The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is receiving a budget increase of 33% ($1.1 million) through Balanced Budget 2016 to fulfil its mandate of protecting farm land and to deliver their services to British Columbians in a timely, efficient and accessible manner.
The improved service delivery includes increased support for compliance and enforcement activities and a refund to applicants if their application is not processed within a defined time. The enhanced service model is outlined in performance indicators the ALC will implement as part of the Province’s cross-government commitment to strengthening public sector governance and accountability. The performance indicators include:
- Keeping applicants informed by:
- Acknowledging receipt of a complete application, or identifying the required additional information, within five business days;
- Making decisions within 60 business days of receiving complete applications; and
- Notifying applicants of the decision within five business days of the decision being made.
- Improving compliance and enforcement by developing and implementing a comprehensive approach, and through additional hiring, by Nov. 30, 2016.
- Increasing local government engagement by conducting annual surveys of local governments to identify challenges and opportunities.
The measures to improve service to British Columbians include a money-back guarantee, providing applicants with a full refund if they do not receive a decision on their complete application within 90 business days.
These efforts follow the ALC’s launch of an online application and tracking system, the successful recruitment of a CEO, and the creation of regional panels that reflect the geographic differences of the province. These measures help farming families earn a better living and have more opportunities to use their land.
The increase boosts the ALC annual budget to $4.5 million, a $2.5-million increase in the commission’s base budget since 2012. The budget increase is partially offset by revised fees, which were last set in 2002. The fees for companies or individuals making an application to the ALC will increase from $600 to $1,500 in Zone 1 and $900 in Zone 2. The revised fees will recover about 40% of the expenses incurred in the application process and include several new fees directly related to compliance and enforcement.
The commission is also expected to fully adopt the cross-government Taxpayer Accountability Principles posted at: http://gov.bc.ca/crownaccountabilities
The new accountability measures, the money-back guarantee and the new fees all will come into effect on April 1, 2016.
Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick ─
“These measures deliver a plan for clear improvements of compliance and enforcement activities and improved levels of service for farming families, while ensuring British Columbians are getting value for their tax dollars. I have full confidence in the ALC leadership and staff and believe they will meet these targets, to the benefit of agriculture in British Columbia.”
Agricultural Land Commission chair Frank Leonard ─
“Today's announcement allows the ALC to serve property owners in the ALR with respect for their time and investment by providing prompt decisions to their applications. In addition, improved enforcement will ensure the ALR's credibility and preservation consistent with the values of all British Columbians.”
Agricultural Land Commission: http://www.alc.gov.bc.ca
B.C. government Taxpayer Accountability Principles: http://gov.bc.ca/crownaccountabilities
ALC performance indicators:
Ministry of AgricultureGovernment Communications and Public Engagement
The performance indicators were developed following discussions between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Land Commission that began after the British Columbia government announced the Taxpayer Accountability Principles in June 2014.
The targets complement the British Columbia government’s efforts to help the commission modernize its services and delivery model, to serve B.C. farmers and promote farming.
The performance indicators are posted at: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/agricultural-land-and-environment
Updating the ALC’s application fees was a topic of consultation with:
- B.C.’s Agriculture Council;
- the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and several regional governments,
- the BC Real Estate Association;
- the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers;
- the BC Oil and Gas Commission; and
- a 2012 web-based consultation, which was open to the public. The consultation found that the majority of participants supported setting the commissions fees at levels that better reflected the costs of the application process.
Application fees related to exclusion, subdivision and non-farm use from 2002 to present:
- Provincewide: $600 per application, divided as $300 for the ALC and $300 for the local government.
Application fees related to exclusion, subdivision and non-farm use effective April 1, 2016:
- Zone 1: $1,500 per application, divided as $1,200 for the ALC and $300 for the local government.
- Zone 2: $900 per application, divided as $600 for the ALC, and $300 for the local government.
ALC fees related to compliance and enforcement:
Several fees have been introduced to support the costs and expenses associated with ALC compliance and enforcement activities once an application has been approved:
- Document review ($150 per document) and site inspection ($350 per inspection) for approved applications, which generally require one followup ALC action to confirm all activities on the site are in compliance with ALC requirements.
- Monitoring fees from $500 to $2,000 annually, depending on project size, for sites that require regular ongoing monitoring by the ALC such as soil fill and removal, and gravel extraction.