Sunday, November 24, 2013
Politicians Say the Darndest Things
Minister Pat Pimm must resign
Released by Dermod Travis, IntegrityBC
Bennett, minister responsible for the B.C. government's 'core review,' is
trying his darndest lately to reassure British Columbians that the
government "has no plans to dismantle" the Agricultural Land Commission and
that much of the speculation was simply the result of government
That's nice. Doesn't mean much in government-speak, but it sounds
comforting. It's what comes next that should be of concern. In an interview
with the Globe and Mail on Tuesday, Bennett confirmed that the Commission
would, however, be subject to the government's core review.
So just because the government doesn't want to dismantle it, doesn't mean
that the government – in Bennett's words – “think(s) the commission is
perfect or that every piece of land that was put in there, should be there.”
What exactly do those ominous words mean for the ALC? The B.C. Liberal
party's campaign statements won't provide much guidance.
In the midst of last May's election campaign, Metro Vancouver asked each
party what they would do to protect agricultural land in the Metro Vancouver
region and what they would do to ensure that the ALC had adequate resources
to develop the necessary policy and provide the required enforcement
function to preserve BC’s farmland?
The B.C. Liberals didn't respond by promising to dismantle the ALC or that
part of its mandate would be handed over to the Oil and Gas Commission. Nor
did they say that the ALC would be subject to a core review.
Instead they boasted of the party's commitment to the Commission, noting
that the B.C. Liberal government had added “39,000 net-new hectares to the
Agricultural Land Reserve,” that they had reaffirmed their commitment “with
$1.6 million in additional one-time funding to strengthen compliance and
enforcement,” and that the Commission's $3 million operating budget will
allow it to “work more closely with farmers, ranchers and agricultural
organizations to preserve agricultural land and encourage farming.”
Clearly, B.C. Agricultural minister Pat Pimm didn't get that memo.
Only days after his reelection, Mr. Pimm was meddling in a file before the
ALC over an application by one of his constituents to remove prime
agricultural land from the reserve.
The Commission knew his conduct was inappropriate and told him so. In fact,
it was of such a concern that they issued a policy statement in early July
regarding the role of elected officials in applications before the ALC.
Their statement noted that: “Elected officials at the provincial and local
level have been given specific channels within the Act to influence
decisions on applications to the ALC. Outside of those channels, they should
not attempt to influence the ALC with regard to the outcome of a particular
Again Mr. Pimm didn't seem to get the memo.
Three weeks after the statement was released he instructed his ministerial
office to make further inquiries of the Commission, effectively violating
one of the most sacred principles of a democracy: judicial independence.
In a 2011 paper submitted to the World Conference on Constitutional Justice
on behalf of the Supreme Court of Canada, then Justice Ian Binnie wrote:
“...the strongest barrier to improper influences is a legal and political
culture in which the public simply will not tolerate actual or perceived
transgressions. In some cases government Ministers have been obliged to
resign because of actions or statements that gave the slightest “appearance”
of a failure to respect the principle of judicial independence.”
And that's why Pat Pimm must resign as Minister of Agriculture.
Incredibly though – despite the jurisprudence, despite the precedents – Mr.
Pimm still doesn't believe he did anything wrong, claiming: “I didn’t think
I was going too far and I still don’t think I was going too far I think I
was acting as an MLA”
So now he's off forum shopping, hoping that B.C.'s Conflict of Interest
Commissioner will tell him something different from what the ALC rebuked him
for in their August decision and what the Supreme Court of Canada has
Equally worrisome in this whole affair: have we reached the point where
every tribunal, every agency has to write policy statements for every
conceivable scenario so that ministers know what they can and can not do?
If it needs to be spelled out in such minutia, maybe the MLA isn't ready for
Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.
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