Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ex-NDP Environment Minister Joan Sawicki opposes Tsawwassen Treaty over farmland exclusion, says Gordon Campbell pulled "con job"

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday October 2, 2007

NDP all wrong on treaty: Ex-MLA


We've squandered farmland as recklessly as we did fish or buffalo a hundred years ago.

- Author Thomas Hylton, Save Our Land, Save Our Cities

A former B.C. environment minister says Premier Gordon Campbell has gotten away with a "con job" by using the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty to remove 207 hectares of valuable Delta farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Joan Sawicki says Campbell "didn't have the courage" to hold what should have been the real debate - of port development versus the province's food security. The Tsawwassen First Nation will use the farmland to expand Deltaport container shipping operations.

But Sawicki, a former New Democratic Party MLA and B.C. Legislature speaker, also said in an exclusive interview with 24 hours that the NDP caucus has taken the wrong position in supporting the Tsawwassen Treaty despite the loss of farmland.

"I appreciate the agony the opposition caucus went through, but I regret that they've let the premier get away with a con job," Sawicki said. "He has slipped port development through using human rights issues, using the treaty."

And Sawicki said if she were an MLA today, she would vote against the Tsawwassen Treaty when it comes to Legislature for ratification this month because of the ALR exclusion. Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Michael Sather was expelled from the NDP caucus for stating he would vote no.

"There are many different ways of negotiating a fair and honourable treaty with the Tsawwassen people, but there is only one way to protect our food security," Sawicki said from her Bella Coola Valley home.

Sawicki warned that the Tsawwassen ALR exclusion sets a dangerous precedent for future treaty negotiations because more farmland will be lost if First Nations and land developers target agricultural areas.

"If you were a developer, why wouldn't you now go and find land next to a First Nation in treaty negotiations?" she said. "The snowball effect of this decision is going to be serious - overriding one of the strongest pieces of legislation to protect farmland."

And while NDP Leader Carole James says that "the ALR must be protected throughout the treaty process," Sawicki says NDP support for the Tsawwassen Treaty undercuts its ALR position.

"It's going to be a huge challenge for the NDP to oppose future treaties with ALR exemptions," Sawicki said.

Can farmland still be saved? Sawicki says only if "British Columbians make clear to all political leaders not to mess with the ALR."

For six years, Sawicki worked for the Agricultural Land Commission, created in 1973 by the NDP government.

When the NDP government excluded the Six Mile Ranch near Kamloops from the ALR in 1998 for residential development, Sawicki quit as parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment in protest.


Anonymous said...

Sawicki is right of course and Calole James is wrong. One wonders what staffer convinced James that a treaty with the Tsawassen would trump the ALR which is there to protect local food growth? Or does she dream these things up, all by herself? Carole simply dug herself a bigger hole by trying to tell us stupid folks that she will make sure Gordon follows the ALR rules for other treaties. some of us have mentioned the isse of the band next door and its nice to see Sawicki has similar concerns.

Her changing positions will affect further treaty negotiation and affect the Next NDP Leader, whenever that occurs) A few more wierd decisions might cuase that change of leader sooner than later.
A Reaside cartoon this week showed things the NDP Dread. Fish Farms was one, another was Carole stepping up to the mike to present another NDP position change. She made a mess of two pay raises, a pension deal and just couldn't resist the long time position of the NDP on Treaties and ALR. Way to go Carole! dl

RossK said...

Fantastic to hear from Ms. Sawicki again - a (former?) politician who says what she means and means what she says.

Thanks for this one Mr. T.


BC Mary said...

Put me down on the "Strongly agree" side of Joan Sawicki's views on the Tsawwassen Treaty.

Right from the get-go, on Day One of the Treaty being made public, I wrote on my blog "It's part of the B.C. Rail deal," and I got stomped by some very big boots at the time.

But how could it be otherwise? And of course, now the real plans are made clearer for warehousing on this Delta farmland.

The blueprint is being followed in other places like Powell River where agricultural land is scarce.

It's a rotten, rotten world where the real facts are so cleverly and hurtfully hidden.

Our new Lt. Gov. worked with the Prince George treaty group says he feels they rejected their treaty because they didn't fully understand it. Hell, who does? Who can see all the horrible ramifications down the track?

So maybe there's a greater wisdom in clinging to some basic principles such as were embodied in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Thanks for bringing this up for discussion again, Bill.


Budd Campbell said...

I wonder what Joan Sawicki thinks the consequences might be if BC's white Legislature were to reject the Tsawwassen Treaty after the Band had accepted it? Would treaty process opponents like Chief Stewart Phillip use such a development to convince Indian bands presently in the treaty process to abandon that route in favour of full-on litigation, and lots and lots of roadblocks, protests, occupations, etc., etc?

I too would have voted against this treaty if it were up to me. I think the treay process would survive such a development, but probably not without a lot of stress and a fair bit of conflict. People who say they oppose this agreement have to be willing to state that as part of their argument if they are being intellectually honest with people.

To say I can vote against a measure to keep my principles intact, and can do so with no regard to any consequences because "the thing is going to pass anyway", is the kind of political maturity and candour one expects from student politicians in junior high school. Adults don't do stuff like that if they want to be taken seriously.

So, what does Sawicki have to say about the consequences of opposing this treaty? Is she claiming there would be no blowback whatsoever? And is it fair to ask Sawicki how such a rejection might been seen among Aboriginals who have just been celebrating the appointment of Steven Point as BC's first Aboriginal Lt-Gov?

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments, but the alr penalizes future generations and those wanting to get ahead. Zoning is an insidious way local and other such politicians have at interfering with someones private property and not to the betterment of the "greater good", (a horrible term used by government types to keep good folks down, poor). Secure private property rights allows for wealth creation and general enjoyment.
The gov't is right in allowing the indians to engage in wealth creation, as well as any pitfalls encountered on the way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bill:
Isn't it ironic that the Liberal government advertises "Buy B.C. produce"; and we're asked to try eating food from within 100 miles, and yet are wiping out farmland as often as possible?
Shaking my head isn't enough, I want to scream.
What CAN a person do?
Lost in LALA land

Anonymous said...

I don't think many people really understand local food security issues or how this has any relevance in today's globalized economies. If you assume the future is bound to hold continuing & stable expansion of globalized trade, secure energy supplies, etc., then why would you choose local farmland over port development?

Living in our modern urban towers, we are so far divorced from the source of all our basic necessities that it's hard for most of us to understand that our lives really do still depend on food crops, fresh water, etc.

It is only when we start to consider the many plausible and/or yet unknown threats to the highly complex global supply paradigms that put dinner on our tables today that the policy of "putting all our eggs in one basket" starts to seem pretty foolish.

Anonymous said...

The Treaty is indeed a massive con job by Campbell to benefit his developer friends. The ALC met here in South Delta last week and listened to much nonsense about farmland Ron Toigo (see Shato Holdings, White Spot,etc.) wants removed so he can build 452 units on a golf course. He's offering $250,000 to Council to facilitate this. So there you go, folks, for that sum you,too, may be able to get your farmland rezoned.

Anonymous said...

I want to see the evidence to support Bill Tieleman's statement about how the Tsawwassen First Nation will use land removed from the ALR and then returned to them.

-Barbara Williamson

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks for your question Barbara. There are many media references quoting Chief Kim Baird and Deltaport officials but perhaps the best evidence is on the Tsawwassen First Nations own website.

On the home page is a link to

"TFN-VPA Memorandum of Agreement"
It is at:


That is an MOA between the Vancouver Port Authority and the Tsawwassen First Nation.

It reads in part:


1. The purpose of this Agreement is to set out the basis for TFN to benefit from the
Roberts Bank Port Facility and from the Roberts Bank Port Facility Expansion on
Roberts Bank within the Tsawwassen Territory and adjacent to the TFN Reserve and to
provide a basis for a mutually beneficial relationship between the Parties."

Media-wise, here is what Chief Kim Baird said in the Vancouver Sun in June 2006:

"We'll probably be asking for about half of it to be taken out of the agricultural land reserve," says Chief Baird. "If we can't have that, I don't think we can have a treaty. That would be a deal-breaker."

And here is the Globe and Mail report of July 27, 2007 - as reprinted on the Tsawwassen First Nation's own website:

"The deal will more than double the size of the reserve, with an extra 372 hectares of surrounding Crown land added from the province's Agricultural Land Reserve. More than 200 hectares of that protected farmland will be removed from the ALR to allow the band to build a container storage facility in line with port expansion plans."

BC Mary said...


Well done, Bill. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Bill we get that you don’t like the deal. But you seem to forget that the Tsawwassen Band made it very clear that one of the conditions for ratification was that the land in question HAD to be removed from the ALR prior to any deal being endorsed. You can play all the games you like and drag the old Sawicki skeletons out of the closet and it will not change the fact that a choice had to be made.

It is funny watching the armchair quarterbacks like you play your little dream world games but in the end you make it up as you go along. You are a legend in your own mind.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6.47
A lot of people are quite aware of the way the land was removed.They had been previous parties to treaty development. The band knew if they got the land subject to the ALR conditions, it would be hard sleighing to try to get it removed.To put a container parking lot on the land. Way back when the band had asked for ALR Land, they were told what was then, the obvious. I think it's a bit harse of you to attack Bill and for similar comments about ex minister Sawicki. Gordon changed the rues, but for whose benefit? Had you been following the movement or lack of movement when the policy of use of ALR was a public document you wouldn't be making the comments. I have mentioned before that I attended well over 70 main table sessions, numerous public meeings and of course was a member on a Regional Advisory on treaty.At all times we supported the policies of modern treaties, not some back room deal. I never heard the ALR being suggested as a possible selection of land. I didn't bother to attend the Tsawasen negotiations as they were going in circles. And of course at that time any land being attached would be subject to all provincial laws and all band laws would have to be as good or better than provinial laws. Almost forgot Federal laws as well. That land was never taken from the band. It was farm land until expropriated many years ago. Gordo saw a deal for some friends and the band was quite ready to upset anyone they would upset to grab some space to lease outside the band members.. This won't get better over time as more people see the results of such shady dealing. They will own some land but won't be making many friends in the meantime. Land will never go back into the ALR.
In the local grocery store today, I saw a big poster, paid for the new Buy BC program. " Good by California produce, welcome local BC product". So we have on section of government telling us how they are protecting farm land at the same time they have removed some out the back door. They knew of course that the old "sins of the father" would keep many informed folks from telling us, just what a bad deal it would be. Once that land is on long term lease, it will never grow a crop. I know Bill's information on treaty issues is pretty sound. The nxt time you notice some band deciding they own parts of down town Vancouver, maybe it might include the block you live on. and yes the policy for "willing seller willing buyer" should prevent that from happening but don't bet on it anymore. The Sinclair Center is before the courts right now as the Musquiem have decided they own it. Never put a dime into it, but hell you can't blame their lawyers from trying The area around Chilliwack should be on some deal if other deals are made. dl

Anonymous said...

Dl at 8:14 My point is that Tielman pretends there was some other way this deal could have been done. He either neglects or forgets to mention that the band made it clear that the lands had to be removed from the ALR first for a deal to be accepted; for the very reasons you mentioned.

Sometimes in leadership you have to make tough choices and this was one of them and Carole James made the choice. My beef with Tielman is that he tries to move the goal posts and undermine Carole James by pretending there was some other magical way this deal could have gotten done and he does so simply because he does not like the deal. It’s sour grapes and a fabrication on Tielman’s part that is also damaging to the current NDP by creating false impressions.

Carole James and the new NDP have enough problems digging out of the hole that the previous NDP that people like Tielman left them in. Tielman needs to got a life and move on.

Bill Tieleman said...

Sorry Anonymous but I thought the Treaty was negotiated, not dictated by the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Chief Kim Baird said not excluding the farmland was a "deal breaker" for the TFN but that's her negotiating position.

Unfortunately, Premier Gordon Campbell was thrilled to hear it, as getting the farmland out of the Agricultural Land Reserve by giving it to the Tsawwassen was the only way to expand Deltaport for container shipping storage!

The previous NDP government's position was the land could be transferred to the TFN but the ALR rules would apply as they would to anyone else in BC.

You say Carole James made a tough leadership choice - in fact, the NDP took NO position until after the Tsawwassen people voted in favour - very disappointing indeed.

And now the NDP position is to allow a disastrous loss of 500 acres of prime farmland but say "well, don't do it again please". Not likely - as Joan Sawicki rightly warns, this is exactly what will happen in future treaty negotiations - ALR exclusions with the Tsawwassen precedent.

As for me, I don't need to get a life, I like this one just fine. And I'll continue to give my views as a political commentator as I see fit, not as some NDP supporters might like.

And given that I left the NDP government in 1996 shortly after Glen Clark was re-elected, I don't feel any responsibility for whatever it is you think I've done.

But your comments are welcome here, as are those of others who want to take shots at me. Fire away.

Budd Campbell said...

"You say Carole James made a tough leadership choice - in fact, the NDP took NO position until after the Tsawwassen people voted in favour - very disappointing indeed."

You're right that the NDP was hoping the Band would reject the Treaty. They should have stated up front that they would support the Treaty reluctantly if they had to, but didn't like the exclusion of ALR land one bit.

But once the band had accepted the Treaty, doesn't that change the landscape just a little bit? I have asked many times what would happen if the white Legislature were to reject a treaty that the Indian Band in question had accepted. Bill, you and Sawicki and others who are more righteous in their opposition to this Treaty that I am don't seem to think you need to answer or even acknowledge that question, an attitude that some might think kind of worrisome, in that it implies that you don't give a God-damn what the Native community thinks about such a development.

I have said it before, I will say it again. I would have voted against this Treaty, but I would have done so without fooling myself or trying to fool others. To defeat this Treaty would have created a certain amount of outright havoc, and treaty process opponents couldn't ask for a better opportunity. Still, on balance, I think the process would survive, but not without some fairly visible conflict. My hope would be that the net effect in the end would be to impose an elevated sense of responsibility and discipline onto the negotiators, lawyers and consultants who have so far cost over a billion dollars getting us all to one (1) treaty. But I think it's really toally lame, indeed utterly disingenuous for Joan Sawicki or anyone else to pretend that a treaty defeat in the BC Legislature would not involve a certain amount of high pressure blowback among Aboriginal voters and their leaderships.

"My point is that Tielman pretends there was some other way this deal could have been done. He either neglects or forgets to mention that the band made it clear that the lands had to be removed from the ALR first for a deal to be accepted; for the very reasons you mentioned."

Why was the Band Administration so adamant that it just had to be a containerport? Why not the land as farmland and additional cash? Why isn't that any good?

Why is it that lease payments from Deltaport are great, but equivalent cash payments from the Crown would be a total non-starter? Could it be that Deltaport was offering something extra, like some nice, juicy, executive jobs and fat service contracts on the side? Who is going to get those extras, ... the poorest, most needy members of the Tsawwassen Band? Or will it be certain Band members who are already doing fairly well?

Anonymous said...

Budd asks what would happen if the Gvernments, provincial or Federal voted against the deal. Maybe the quckest answer is that there are three parties in the mix.
The two governments have the ability as our representatives to vote yes or no after debate.

The band has to individually vote yes or no as they are not a legal government and the other two parties are. If it is turned down well its back to the table. Nobody forced the band to the table and nobody can force our elected governments to vote either way. Should any section be found in court to not be acceptable that section could simply be negotiated again. Public opion is what counts but since most folks seem to have little understanding of the process, one wonders why this sort of debate hadn't started many years ago.
In reality, even if the band wanted the land it wasn't cast in stone. If they get it, a lot of provincial crown lands might be on the table real soon. Many large Provincial properties are on long term leases. Over 90 percent of BC are Provincial crown lands. Maybe some property right next to where some of you live. say Kitsilano or West Hastings The lands will suddenly be asked for at assorted tables.If Gordo has friends who might want to set up shop well tough on us. A golf course in his own riding is in the middle of a" It's mine, no it's not"
The province had for many years a condition that any land being handed over and subject to Indian laws , must meet or beat federal and provicnal lands . Mayb Gordo will decide that policy slows down soe business he likes and might try to go around that policy as well
The idea that the band are the only folks deciding is simply dumb. dl

Anonymous said...

Terrific coverage.
So the NDP dilemma is how can they support the First Nations treaty process and the Agricultural Land Commission at the same time.

It's a little late now, but this all could have been avoided if the NDP had
strategists who looked at regional development in a holistic manner.

I believe the NDP could have tied this debate to the Gateway plan.

What if the Port Expansion was moved to the industrial areas of Port Mann or Port Kells, instead of Tsawwassen?

Heck, that would even allow the government to realign the planned South Fraser Perimeter Road, and save Burns Bog in the process. But that would be too environmentally friendly, eh?

As it stands today, Carole James is simply running from one Liberal policy trap into another.

The Tsawwassen First Nation would not be nearly as interested in that ALR land, if it didn't come with the development potential.

The Waif
- also a old friend and longtime supporter of Joan Sawicki

Anonymous said...

It's 10 pm Friday. Where have you been all week? We need daily updates on what's happening among all the con artists.

Anonymous said...

Bill, this issue is an example of something Norman Spector raised on your CKNW show this morning. The NDP tends to lock itself into ideological positions, which leaves little room for creativity, imagination, pragmatism or compromise.

I really can't believe the hyperbole I'm hearing from opponents to this treaty. ALR ideologues are predicting everything from the end of local food production, to falling skies, to Soilent Green. Good god, enough already! It's one parcel of farmland in a very big province, and were it just a crass power play for the Deltaport expansion, I'd be crying foul, too. But a very significant treaty was negotiated. The Tsawwassen people have voted in what was obviously an extremely exhaustive, complex negotiation process.

And by the way, I'm left of the NDP, a big supporter of the ALR and a Green Party supporter. Go figure, eh?

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks to Anonymous at 10:20 a.m. I'm surprised you are a Green Party supporter and don't have problems with losing 500 acres of prime farmland - certainly two top leadership candidates do - Ben West and Damian Kettlewell.

I support treaties but I can't condone alienating yet more farmland to get a deal.

And sorry, it is a crass play for Deltaport expansion. If it wasn't the land would have been transferred to the Tsawwassen with the ALR status intact, as the NDP government previously proposed.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks to Anonymous at 10:20 a.m. I'm surprised you are a Green Party supporter and don't have problems with losing 500 acres of prime farmland - certainly two top leadership candidates do - Ben West and Damian Kettlewell."

Bill, I didn't say I had no problem with this treaty. Of course I don't like the prospect of losing 500 acres of prime farmland, but on the utilitarian scale of compromise, it's a sacrifice I'm prepared to condone in this case. I respect the treaty process, and entailed in that respect is compromise and the fact that I won't always like some of the land sacrifices made in those treaties. There's also a quiet undercurrent of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too hypocrisy in all of this. You support the treaty process, voice your concerns, then have no respect for the outcome of a First Nation's vote? What I do agree with is that Carole James has handled this file miserably, and therein lies much of source for controversy.

As for your surprise at my Green allegiance, the party is a diverse group, something I view as healthy and progressive. Moreover, the Tsawwassen Treaty is but one issue among hundreds of interest to me, my Green cohorts and the aforementioned leadership candidates.

By the way, I really enjoy your blog and your principled, well reasoned positions, even though I may not agree with some of those positions.