President-BC Liberal Columbia River Revelstoke Riding Association presidents report
Susan and I recently had the privilege of attending the annual Erste August Party hosted by Franz and Louise Feldman at their ranch right here in the East Kootenays. The Feldman Ranch is a truly amazing place encompassing thousands of acres of some of the most beautiful land and scenery in the world. The event was a celebration of Swiss culture and the pioneer families that opened this area to ranching and farming. Along with an amazing buffet of food that included a BBQ of traditional sausages and mouth watering desserts, the gathering gave us a unique glimpse into Swiss culture with folks dressed in traditional garb and a long list of songs enjoyed in the Swiss language accompanied by an accordion and guitar. As we sat fully embracing the experience a realization hit me like a hammer blow; if tourism represents the Columbia River Revelstoke riding’s “bread and butter” then the ranching and agriculture industries represent our ridings “meat and potatoes” and as such are as equally important. As I reflected on this realization and as a BC Liberal I was proud to know that since coming to power our government has supported ranching and agriculture and our achievements are notable and ongoing.
Under the BC Liberals and between 2002 and 2008, land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) had a net increase of over 39,000 hectares while within a six year period in the 1990s the NDP removed over 20,000 hectares. Further, we ended the NDP’s 1990s record of overregulation of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) by eliminating a Victoria-based decision making panel and put in place six regional panels around the province. This ensures that ALC decisions are made in the best interest of local communities. We have implemented many pieces of legislation guaranteeing farm worker safety. These include tough penalties for contractors that break the Employment Standards Act; and, at the same time, enforcement staffing was increased by 50% to ensure farm contractors are obeying the laws. Our Agricultural Plan continues to prioritize the promotion of local food production and to build agricultural capacity which includes BC ranchers.
From 2001 to 2009 the BC Liberal government provided $210.6 Million to cattle ranchers through provincial and federal programs and we continue to provide millions of dollars to match federal dollars for the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program. This program compensates Cattle Producers for the loss of forage crop damaged by wildlife and losses due to predators. We have invested $11.9M in the Meat Transition Assistance Program which helps producers comply with Meat Inspection Regulations through assistance in building licensed slaughter capacity throughout the province. And, in January 2009 we partnered with Thompson Rivers University to establish a research chair to develop new techniques and technologies making sure that BC’s cattle industry remains sustainable both economically and environmentally.
Like all those attending the Feldman’s celebration, we realize and understand that these industries need our continued political and personal support. In the end it’s all about great food and the great people who produce it; and yes maybe a couple of great beers to go with it all.