British Columbia’s provincial election is this Tuesday, May 9. The turnout for the last election was only 55 per cent! We need to do much better than that this time around. Here’s a quick rundown of where the main three parties stand on food and farming.

BC LIBERAL PARTY

The local food movement has grown in B.C. over the past decade despite a lack of leadership from the BC Liberals (although they have no problem taking credit for it in their platform). Aspiring young farmers struggle to support themselves and can’t access over-valued land, while the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was weakened by the passage of Bill 24 in 2014. You can read more about all this in Trina McDonald’s feature, Losing Ground, from our Fall/Winter 2015/2016 issue.

Their 2017 platform has some local food initiatives. By 2020, the BC Liberals want to increase exports of agrifood and seafood products by 25 per cent and increase domestic purchases by $2.3 billion. They will provide $5 million to the B.C. fruit tree industry for replanting, help small meat producers access processing, and encourage local food by doubling the “Grow Local” program and making it permanent and increasing the “Buy Local” program by $1 million—but not until 2019.

The Liberals do deserve some credit for making farm-gate sales easier for local breweries and distilleries (read about it in our Fall/Winter 2015 issue). They will help B.C. brewers grow more local hops and have plans for advertising and a new app to support the wine, craft beer, and distillery industries. They will also ban neonicotinoid pesticides and pledge $500,000 for research in closed containment finfish aquaculture. You can read more about why that’s important in Sarah Hughes’s 2014 piece on Kuterra.

While some of this may sound good, remember the BC Liberals are embroiled in a cash-for-access scandal and support environmentally destructive projects like the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, Pacific Northwest LNG, and the Site C Dam, which will flood vital food lands and destroy sacred Treaty 8 territory.

BC Liberal Platform: https://www.bcliberals.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2017-Platform.pdf

BC GREEN PARTY

The BC Greens make a commitment to local food and food security in their platform. It notes that the majority of B.C.’s food comes from the states (70 per cent) while most of our farmers are older—only six per cent are under 35. The Greens pledge to work with Indigenous groups and the non-profit sector to develop alternative land access models like farmland trusts and have committed $40 million to help local farmers adapt to climate change.

Details include a $30-million investment “to enhance the long term viability of the agricultural sector” so it can feed more British Columbians, incentives to produce food on ALR land, agricultural apprenticeship programs at secondary and post-secondary levels (which is a great idea), and more “Buy Local” initiatives to support B.C. producers. They also plan to work with farm operators to address labour shortages.

For the ALR specifically, the Greens would introduce new legislation to better protect agricultural land and increase the amount of it that’s used for farming. The legislation will address property speculation, which contributes to the high costs, and target those who are using ALR land to build mega-mansions and country estates.

Full BC Green Platform: http://www.bcgreens.ca/platform

BC NDP

The New Democrats’ platform includes a “Grow BC, Feed BC, Buy BC” initiative. While a little light on the details, it promises to “revitalize” the ALR and the commission that governs it “for the 21st century.” They pledge to help young farmers access land, want to make sure bee populations stay healthy, and will support fruit and nut growers and processors.

One standout area is procurement. The NDP want to help hospitals and care facilities use more B.C.-grown and processed food products and encourage more B.C. food products in other government facilities. We’ve heard this idea raised in previous issues of Concrete Garden by Saanich South NDP incumbent Lana Popham, who’s been a strong advocate for B.C. farmers and protecting agricultural land.

The NDP will also develop a BC Food Innovation Centre, in partnership with those involved in the food system, which will help with new technology and accessing new world markets. They include support for craft beer, spirits, and wine in this section of their platform and want to do more to promote the “Buy BC” marketing program for food and drink.

Bonus points: The NDP will adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (a commitment Trudeau’s Liberals are now backing away from) and we support this 100 per cent.

Full NDP Platform: https://action.bcndp.ca/page/-/bcndp/docs/BC-NDP-Platform-2017.pdf

HOW TO VOTE
You can vote in advance polls until 8pm tonight, and again tomorrow (Saturday, May 6) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Bring your ID and proof of address, or someone who can vouch for you. More details: http://elections.bc.ca/2017-general-election/voter-id/

– Quinn MacDonald