Shaundehl Runka passes along this note from ALR/ALC historical expert Barry Smith. (There is one minor amendment to the document as Gord Dowding was in fact in the House as Speaker.)
50 Years of Farmland Preservation
On April 18, 1973 the Land Commission Act, forerunner of today’s Agricultural Land Commission Act, was given Royal Assent and was passed into law.
During the later part of 1972 and until the Act’s passage, the government received support from several quarters but also came under heavy, at times extreme, criticism in the pursuit of their policy to preserve British Columbia’s farmland. Through this tumultuous period the government of the day persevered.
Fifty years ago on April 17, 1973 Hansard records that there were 34 British Columbians, in the 30th Parliament (2nd Session), who rose in the B.C. legislature to approve third reading and passage of the Land Commission Act.
This was a landmark piece of legislation. There was nothing like it in any other jurisdiction in North America at the time. It provided the legal foundation to advance the government’s policy of farmland preservation.
Over the last half century there have been ups and some downs in the delivery of the programme but the primary objective originally assigned to the Land Commission, to “preserve agricultural land for farm use”, remains basically unaltered.
In recognition and in humble thanks, I have attached a list of the 34 individuals (plus four others) responsible for the passing of this visionary legislation that is still benefiting British Columbians to this day.
Hansard lists the following 34 members of the legislative assembly that voted in favour of 3rd reading and passage of the Land Commission Act on April 17, 1973.
Carl Liden Delta
Douglas Kelly Omineca
Gerald Anderson Kamloops
Roy Cummings Vancouver- Little Mountain
Jack A. Radford Vancouver South
Alfred Nunweiler Fort George
David Barrett Coquitlam
James Gorst Esquimalt
Gary Lauk Vancouver Centre
William Hartley Yale-Lillooet
Dennis Cocke New Westminster
Norman Levi Vancouver-Burrard
Donald Lewis Shuswap
Harold Steves Richmond
Peter Rolston Dewdney
Christopher D’Arcy Rossland-Trail
Rosemary Brown Vancouver-Burrard
Robert Strachan Cowichan-Malahat
Alexander Macdonald Vancouver East
Phyllis Young Vancouver- Little Mountain
Colin Gabelmann North Vancouver-Seymour
Frank Calder Atlin
Robert Williams Vancouver East
Daisy Webster Vancouver South
Emery Barnes Vancouver Centre
Hartley Dent Skeena
Karen Sanford Comox
Lorne Nicolson Nelson-Creston
Eileen Daily Burnaby North
Ernie Hall Surrey
Graham Lea Prince Rupert
Robert Skelly Alberni
William King Revelstoke-Slocan
James Lorimer Burnaby-Willingdon
There were four members of the governing party that Hansard does not record as being in the legislature at the time of the vote on third reading and passage of the Act. These were Gordon Dowding (Burnaby-Edmonds), Leo Nimsick (Kootenay), Don Lockstead (Mackenzie) and ironically David Stupich, (Nanaimo) the Minister of Agriculture.
Mr. Stupich, however, is recorded in Hansard as being prominent in leading the section-by-section review of Bill 42 on April 14 and 16, 1973, which, at its conclusion Premier David Barrett stated in part:
“I want to personally express my public appreciation to our Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Stupich), who has taken this pioneering bill through a very emotional and unnecessarily unwarranted personal attack against him . . . , but I want to publicly thank him for taking this bill through.”
In the 1972 Department of Agriculture Annual Report, Minister Stupich made the government’s intentions concerning farmland preservation quite clear when remarking:
“There are those among us who tend to assume that British Columbia is a land of boundless resources to be freely exploited under the guise of “progress.” We can forgive those early settlers who subscribed to this view, but today we know that is patently untrue.
Nowhere is this more evident than in our agriculture. It has become firmly established that there are very definite limits to the extent of land area in this Province that can be profitably devoted to agricultural pursuits.
Because of this it is essential that every effort be made to ensure that such land be preserved, not only in the interests of our agricultural industry itself but for the common good as well.”
If anything Mr. Stupich’s comments are even more relevant today. In mountainous B.C. the physical context within which the B.C. farmland resource rests has not changed. But the number of British Columbians has more than doubled – 2.2 million (1971) to 5.2 million (2021).
By any measure the Land Commission Act was a visionary piece of legislation representing a paradigm shift. The post Second World War tendency to view farmland as urban land in waiting was fundamentally altered by the designation of a provincially inspired agricultural reserve within which farming and ranching were the uses of priority. The designating of the Agricultural Land Reserve was strongly based on the nationwide Canada land inventory and designated only after a process involving public hearings held by the various Regional Districts, a review by the Land Commission, and finally a reconsideration and ultimate approval by Cabinet.
With hindsight it has been noted that, “It is impossible not to be impressed by the qualities of the political act which grasped the farmland nettle in British Columbia. It is skilful, logical, bold and strong.” Further, “The creation of the B.C. Land Commission is considered a major event in the evolution of regional planning in Canada as well as in planning for conservation, resource development, and the environment.”
It is worth reflecting that this far-reaching, progressive legislation enhanced sustainability 14 years prior to the term coming into vogue in the Brundtland Report “Our Common Future” completed by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987.
Today only five of the 34 members of the legislature that approved the Land Commission Act, along with their four colleagues not in the house that day, are still with us. But their leadership 50 years ago has contributed to a more resilient British Columbia as we collectively face the challenges of climate change.
For this they deserve our recognition, our thanks and our remembrance.
 See speech W. Lane, Public and Private Rights in Land: Regulation vs. Taking For Comparison: The British Experience; January 30, 1976
 Wilson, J.W & J.T. Pierce, The Agricultural Land Commission of British Columbia, Environments, Vol. 14, No. 3, 1982.
 Hodge, G., & L.M. Robinson, Planning Canadian Regions, UBC Press, Vancouver, 2001