General News · 8th January 2017
Ron Kroeker has raised the issue of Right to Farm legislation as a putative reason for the Regional District to ignore the violations of Cortes zoning bylaws by some shellfish operators. This is a faulty argument since invoking Right to Farm legislation is at odds with the Provincial Government’s Licence of Occupation issued to shellfish leases which states that all licensees must:
“observe, abide by and comply with all applicable laws, bylaws, orders, directions, ordinances, and regulations of any government authority having jurisdiction in any way affecting your use or occupation of the land” (pg 4, Article 4.1ci).
These are legally binding conditions which everyone who leases shellfish tenures must sign and agree to. They differ from farmers who own their own land in that accepting bylaw and other regulations constraints is a pre-condition for obtaining a shellfish lease, so that right-to-farm clauses should not be able to override bylaws.
Regional District bylaws also must conform to the Cortes Official Community Plan (OCP) according to the Province. Above all, our OCP enshrines the rural quality of life, the environment, and the right to enjoy one's property. While the Province may have the ultimate ability to do what it wants, this is clearly discretionary and not undertaken lightly. In point of fact, the Province did not intervene during the Regional District's legal suit against Island Sea Farms.
Noba Anderson and others have repeatedly raised the bogeyman issue of the Province possibly over-riding local bylaws and even taking away Regional District jurisdiction over shellfish operations. Without any proof that the Province would actually intervene in this case, Anderson and her supporters have used putative Provincial powers as an excuse for not doing anything about the transgressions of shellfish operators. It seems clear that this is a smokescreen for her do-nothing policy and is a cop-out. You can't know what the outcome will be until you try. In fact, a Provincial official is reputed to have told one of the Regional Directors that they would not use Right to Farm legislation to interfere in local aquaculture.
If the Province threatens the Regional District for enforcing its bylaws, then that is the time to back down. It is ridiculous to capitulate to a paper tiger of one’s own fabrication without making any attempt to enforce bylaws. The time to stand up for enforcing aquaculture bylaws against the use of industrial machinery in the Gorge is long overdue.
As for Director Anderson’s claim that the complaint-driven bylaw enforcement system works well on Cortes, there have been many complaints over the years about the industrial shellfish industry noise in Gorge Harbour, all to NO effect, aside from the actions of the previous Cortes Director who got the RD to initiate a lawsuit against the use of machinery in the Gorge. When Anderson took office in 2012, she immediately moved to quash this lawsuit. The result has been unacceptable noise levels that have raised the ire of residents and threatened to shut down Gorge Harbour Marina. High levels of high speed boat traffic, harassment of waterfowl, and other problems continue to exist. Anderson’s “solutions” to the problems are clearly no solution at all for the residents, recreationists, tourists, and businesses of Gorge Harbour.