Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Poll shows strong opposition to Tsawwassen Treaty removing farmland but support for treaties in general; Liberals, NDP out of touch, say critics

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday December 18, 2007

Public keen to protect farmland

Public opposes removing farmland from ALR for Tsawwassen treaty but supports treaties


For me, every ruler is alien that defies public opinion.

- Mohandas Gandhi

British Columbians strongly oppose removing farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve to reach a treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation, an exclusive 24 hours' poll shows. But the same poll indicates solid support in general for negotiating treaties with B.C. First Nations.

And a prominent environmentalist says the poll shows that the governing B.C. Liberal Party and the opposition New Democratic Party are both out of step with public opinion after their MLAs voted overwhelmingly for the treaty that will exclude farmland from the ALR to allow Deltaport container shipping expansion.

By almost two to one, British Columbians polled last month by
Strategic Communications said they opposed removing Delta farmland from the ALR, with 57 per cent opposed versus 29 per cent in favour.

And 37 per cent were strongly opposed, versus 14 per cent strongly in favour. The remainder were undecided.

The question posed to 600 people across B.C. was: "Do you support or oppose the provincial government removing farmland from the agricultural land reserve to reach a Treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation and allowing the band to do what it pleases with that land?"

But on the general question of negotiating treaties with First Nations, 71 per cent were in favour, with 44 per cent strongly so, and 19 per cent were opposed.

The results pleased politicians and environmentalists who fought the deal over removing farmland from the ALR and turning it over to the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows
MLA Michael Sather, who was temporarily suspended from the NDP caucus for opposing the treaty, was pleased the polling supports his position.

"It's gratifying that people value agricultural land that much," Sather said. "But I remain concerned about other treaties in the pipeline and other challenges to the ALR."

The B.C. Farmland Defence League's Donna Passmore was blunt.

"What these results show is that both the leaders of the B.C Liberal Party and the NDP are completely out of touch with the people of B.C. and their own voters," Passmore said. "People will not be held hostage to First Nations over issues of guilt to the point that it obstructs issues about our future, especially farmland."

Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, B.C. Assembly of First Nations regional chief, disagrees.

"Once the land is back, it's up to them [the Tsawwassen First Nation] to decide what to do with it," Atleo said. "As First Nations, we did not institute these land-management processes."

"The notion that First Nations are going to be wanton land owners and destroy everything just doesn't make sense," Atleo said, while acknowledging public opinion. "I think First Nations need to hear what public concerns are. The issues around land use are welcome discussions between neighbours."

And Atleo is glad treaty-making in general is backed.

"I'm very pleased to hear the public supports reconciliation," he said. "It's absolutely critical that the public not only understand but pressures government to reconcile aboriginal and Crown titles."

Joe Foy, campaign director for the
Western Canada Wilderness Committee - one of the only environmental groups to speak against farmland removal - said the poll is "great" news.

"The people get it, according to this poll," Foy said. "People at least have a sense of the strings that are being pulled here. There's a reason this scheme came forward to pave over farmland and people can see that."

Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, a longtime farmland advocate, was pleased but said he doubted the poll would change the NDP, which said it wants farmland protected but voted for the treaty.

"Whether that message will get through to the NDP, I'm doubtful," he said. "The NDP seem to be sitting in the last century."

Corky Evans, the MLA and former agriculture minister who responded to a 24 hours' request to the NDP for reaction, agreed the party is in a tough spot choosing between a treaty and farmland protection.

"Tsawwassen created a bit of a precedent. It isn't resolved yet but it would be exceedingly difficult for the party to say 'not this one'" to a future treaty, said Evans, who personally abstained from the legislature vote on the treaty.

John Willis, campaigns and research director for Strategic Communications, 24 hours Vancouver's official pollster, said the contrast in the two questions was striking.

"That's a pretty significant shift from supporting treaties in general to opposing the Tsawwassen Treaty," Willis said.

Strategic Communications polled 600 British Columbians Nov. 22 to 29, with a plus or minus four per cent margin of error, 19 times out of 20.

This column takes a Christmas break, returning Jan. 8, but watch my blog for more on this and other news!


Question: Do you support or oppose the province removing farmland from the agricultural land reserve to reach a treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation and allowing the band to do what it pleases with that land?

Strongly support - 13.6%
Somewhat support - 15.8%

Strongly oppose - 37.3%
Somewhat oppose - 19.8%

Neither - 2.4% 9.8% didn't know and 1.2% refused to answer

Question: Do you support or oppose negotiating final settlement treaties with B.C. First Nations?

Strongly support - 43.6%
Somewhat support - 27.8%

Strongly oppose - 13.2%
Somewhat oppose - 6.0%

Neither - 2.6%

6% didn't know and .8% refused to answer


Anonymous said...

Another reason that we need to create the premiers own little fiefdom in the Fraser Valley - Whistler Corridor and create a new smaller BC. Both parties are out to lunch and we need a new party not tainted by the politically correct lower mainland.

Budd Campbell said...

If Chief Atleo is convinced that Indian administrators will be sophisticated land-use decision makers, can he explain the parking lots and bill boards that now accompany the approach to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal? What about the solid phalanx of bill boards that a visitor to Victoria sees when driving along the Pat Bay Hwy through the East Saanich reserve just south of Mt Newton Cross Road?

And Donna Passmore. She told an audience at an anti-Gateway rally, later broadcast on Cable4, that the Canadian Wildlife Service had authorized the slaughter of tens of thousands of migratory birds in connection with Gateway or Deltaport. It's a claim she could not source when asked.

Should the NDP Caucus have been allowed a free vote on this issue. I certainly thought so.

But to leave the matter there is woefully incomplete. The idea that there is just one issue and one alone on which a free vote is needed is hard to accept.

Should the NDP Caucus be allowed a free vote on only one issue, or on several issues, and I mean that in relation to both the provincial NDP legislature caucuses in the six provincial capitals where they are a presence, and in the federal NDP caucus in Ottawa as well. What should the general practice be as regards whipped, party line votes and free votes?

Anonymous said...

Things like the ALR, the Livable Region Plan, parks and protected areas, riparian zoning, environmental regulations, etc are all critical instruments for securing the future of all British Columbians, including First Nations.

Where these conflict with the desire to resolve and repatriate land and resources to First Nations, or simply to create economic opportunity for BC communities, we need reasonable compromises that respect the ultimate goal of being wise stewards. I don't think anyone wanted to condemn the Tsawwassen to a meagre living from protected farmland alone, but nor do we want to see the erosion of scarce agricultural resources.

There are always other, more sensible options, like offering alternate resources for treaty settlement, or replacing lands that had to be removed from the ALR.

That the BC Liberals and NDP could find no better way to settle with the Tsawwassen only shows the shallowness of their supposed commitment to the environment and stewardship.

It reflects a worrying readiness to put short-term opportunism above the long-term interests of all British Columbians and explains why they endorse the ongoing looting of our life support system.

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Budd Campbell said...

"I don't think anyone wanted to condemn the Tsawwassen to a meagre living from protected farmland alone, but nor do we want to see the erosion of scarce agricultural resources."

I usually don't bother asking anonymous people questions about anything, but do I take this to mean that these lands in Delta, described by some opponents of the Treaty as the "best farmlands in Canada", cannot provide any reasonable return in agriculture at all? Only a "meagre living"? Is that the case with the rest of the ALR? Just thought I'd ask.

DL said...

The first nations summit fellow says they were not involved in the practices the government have developed over years. Well Chief, you have the same rights to vote, go to political meetings as everyone else who happens to be, just like you, a canadian Citizen. You don't mind collecting off other programs the federal and provincial governments have developed, for the good of us all. The Ttsawassen are a very tiny band. If they upset enough people they will find themsleves far more isolated than they are right now. Treaties were supposed to include "Laws of General Application"anything they wrote was supposed to be equal or better than the federal and provicnal laws. Hell lets get right down to the nub of things. The folks who provide your salary, and the first nations summit salaries, all comes from those awful Europeans are we are called, even though we too have lived here for a large number of years.The thing that really hits me is the court decisions that come up so often. The judge usually passes on all the costs to the non indian party. So court cases develop with no great concern about having to pay for the costs. But no matter how eird the treaty is, the indian can sue and be sued for what they do. I expect to see the layers working on such legal actions. The ALR lands were put in place to ensure growing space for crops. The tsawassen space just oicked up with be paved over rather quickly. If that's the way the chief sees tsawassen managening land in a resopnsible manner I humbly suggest he is full of buffalo chips. 3 or 4 hundred people with find it hard to convince a numer of thousands who happen to live next door and don't like what they see.
Budd mentioned the signs alont the highway at Tsawout. I lived in Tsawout lands for a number of years. I can assure you that if the land management had been so smooth, why is the band was getting nothing from the company that owned those signs. a number of us, non Indians went in to argue that the band was getting ripped off. Where was Chief Atleo, why wans't he or other Summitt members standing there arguing for the band. The word BS comes to mind.
I recall another band council guy going to Ottawa to appear. His argument was that nobody listens to him. The nobodies he was talking about were on the same council. Rave on Chief. It's all there in Hansard. Talk is cheap so keep on rattling along

Anonymous said...

Bud Campbell's question reflects the essense of the problem... i.e. the limited perspective that does not look beyond or appreciate any value beyond that of short-term potential for profit-making.

For all its incalculable values to society, acres of protected parkland cannot feed a family, no more than the agriculatural land in question, no matter how fertile, can be expected to provide a living for the entire Tsawwassen nation.

This does not detract from its value. If or when prohibitive oil prices force us to rethink the concept of grocery stores piled high with a global salad of exotic produce, and the gateway project stands mothballed as a monument to our monumental lack of foresight, the value of those acres to help feed a hungry Vancouver may look very different indeed.

Our complex world is a marvel of human achievement. But in removing us so far from the basic, simple rules and needs that underlie it all as to make us forget that we stil rely on air, water and food as the basics of life, we risk being undone by our own ingenuity.

Donna Passmore said...

The whole discussion about not destroying the land is naive. Before the Treaty was finalized, adjacent deals were signed requiring the Tsawwassen First Nation to lease the land to the Port. Keeping the land agricultural has never been an option under the TFN and for First Nations or New Democrats to suggest otherwise is to mislead the public.

Further, Budd Campbell is misleading readers by saying I could not source the quote. I was given the information about the Snow Geese by Harold Steves and later verified it with the Canadian Wildlife Service, Delta Office.

Furthermore, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee were among the weakest of MANY environmental groups that opposed the destruction of this farmland, including the Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition and Boundary Bay Conservation Committee. Many other citizens groups, including the Sunbury Neighbourhood Association and Gateway 40 Citizens Network, opposed it.

DL said...

John Cummings MP has a study showing concerns for the non Indian Occupier on Tsawassen land. He discussed taxes, the lack of a right to vote . By gosh folks we missed a few things, like some standards for those folks living there who arn't band members. The Royal Commission for aboriginal affairs, The BC Liberties association and the previous government, as well as the UBCM had the same concerns. The Occpupiers around the provicne has the same concern. When I find the report I'll be sure to pass it along This treaty was completed too quickly and left a lot of loose ends. On the reserve we used to live I got the job of working for the other occupiers of manufactured homes in BC, with the previous governments on the issues Cummings has brought forward. This is supposed to be a win win win deal but ended up with the majority of the folks on the land being shut out of any decision making. Even the Royal Commission Co Chairs stated that if non band members are going to be subjected to taxation and band laws they must have direct input. I guess Gordon and his company friends missed that bit as well as the positions taken by the folks I mention above. Hell it was even in thye polciy papers that disappeared as soon as Gordo got elected.
We followed the process for almost ten years . We sold our place, lost money and got back into the part of Canada where you get to vote. The Magna Charter has a section on no taxation without representation. By the way, the band will pay taxes but not to Canada, to themselves and the non Indian Occupiers will be paying at a ratio of three to one, with the one being the band itself. The modern treaty is no longer a win win win deal. I'm rather sickended by the opposition who fell into bed with Gordo on this deal
I got the impression that the NDP did their best to help the little guy. In this case they sure as heck didn't. and a great precedentage of Ouucpiers on band land in this province are elders. Same group mS' james puts out news reports how her party works to make better conditions for the elderly. Fat chance.

Budd Campbell said...

"Further, Budd Campbell is misleading readers by saying I could not source the quote. I was given the information about the Snow Geese by Harold Steves and later verified it with the Canadian Wildlife Service, Delta Office."

This is not the cass, Passmore. There is no federal announcement of any sort by any agency that you can point to.

Budd Campbell said...

"Bud Campbell's question reflects the essense of the problem...

... But in removing us so far from the basic, simple rules and needs that underlie it all as to make us forget that we stil rely on air, water and food as the basics of life, we risk being undone by our own ingenuity."

I wonder if Bill Tieleman, Harold Steeves and Michael Sather had visionary voters like anonymous 7:29 PM in mind when they spoke in Maple Ridge a couple of weeks ago about the ALR? If so, they would appear to be competing for the attentions of the same portion of the electorate as Carole James of "dumb and dumber" fame.

Bill, can you please tell us what you think? Would the TFN have been able to make only a "meagre living" farming these lands, reputed by yourself and others to be the best in the nation, or could they have earned a significant return?

Frédéric Van Caenegem said...

Hi Bill!

As always, you have a very interesting article, but this time I have to disagree with your analysis of the poll numbers. As you know, the real debate is not the take land out of the ALR (most people would not) but whether to take it out of the ALR in order to reach an agreement with the Tsawwassen First Nation. Lets look closely at the questions.

The first question ends with "and allowing the band to do what it pleases with that land?" This addition, while being true, is there to create a negative answer from the respondent. Words and expression have hidden meanings; and the expression "do what it pleases" creates a negative reaction in most people (unless it applies to them directly). Therefore, most people would answer negatively to such a comment, no matter what preceded it. I am sure that a significant number of people answered negatively to the question, because of this little addition and not because they oppose the treaty.

It would be interesting to know what would be the answer to the question without the addition: "Do you support or oppose the province removing farmland from the agricultural land reserve to reach a treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation?"

The second question, on the other hand, is well done and contains no biases. It shows that 71% of British Columbians support final settlements with First Nations. This is a significantly high number.

My impression is that British Columbians very are divided on whether or not ALR lands should be taken out of it in order to reach an agreement. The reality is that this treaty is going ahead. Lets now hope and convince the Tsawwassen First Nation to maintain the Agricultural vocation of their new lands.

DL said...

Fredrick seems to think the Tsawassen will keep that ALR Land for growing things, maybe, or we can ask them to do that. The Chief stated on many ocassions that they were renting it out to the port. How long? I don't know, do you Fredrick? Are you suggesting the port will be doing some growing of food?

There was a simple way of sorting this thing out. The policy papers made it clear. If any ALR land was handed over , it must be used as agricultural land under the regulations of the ALR. and if any band developed a local law, it must be equal or better than the federal or provincial laws. Really easy to understand. The question about doing whatever the band wanted to do the land was simply following the line the band had already taken. "We will do what we want with that land" So they are saying, to hell with provincial laws or federal laws. Yet the same folks must have drivers licenses, insurance plates no matter what the band thinks they can do. And there are literally tons of other laws they are subject to, just like all citizens. We see a group of under 400 people who think they are well above the rest of us.