informed over the phone that a change in regulations was coming, and the government felt they needed new leadership.

B.C. farmland in peril

Bullock says he's not sure what the new direction is, but he suspects it won't bode well for the retention of farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

"The government spent a lot of time going around the province last summer and fall...they heard from a whole host of people all across the province," Bullock told Daybreak South on Friday.

"I don't think they expected to hear what they heard, which was, 'keep the ALC in place, make sure it has the tools to do the job, and basically leave it alone.'

"I'm not sure they wanted to hear that."

Bullock says he has fought to keep "agricultural land where it should be," but he suspects the new regulations would allow things to happen on agricultural land that weren't allowed before.

"The [new] regulations are going to be proclaimed very soon, I would assume, and getting me out of the way was probably strategically — from their point of view, and a political point of view — the right thing to do," he said.

A new team captain is needed

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick thanked Bullock for his five years as chair, and acknowledged they had a good working relationship. But, he told CBC News, Bullock's term was coming up, new regulations for the Agricultural Land Commission are in the works, and he says, it's time for new leadership.

"Typically, what I found in the past ... is when you change the CEO or are about to change the CEO, there's a lot of time wasted in rumour and speculation," he said.

"I want everyone to have their eyes on the ball and focus on the job at hand, which is to expand agriculture. To do that, I thought it would be best to hand over the baton to a new team captain."

Letnick says the commission remains independent of government influence, and that the province remains committed to safeguarding agricultural land for future generations.

Since 2001, 38,000 new hectares of land have been added to the Agricultural Land Reserve, for a total of 4.7 million hectares, Letnick said.

To hear the full story, listen to the audio labelled: Former Agricultural Land Commission chair speaks out

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