by Michele Murphy
Defeated Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard has landed an appointment as the new chair of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
Leonard’s appointment comes on the heals of the controversial firing of Richard Bullock as the Agricultural Land Commission board chair and CEO with seven months left to go on his contract.
Leonard will take up duties at the ALC immediately combining duties as board chair and CEO for a period of five months while he leads the search for a new CEO of the commission.
Bullock has been a vocal critic of recent changes to the ALC act. The changes saw the creation of regional boards, as well as separating the province’s ALR land into two separate zones opening up non-agricultural use of farmland for over 90% of the province’s ALR farmland.
Bullock has most recently been on the offensive as concerns are being raised about the province’s farmland being bought up by foreign companies to grow forests for carbon credits. These carbon sinks include imposing a restrictive 100-year covenant on the ALR land.
Lana Popham, Saanich South MLA and Opposition Critic for agriculture, said of Bullock’s firing, “Bullock is a true champion for agriculture, who is respected by all sectors of the agriculture industry for his expertise and fair-mindedness.”
While Saanich has a rich history of farming with almost 20% of the municipality located within the ALR, Leonard’s background and interests show no obvious connection to the agriculture. The long-time municipal politician comes from a background of managing several family-owned tires stores. While in business, Leonard served as a director of the BC Chamber of Commerce, president of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, and on the boards of local tourism and economic development groups and served as a director of the BC Investment Management Corporation.
While in public office, Leonard chaired the Municipal Finance Authority of BC, was president of the Union of BC Municipalities and a director of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He has also chaired the Capital Regional District, the Hospital District, the region’s Housing Corporation, the Saanich Police Board, and has served on the Regional Transit Commission. He has also served on numerous recreation, arts, and community boards.
Leonard was past co-chair of the Farm Assessment Review Panel, which looked at the farm classification process and regulations for municipal tax purposes.
In contrast, Bullock’s background includes serving as president of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association, BC Tree Fruits Ltd., and Sun-Rype Products Ltd., and as Director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. According to the ALC website Bullock has extensive experience in international consulting including the production and processing of agricultural crops. He is a former member of the BC Marketing Board and the past Chair of the BC Farm Industry Review Board. And now, past chair and CEO of the BC Agricultural Land Commission.
“This is a critical time for B.C. agriculture, as the Liberals prepare to release new regulations stemming from Bill 24, which weakened farmland protections on 90 per cent of ALR land. By replacing B.C.’s agricultural watchdog with someone with no background in agriculture, the B.C. Liberals are making it clear that their attack on the ALR has only just begun,” adds Popham.
Time will tell if Leonard’s skills in business are transferable to preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming in British Columbia.
Check out Peninsula Video’s coverage of Richard Bullock providing some insights for local agrologists on the affairs of the ALC in BC HERE