Langley Township council backs cannon bylaw

A new bylaw dealing with blueberry cannons is being drafted.

Growing season is coming up, and that means propane cannons will be firing soon, much to the ire of many rural Langley residents.

The topic of what to do with the noisy cannons was back on the agenda at Langley Township council on Monday, with the Agricultural Advisory Committee presenting council with its recommendation to create a farm bylaw that will ease the pain of the loud cannons.

Council unanimously endorsed the recommendation, referring the bylaw back to staff and the AAC to let them consult with stakeholders and present the formal bylaw to council “as soon as possible.”

It’s hoped the bylaw can be adopted for the 2013 growing season.

Megan Dykeman, who sits on the AAC and chaired a task force on the cannons, presented council with its propane cannon farm bylaw that will require the Minister of Agriculture’s approval.

The bylaw, if adopted, would require cannons to be set back from horse farms and designated trails. It also requires a reduction of cannon firing frequency.

It would require cannons to be registered and licensed. There would be a fine structure for those farmers who didn’t abide by the bylaw. The recommendation is also to look into alternatives to cannons as well as bird population control.

The problem bird, the starling, isn’t native to B.C.

Dykeman asked that the council endorse the bylaw recommendation but refer it back to the AAC so they can consult with key stakeholders first.

“The harvest is coming up so we are on a timeline,” said Mayor Jack Froese. “We can’t control others like the ministry but I will personally get on a ferry and personally hand deliver this bylaw to Victoria. We will do what we can to expedite this.”

Dykeman was thanked by council for the AAC’s hard work on this matter. She pointed out that in all the research they did, they couldn’t find one farm to farm complaint registered about cannons.

“The horse community is recommended to start registering those complaints,” said Councillor Kim Richter. The ministry will be looking to see what due diligence was done to pass this bylaw, said council. She also said the Township needs to start working with neighbouring municipalities to gain co-operation.

Dairy farmer and Councillor Dave Davis said the bylaw was a good balance with the right to farm.

“This spring we lost thousands of dollars on a berry crop from birds so I can’t support a ban on cannons,” said Davis.

Kevin Mitchell, who has led the charge for banning the cannons, told council the only solution is a ban.

He set off a cannon at the road near Newlands golf course where Premier Christy Clark came to speak two weeks ago. He, along with others, rallied there to ask for a provincial ban.

“I received a letter from the Township’s lawyer saying a sudden discharge of cannons could scare animals and be unnerving to people,” said Mitchell.

He said that is exactly right, that cannon noise unnerves people and scares animals, and that’s why a ban is the only option.

The BC Farm Industry Review Board, the provincial authority, said it would not allow an all-out ban on the devices.