Death of Gary Runka, architect of the ALR, breaks link to land changes that transformed BC

Many can legitimately claim to have helped create BC’s Agricultural Land Reserve — not least among them the irrepressible Richmond farmer and councillor Harold Steves — but Gary Runka was both the architect and builder of a fundamental land reform that changed the course of BC’s history.

Runka’s sudden death last month at his home in Stuie, near Bella Coola, breaks a link to the hectic days between 1973 and 1975 when Dave Barrett’s NDP government created the Agricultural Land Commission and established long-term legal protection for BC’s farmland.

Runka directed the creation of the reserve and then managed the commission for several years before leaving to take up a successful consulting business. Since 2001, he lived in the Bella Coola Valley near the western boundary of Tweedsmuir Park, with his wife Joan Sawicki, a long-time Burnaby MLA,  and cabinet minister in the Mike Harcourt government.

A celebration of his life will be held at SFU Segal Building, 500 Granville St., Vancouver on Sunday, September 22, at 2 p.m.