B.C. Greens seek limits on foreign ownership of farmland


The party holding the balance of power in British Columbia’s legislature wants to curb foreign ownership of farmland in the province’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver on Thursday introduced the Property Law Amendment Act as a private member’s bill, which he said “would prohibit foreign entities from purchasing ALR land over five acres.”

The new bill is a reintroduction of a bill which Weaver proposed, and which died after first reading, in February last year. With three MLAs, the Greens are now supporting an NDP government tied with the opposition Liberals at 41 seats.

“One of the key reasons why young people are unable to pursue farming is due to the cost of land,” Weaver said in a release. “By allowing ALR land to be subject to international real estate speculation, we are limiting their opportunities to get into this vital, sustainable industry.”

Furthermore, he said, the province today imports about 70 per cent of its vegetables from the U.S., particularly from California, and “with these regions increasingly experiencing extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, it is more important than ever that B.C. take the future of our food security seriously.”

Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Prince Edward Island have set up similar laws to protect agricultural land, leaving B.C. as “the only western province without such a law,” he added.

In Alberta, a foreign entity can’t own or control more than two parcels of more than 20 acres in total, while in Saskatchewan, non-Canadian citizens can own no more than 10 acres. Manitoba’s rule limits foreign interest at 40 acres.

In B.C., meanwhile, Vancouver commercial real estate newspaper Western Investor on Thursday quoted Weaver as saying foreign buyers have been looking elsewhere, including farms, for investment properties since the previous Liberal government set up a tax on foreign investment in Metro Vancouver property last year.

The paper cited a survey last year, conducted by credit union Vancity, which showed farmland in B.C.’s Lower Mainland running for between $150,000 and $350,000 per acre on parcels of less than five acres.

The same survey showed Metro Vancouver farmland running around $110,000-$120,000 per acre for farms around 20 acres, and $50,000-$80,000 per acre for parcels over 40 acres. It also showed almost a third of actively farmed Metro Vancouver ALR farmland is leased by farmers from non-farmer landowners.

While ALR land’s usage is limited to farming, each property is entitled to a single-family dwelling and owners can apply for exemptions to building and land-use restrictions, Western Investor noted, citing an application submitted in 2016 in Richmond to build a nearly 40,000-square-foot house.

Weaver told the newspaper his bill’s restrictions wouldn’t apply to anyone who pays taxes in Canada.

“We want to encourage people to come live here, work here, pay taxes here. What we don’t want is third-party, offshore interests using our land, our homes, as tools for speculative investment,” he said. — AGCanada.com Network


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