B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, tried a cider at the Scenic Road Cider Company in Kelowna Monday after speaking with co-owner Marina Johal (left).—Image credit: Alistair Waters

B.C. Green leader blasts Liberal handling of agriculture

Andrew Weaver was in Kelowna Monday and said not enough is being done to attract young farmers.

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver says the province has to do a better job helping farmers and protecting farmland in B.C.

Weaver, who was in Kelowna Sunday and Monday, toured a small cidery in the Glenmore Valley on Monday and said he feels farmers have not been well-served by 16 years of B.C. Liberal government.

“Farmer’s can’t get on the land because the land value is so high,” said Weaver. “There is a role for government, to ensure (young farmers) have access to the land so they can farm.”

The B.C. Green Party leader said B.C. has a problem with what it sees as agriculture land in this province being used in a “speculative real estate sector.”

And a B.C. Green government would address that, vowed Weaver.

He said foreign ownership—“by people who do not live and pay taxes in Canada”— should be limited to no more than five acres of B.C. agricultural land.

“B.C. is the wild west in every aspect of everything,” he said, adding there are limits to how much productive farm land foreign buyers can own in many other provinces.

“It’s the right thing to do because ultimately, you cannot have your food-producing regions potentially at the whim of speculators in other areas.”

Speaking at the Scenic Road Cider Company, a small two-year-old craft cidery in the heart the Kelowna-Lake Country riding—a riding represented for the last eight years by current B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick—Weaver took direct aim at how the Liberals have handled agriculture while in power.

Asked if the Liberals had let down farmers Weaver, replied: “Yes, I would say absolutely.”

He called recent changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve brought in by Letnick that created a two-tier system, where development would be allowed on less productive agriculture land that is currently in the ALR “outrageous,” and simply a ploy to allow fracking and gas exploration on agricultural land in Northern B.C.

“It has nothing to do with the preservation of agricultural land in B.C.,” said Weaver.

Speaking with B.C. Green candidate Alison Shaw by his side—she’s running against Letnick in Kelowna-Lake Country—Weaver also said his party would focus on regional development offices to help young families get into farming in a similar way tech incubators help technology companies get off the ground.

“We have an aging farming population and that’s not healthy. We need to get young people back in to view farming as a career.”

With federal plans to legalize the recreational use of marijuana coming next year and the downloading of much of the responsibility for that onto the provinces, Weaver said B.C. must protect what he called its “craft” marijuana industry, in a similar way to how craft beer production and craft ciders are dealt with.

“There’s billions of dollars of revenue potentially,” he said. “If those revenues are managed properly.”

On Sunday, Weaver spoke to B.C. Green Party supporters at a Kelowna hotel before attending the Kelowna Rockets-Seattle Thunderbirds WHL game at Prospera Place later that evening.

For more 2017 BC Election coverage click here.