A Langley resident was surprised to learn why a meeting to press the provincial government to get tougher with propane cannons hasn’t happened yet.
When John Beaman emailed to ask about the meeting in November, he was told Township staff have been unable to arrange a meeting that would accommodate the schedules of more than 20 people including the provincial agriculture minister, all of Township council, the full agricultural advisory committee and the entire Langley propane cannon task force.
The emailed reply said “schedule conflicts” made it difficult to arrange a time for a “large group of people” this year.
One might be possible in the New Year, Beaman was told.
“My reaction was horror that staff had taken this literally,” said Beaman.
Back in May, at the suggestion of Councillor Bob Long, council voted unanimously to ask the new provincial minister of agriculture, once one was named, to meet with council, the Agricultural Advisory Committee, and the Propane Cannon Task Force “to explore elimination, or significant reduction, of bird scare devices.”
Beaman responded with another email saying he believes “it was inferred that the meeting was to be held with representatives of those groups, not necessarily all 22-plus members.”
He went on to request that council alter the wording of the resolution to make it clear.
There has been no response to the November email or a follow-up sent in early December, he said.
A Township bid to limit the noise from the bird scare devices was constrained by provincial policies that forbid interference with farming.
New regulations governing propane cannons in Langley Township were approved in June after the provincial Ministry of Agriculture reviewed and approved the rules that will require larger setbacks and less frequent firing of the controversial bird scare devices used to protect berry crops.
There is nothing in the new bylaws about banning the controversial cannons because the ministry, which has the final say on any farming regulations, made it clear that any attempt at imposing a ban or limiting volume would be overturned under right-to-farm laws.
The new Township bylaws restrict how often the cannons can be fired, allowing one firing every five minutes for a single cannon and no more than 33 shots an hour when more than one cannon is being fired by a berry farm.
The bylaw sets escalating fines for violating the rules, $150 for a first offence, $350 for a second and $500 for a third and any subsequent offence.
Farmers will also be required to get a $125-a-year licence to use cannons.
The regulations were drafted by the Propane Cannon Task Force, which was created in September by the municipal Agricultural Advisory Committee.
During a public hearing in January, the task force heard from 25 speakers, all critical of blueberry cannons for disturbing residents and frightening horses.
Most demanded an outright ban.