BC Green Leader calls for foreign buyer limits on agricultural land

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The leader of the BC Green Party is calling for a crackdown on the foreign purchase of farmland.

Speaking with guest host Drex on CKNW’s The Jon McComb Show, Andrew Weaver said Metro Vancouver’s foreign buyer tax has had some effect on cooling the housing market, but has also diverted speculators elsewhere, including into farmland.

LISTEN: Green leader calls for restrictions on foreign ownership of B.C. farmland

“Land in and around Metro Vancouver and to an extent Kelowna and elsewhere, is being viewed as a commodity that’s traded like silver or gold as opposed to a place to live or residence or place to actually farm,” Weaver said.

“This is not going to end well unless we get a grip on it now.”

He said the result is a loss of food security and higher real estate prices in an already overheated market.

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In response, the province needs to put limits on the foreign sale of farmland over certain acreages, Weaver said.

He said the Greens would introduce legislation to preserve B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) “soon.”

“The [ALR] fix is a relatively simple one. It’s not something that would be viewed as controversial,” Weaver said.

Weaver said the proposed prohibition would not apply to anyone who pays taxes in Canada, including Canadians living overseas and people in the country on work visas.

Weaver’s first opportunity to introduce legislation would come after the B.C. legislature reconvenes on September 8.

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The ALR covers about 47,000 square kilometres of public and private land in B.C., and was established by the NDP in 1973.

The goal was to permanently reserve the province’s most fertile farmland or potential farmland from development and forestry.

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The BC Greens campaigned on changes to the ALR, including the foreign buyer limits, increasing the proportion of ALR land in use for agricultural purposes, and limiting its use for non-agricultural purposes and the construction of so-called ‘mega-mansions’ and country estates.

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Weaver pointed to Saskatchewan, which limits non-Canadians to purchasing 10 acres of agricultural land, as an example of how the province could restrict  foreign ownership of farmland.

Several other provinces, including Alberta, Quebec and Prince Edward Island, have measures in place regulating who can purchase farmland.

-With files from the Canadian Press