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Saanich mulls fate of cannons

Sep 11 2012

Frustrated by the province's unwillingness to ban the use of propane cannons on farms adjacent to suburban areas, Saanich hopes shining some light on the issue will help develop options for control.

The cannons, which emit loud bursts likened to thunderclaps or shotgun blasts to keep birds from feeding on crops, made the quiet residential area in the Blenkinsop Valley "feel like a war zone" for part of 2010, councillors Susan Brice and Nichola Wade said in a report considered by council last night.

The cannon use ignited a barrage of neighbourhood complaints that carried into the 2011 election campaign.

Council was expected to endorse the two councillors' recommendation Monday that staff prepare a report outlining options to go to the planning, transportation and economic-development committee for discussion.

That way, all parties, including residents and farmers, will be able to address the committee and help find a solution, Brice said.

"If council agrees [to refer it to committee], we can lay out what is possible and perhaps what isn't possible and have both the farm and residential people involved," Brice said.

"Maybe even through the process we can find some way to have accommodation."

The cannons were last used two years ago on the 35-hectare Beckwith Farm, bordered on three sides by residential development as well as St. Margaret's School.

Saanich wanted the province to ban the use of the cannons in the Blenkinsop Valley, but Mayor Frank Leonard said its appeals have all but fallen on deaf ears.

"I've been disappointed that their answers are close to a runaround and I'm trying to be understanding because of the precedent they're worried about [setting], but we would all be pleased if they would be willing to address some issues on a site-specific basis without precedent for elsewhere," Leonard said.

In a letter to Leonard, Agriculture Minister Don McRae said "propane cannons are a useful, nonlethal tool to protect valuable food crops," and the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board in 2009 concluded that use of the cannons is a generally accepted farm practice.

"For the province to simply ban propane cannons along the ALR boundary is not an equitable solution, but promoting shared responsibility for land-use compatibility is," McRae said.

Resident Don Manning, a member of the Concerned Neighbours of Beckwith Farm, says even though the cannons haven't been fired for two years, it's important something be done.

Manning said he supported taking the issue to the planning committee. "I'm all for continuing to nudge it along," he said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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