BRITISH COLUMBIA

Christy Clark: Pat Pimm Asking Conflict Commissioner For Guidance

11/12/2013 07:18 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:56 EST
The Canadian Press
VICTORIA - British Columbia's agriculture minister is seeking guidance from the province's conflict of interest commissioner on the thorny issue of his lobbying of the Agricultural Land Commission, says Premier Christy Clark.

Clark said Tuesday that Pat Pimm has written to Conflict Commissioner Paul Fraser and asked him to provide advice to all B.C. MLAs about situations where their duties collide with the independent commission that protects farmland.

"I understand that the ALC is absolutely an independent body," she said. "Its independence must be respected. At the same time MLAs must be able to bring forward concerns and issues on behalf of their constituents as Mr. Pimm did."

Clark did not respond to questions about whether Pimm should step down from cabinet while the issue is reviewed.

Paul Fraser, B.C.'s conflict of interest commissioner, confirmed he has received a letter from Pimm.

"I have agreed to look into the matter and render an opinion to him," Fraser said in a brief interview.

Last August, the land commission blasted as "inappropriate" Pimm's efforts on behalf of a local constituent in Fort St. John to have land removed from the agricultural land reserve to build rodeo grounds and a campsite.

Pimm wrote to the commission to express his concern about their decision to reject the application, and also had his ministerial assistant contact the commission about the file.

The commission said Pimm's efforts could give the public and the commission itself the impression that he "was attempting to politically influence the commission."

Cabinet documents leaked to the Globe and Mail newspaper suggest Pimm also proposed sweeping changes to the Agricultural Land Commission, the Crown agency that manages 4.7 million hectares of land in B.C.

The Opposition New Democrats have said Pimm was attempting to interfere in a commission decision, and then came up with a "secret plan" to dismantle the land reserve.

But Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett has said Pimm's proposal was an old document that was rejected, but that the Liberal government is considering minor changes.

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