Mayor Bruce Banman told council he was “ashamed” of their inability to compromise on a bylaw restricting the use of propane cannons, used to scare birds away from berry crops.
The issue of how to enforce or limit the use of the noisy devices left council divided once again on Monday.
In July, the city attempted to pass a stringent set of restrictions on the use of cannons, which would decrease the hours of operation, the number of shots per hour and the distance of the devices from neighbouring homes. The vote was split and the bylaw ultimately failed. The issue was sent back to city staff to create a less restrictive set of guidelines for council’s approval.
The use of propane cannons is protected by the provincial Right to Farm Act and farmers must currently follow agriculture ministry guidelines, which the city does not have the authority to enforce. To further regulate cannons, the city must create a “farm bylaw” that requires approval from the ministry.
City staff’s revision set out regulations that were closer to the current ministry standards, but would allow the city to enforce the specifications and fine the farmers who do not follow them.
But councillors remained split on the loosened restrictions.
Coun. John Smith, who pushed for the original restrictions, said that to pass a bylaw that only allows the city to enforce ministry guidelines is to accept the downloading of responsibilities from the provincial government. He added that it would not solve the issues caused by the cannons, like effects of the noise on neighbouring homes.
“I’m not going to accept mediocrity, which is what this proposal is,” he said.
Coun. Moe Gill, who opposed increasing limits on cannon use, said he could not support even the decreased restrictions, saying it would put a strain on farmers, and was disconcerted by the lack of consultation with the BC Blueberry Council, which employs liaisons to deal with issues between neighbours and farmers caused by cannons.
Banman admonished council for their inability to reach an compromise, saying he was disappointed because “the public wants us to do something.”
Council ultimately brought back the original bylaw with full restrictions in order to pass its third reading, so it could be taken to the provincial government for consultation.
Though three councillors remained opposed, the third reading passed.
City manager George Murray said he and the mayor will present the proposed bylaw to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention, which runs Sept. 16 to 20, to address the issue with the province. Murray said they will speak to the minister and staff about how they can get the bylaw “with a little bit more teeth” brought forward to the ministry for consideration.
Councillors agreed that efforts must be made to develop a bird predation management plan, which would seek to control the population of starlings which feed on berry crops.
Banman said the cannons are only a symptom of the real problem, which is dealing with the invasive bird species.