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A farm in Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island. Jenny Holden/The Discourse

Will candidates act to limit sprawl and protect farmland?

We sent Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP candidates your election questions. Here’s what we heard.

What will federal election candidates in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford do to limit sprawl and protect farmland in Cowichan? That’s a question we at The Discourse Cowichan heard from you after we launched Set The Agenda. The project aims to put the people back in control of the election discourse. 

On each of the five days before the election, we’re publishing candidates’ answers to questions you sent us. Today’s question: What will you do to limit sprawl in Cowichan and make sure development is sustainable and farmland protected?

As of Oct. 16, The Discourse Cowichan had received answers from four of six candidates via email. Alana DeLong’s campaign manager, with the Conservative Party of Canada, referred us to Conservative.ca for all policy announcements. Rhonda Chen, with the People’s Party of Canada, has not responded to the requests. I’m rotating the candidates’ order each day. Here are the candidates’ responses. I’ve copied them directly from the emails they sent me.

Lydia Hwitsum, Green Party of Canada

Blessed with significant agricultural land, the Cowichan Valley is uniquely situated to become a major food supplier for Vancouver Island and beyond. To ensure agricultural lands are protected, the Green Party would undertake the following measures:

  • Reinstate the Canada Land Inventory program to provide a comprehensive record of existing and potential agricultural land.
  • Provide effective fiscal incentives to other levels of government to preserve farmlands under their jurisdictions.
  • Renew the national Environmental Farm Plan Program to help farmers protect wildlife habitat areas and marginal lands, maintain water quality in streams, lakes and aquifers, and retain and improve soil quality, increase carbon sequestration and decrease water requirements.
  • Encourage buy local campaigns and the production of organic produce to ensure support for local farmers and provide sustainable livelihoods for them and farm workers. 

Blair Herbert, Liberal Party of Canada

This is a good question.  As MP, while I could share my point of view on sustainable development and protecting farmland, the authority on these files lies with the local and provincial governments, respectively.

In the CVRD, for example, the Development Services Division of the CVRD is responsible for implementing current land use planning standards.  Within their planning should be consideration of ensuring development is sustainable.

In terms of the second part of the question, the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is responsible for preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming in British Columbia.  The ALC supports coordinated and collaborative planning with local governments to ensure agricultural lands are protected. 

Alistair MacGregor, New Democratic Party

Limiting sprawl, making sure development is sustainable, and protecting farmland in Cowichan and all communities across Canada are important components in tackling the climate crisis and protecting our environment.

Zoning for new developments falls under the jurisdiction of municipalities and regional governments, and the protection of farmland, through the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial government. While the federal government cannot intervene directly in these matters, there are still a number of policy tools at its disposal.

Where the federal government can have a positive impact on these issues is through the creation and expansion of National Parks, updating the National Building Code and investing in transportation systems that help regional governments build smart communities. The federal government can also help develop a National Food Policy and food hubs that help connect consumers to local farms.

Conservation is a vital way to protect ecosystems and preserve biodiversity. New Democrats will protect 30% of our land, freshwater, and oceans by 2030 and back those protections with funding and enforcement. We’ll also work with other levels of government to develop a system of urban national parks – and a national approach to tree-planting, using responsible reforestation to help lower our carbon footprint.

We will also improve the National Building Code to ensure that by 2030, every new building built in Canada is net-zero energy ready. Energy efficiency and sustainable building practices will be at the core of our National Housing Strategy, leveraging the power of federal investments to create good jobs all across the country delivering the affordable housing that Canadians need.

A New Democrat government will also modernize and expand public transit in communities across Canada, and ensure that federal transit funding flows with an emphasis on scaling up low-carbon transit projects, like zero-emissions buses and electric trains, with the goal of electrifying transit and other municipal fleets by 2030. Municipalities are already investing in making their transit systems more environmentally friendly. It’s time that they had a federal partner to help.

Working with provinces and municipalities that identify it as a priority, we will help them build towards fare-free transit to ease commutes, help people make ends meet, and lower emissions.

We know that Canadians want to do their part to reduce emissions when they travel – that’s why our plan will make it easier to get and use a zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV), and make sure that more ZEVs are built right here at home.

Better commutes include promoting smart community planning and active transportation like walking and cycling, helping Canadians make choices that are healthier and more affordable for everyone. New Democrats will be there to support municipalities in their path to sustainable development.

Robin Stanbridge, Christian Heritage Party of Canada

I have pointed out – in the debates and in the past (based upon my work on the matter) – that municipal zoning bylaws are the primary cause of sprawl and constitute nothing less than a real estate scam. I believe ALR- zoned farms should be afforded the opportunity to build high rises if they convert an agreeable portion of the land to forest restoration, and homeowners should be permitted to convert their footprint of their existing structure, using tall wall construction to a low rise apartments proportionate to an existing rich forest cover dominating the balance of a given property at the time of the permit application. This policy would thereby cause a sudden appetite for reforesting the built environment, thereby nullifying the presumption development need be at odds with the environment.

Further reading

As some of the candidates mention, land use issues are mainly controlled by lower levels of government. But the issues of sprawl and protecting farmland touch on many federal issues, including the environment, infrastructure, transportation and housing. You might check out more information on these topics in party platform guides by CBC News and Macleans.


Set The Agenda is a collaborative journalism project between The Discourse, APTN and Hearken. A portion of the funding for this project comes from partners including Inspirit Foundation and the Facebook Journalism Project. Funding support of the project does not imply endorsement of or influence over the content produced.