Category Archives: Issues and Ideas

Resolution to create a National Food Strategy and eliminate need for food banks

In every community in BC, food banks are struggling to meet the complex nutritional needs of the diverse population they serve: working people, single parents, people living with disabilities, seniors, and the addicted and/or mentally ill, many of whom are still inadequately housed.

Thirty years ago in Canada, food banks did not exist. The social safety net Canadians began to put in place after the Great Depression and Second World War ensured that most people had adequate income support and affordable housing. Soup kitchens were enough temporary support for the mostly unemployable men who had fallen through the gaps. Today, dependence on food banks is a reality for a growing segment of our region’s population.

All levels of government need to work together and accept responsibility to provide policy leadership to feed, clothe and house all our citizens to an adequate standard.

The Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee recommends that Council support the enclosed resolution to encourage the provincial and federal governments to ensure food security for all citizens and eliminate the need for food banks by 2018 by adopting a National Food Strategy that coordinates the National, Provincial and Municipal roles and responsibilities for food security.

Dean Murdock
Saanich Councillor and
Chair, Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee

Whereas income security and food security are inextricably bound; and

Whereas the number of people who are food insecure in municipalities in BC continues to rise in spite of an ever-growing number of food banks and charitable food-redistribution efforts; and

Whereas Canada is obligated under international law to provide an adequate standard of living which includes the human right to adequate food and nutrition; and

Whereas enabling people to feed themselves with dignity requires everyone’s participation, and the most comprehensive way to do this is for all levels of government to accept their responsibilities to develop policies and programs that will end hunger in Canada;

Be it resolved that the Municipality of Saanich pledges to encourage the provincial and federal governments to ensure food security for all citizens and eliminate the need for food banks by 2018 by adopting a National Food Strategy that coordinates the National, Provincial and Municipal roles and responsibilities for food security.

Be it further resolved that Saanich will continue to ensure a healthy, sustainable and stable food supply by actively pursuing policies 1 through 19 of Section 5.1.1 of the Official Community Plan –

Curbside kitchen scrap program is a Go for Spring 2014

Saanich gives green-thumbs up to kitchen scrap collection
January 08, 2013 CFAX 1070

Saanich is the latest to take up curbside kitchen scrap collection.

Council voted Monday night to proceed with the plan. The program will be up and running in about 15-months (Spring 2014), with kitchen scraps picked up alongside garbage.

Councilor Dean Murdock says Saanich’s system will be different than how the City of Victoria does it.

“The difference with what you’re seeing in the City of Victoria is we’re co-mingling, as they call it, garden waste as well. It can be added to the big green orgranic bins.”

Victoria is about to start it’s curbside collection of kitchen scraps.

Murdock was speaking with C-FAX 1070’s Al Ferraby.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family, and best wishes in 2013!

I thought I’d take a moment to share a few highlights from this busy year. I look forward to new challenges in 2013. I welcome your feedback on the priority initiatives you’d like see in the New Year.

I am thrilled with the success of the Sustainable Saanich Food Fest – a new event the Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee cooked up this year to celebrate and promote local food. In September, local growers teamed up with staff for the event at the municipal hall next to the Lochside Trail. We had lots of people stop by and I am hopeful we will see it turn into an annual event.

Also on the local food front, we’re giving preference to local food producers when buying food for events and Saanich recreation centres with the newly-adopted Local Food Procurement Policy. We also took at look at genetically modified seed crops and their potential health and environmental impacts. Council voted to oppose GMOs and asked Ottawa for mandatory labelling on all food products. I’m looking forward to the launch of the Saanich Food Security Task Force. The Task Force will look at new initiatives to buy and grow food right here in the community.

Citizen engagement and participation remains an important priority for me. Watch for a tuned up budget process in 2013 with more accessible information and new ways to engage and provide feedback. Staff will roll out a new a public participation, communications and education policy in the New Year. I am hopeful that the new policy will open up new ways of communicating and engaging on projects and initiatives.

Your Council continues to work across municipal boundaries. This year we held two joint meetings with Victoria City Council to discuss Transportation and Climate Adaptation. Our two jurisdictions have teamed up to develop an action plan for the Douglas Corridor and prepare a model bylaw for sea-level rise due to a changing climate.

Finally, it’s been my great pleasure to take on a larger role at the regional level as Vice-Chair of the Regional Water Supply Commission this year. We’re blessed with an abundant supply of some of the world’s best water. That’s thanks, in part, to the foresight of our elected representatives, who sat in the chair before me. I hope to continue their great work and ensure that we all enjoy high quality, affordable drinking water for many years to come.

What are your priorities for 2013? Send me a note or talk about it on Facebook and Twitter!

Best of the Season to you and your family and a Happy New Year.

Dean Murdock
Saanich Councillor

Council fails to speak up for residents on ALR removal

Saanich hands decision on Gordon Head farmland to Agricultural Land Commission
By Kyle Slavin, Saanich News December 11, 2012

The fate of an unused parcel of agricultural land in suburban Gordon Head is now in the hands of the Agricultural Land Commission.

The four-acre property at 1516 Mount Douglas Cross Rd. was recently slated to become a 12,000-hen poultry operation or, failing that, a cattle farm with 100 cows.

But neighbours, outraged that Saanich council painted the landowners into a corner where farming was the only remaining option, rallied against the aggressive farm plans and asked council Monday night for reconsideration of a residential subdivision instead.

Instead, council voted 8-1 to send the owner’s application to remove it from the agricultural land reserve to the ALC, without comment from council, putting the decision squarely in the hands of the provincial agency.

“It gets us back to (a point) where the development application is neither approved or defeated, and it gets us back to neutral on the land reserve issue, because (without comment) we literally are in a neutral position,” said Mayor Frank Leonard.

But John Alexander, the lawyer representing the Alberg family, which owns the property, says his clients are “quite disappointed” with council’s decision, and is urging the family to move forward on the cattle feed lot to protect their land.

“The land could get caught in the middle where all of the ALR usage rights disappear when it’s removed from the land reserve, and yet there’s no zoning that allows for residential development,” Alexander said.

He said the only options the Albergs have left are going the legal route and indicating to Saanich that they don’t want an application to go to the land commission until the property is rezoned residential, or go the farming route and begin construction of the cattle feed lot.

Some 150 residents jammed into the small council chambers Monday for the committee of the whole meeting, and only a handful of whom vocally expressed concerns to council.

“It makes no sense for this to remain in the ALR. It makes no sense that this should be a chicken farm or an intensive cattle farm,” said Stephen Fletcher, who lives across the street from the property. “If there’s a tasteful opportunity for it to be development, the community will endorse that.”

Saanich council twice rejected plans to develop the property, first in March 2011 when the Alberg family proposed 16-lot subdivision, and then again in July 2012, when the family proposed a 12-lot subdivision plus community garden.

Both times council rejected the development proposals, with a majority of council saying they don’t support residential development on farm land.

But the Mount Douglas Cross Road property, owned by siblings Don Alberg, Gord Alberg and Florence Davis, hasn’t been farmed in decades, noted Mercer Place resident Mark Vukobrat.

“If this property is taken out of the ALR there is no loss of food production because there’s been no food production on this land for some time,” he said, noting a petition he circulated in the neighbourhood saw 233 area residents say they’d rather have homes than an intensive farm nearby.

Alexander said, if necessary, the Albergs will contact the ALC directly and request that any application Saanich may send on their behalf should not be considered.

“(Council) came up with the motion (Monday night) with no notice to the owner, no opportunity for the owner to express their view on it,” Alexander said. “They really felt blindsided.”

Monday’s meeting was originally intended to focus on amending official documents in Saanich – the official community plan and the Gordon Head local area plan – which conflict in terms of land use plans for the Alberg property.

Coun. Dean Murdock, the sole dissenting vote at the meeting, said the motion to send the application, without comment, to the ALC is “a failure to the residents who elected us to represent them.”

“The discussion was pitched as black and white, but I think there was a large grey area that was unexplored,” he said. “What we’ve done is pack the whole thing up and send it to the ALC. That’s basically a recipe to unlock this (for residential development), and then it’s just a discussion around what kind of development goes here.”

Saanich South MLA Lana Popham, the NDP’s agriculture critic, spoke at the council meeting about smart farming. She said she felt Saanich “decided that this property isn’t a farm years ago,” by developing everything else around it.

The agriculture critic took the stance that, given its location, this property should be developed, instead of farmed.

“It’s a difficult choice that I’ve made, and I’ve probably disappointed some folks in the audience. As far as Saanich as a community, I think it’s a better direction to have a subdivision,” she said.

Coun. Judy Brownoff stressed that she doesn’t want to see a net loss if this parcel of land is removed from the ALR. “If land comes out of the ALR, equal value land should go back in,” she said, suggesting a portion of Saanich’s newly acquired Panama Flats that isn’t currently protected agricultural land.

Leonard, too, has previously suggested including more of Panama Flats in the ALR.

If all goes ahead as council anticipates, Leonard says the next steps in the process are for Saanich staff to send the application to the ALC. That process could take months.

In an email Alexander sent the Albergs on Tuesday, he said he doesn’t anticipate that ALC process to be complete until June or July 2013. He suggested moving ahead with the feed lot in January or February to preempt any ALC decision.

Climate adaptation collaboration

Sandy spurs Saanich, Victoria to talk sea change

Bill Cleverley , The Victoria Times Colonist November 25, 2012

Arguing recent events like hurricane Sandy can’t be ignored, Victoria, Saanich and the Capital Regional District will team up to assess, map and start to prepare to manage effects of rising sea levels brought on by climate change.

Proposals to produce a regional map of areas vulnerable to coastal flooding and to draft a model bylaw to assist in the management of flood hazard areas were endorsed this week at a joint meeting of Saanich and Victoria councils. It was the third time the municipalities have held a joint meeting.

“All of the best available science from leading experts in this region tells us we are already experiencing climate impacts here and we will continue to do so,” Roy Brooke, Victoria’s director of sustainability, told the meeting.

“Heat waves, flooding, changes to the natural environment, sea-level rise will all mean we have to change how we do our business as individuals, municipalities and communities.”

Taking action now instead of reacting to impacts later can save taxpayers dollars, he said.

“Even by the most conservative [estimates], even spending $1 now can save $4, $5, or $6 or more dollars in the future in terms of disaster impacts we don’t need to respond to, not to mention the human toll,” Brooke said.

Predictions are that local sea levels will rise by 45 centimetres by 2050. Some estimates have levels rising by as much as one metre by 2100.

“We recognize that response and recovery from hurricane Sandy has basically fallen on municipal governments,” said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin.

All the councillors praised staff for being proactive in drafting the proposals.

Some cautioned, how-ever, that making plans is one thing. Getting the public to buy-in is quite another.

“This is vital work but I think there will be a long process of public discussion about how to react,” said Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, adding governments don’t have a great track record with this type of planning.

“The experience has been it’s very easy to point out someone is building their summer cottage on a sand bank that’s likely to wash away, but it’s very hard to take the next step of figuring what to do with it,” Young said.

Saanich Coun. Vic Der-man said estimates of sea level rise are conservative and greenhouse gas mitigation efforts need to be stepped up.

“It wasn’t that long ago, just a few years ago, that the estimates for sea level rise by 2100 was 38 centimetres. I remember at the time saying to a number of people this is probably really conservative because the climate change models are very conservative,” Derman said.

Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock said the collaborative effort is overdue.

“I think it’s tremendous we are moving forward. I agree with comments made earlier. Isn’t it remarkable how far we’ve moved from a discussion about ‘Is this happening,’ to recognizing the reality, particularly as a coastal community that it is happening.

“The evidence is more than just speculative. We can see it.”

The mapping initiative with the CRD as the lead agency is seen as a two-year project costing $100,000.

Natural Resources Canada is considering funding $50,000, and $20,000 has been requested from Tides Canada. In-kind resources will come from the CRD, Saanich and Victoria for the balance of the funds.

Drafting a model bylaw is expected to take one year and cost about $45,000.

The hope is Natural Resources Canada will fund half of that, with the CRD, Victoria and Saanich each contributing $3,500 cash as well as in-kind resources.

Rejecting GMO foods

Saanich bans use of genetically modified seeds
By Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Saanich council took a united stance Monday night in opposing the use of genetically modified seed crops in the municipality.

Councillors argued that the motion, which also included writing a letter to various senior levels of government asking for mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods, was the best way to protect local organic farms.

“I do believe (genetically modified organisms are) a real impact to our organic farmers, and we need to try and protect that new sort of business entity as best we can,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff.

Coun. Dean Murdock, who chairs the Healthy Saanich advisory committee, which brought the motion forward, said there isn’t enough known about any possible health risks associated with consuming genetically modified foods, so he would rather err on the side of caution.

Labelling GMO products, he said, would at least give consumers the knowledge to make a choice.

“You’re going to be consumer, one way or another, of genetical modified foods, and that may or may not be your choice,” added Coun. Vic Derman. “We label whether food is kosher sensitive or not. That’s a choice, it’s probably not a health issue, it’s simply a choice.”

Saanich conducted public consultation earlier in October, and it was apparent from the turnout then that Saanichites overwhelmingly support the ban, except for one lone proponent of GMO crops who says Saanich made an uninformed decision based on unfounded fears.

“The councillors are not trained in the science, and they do not have the ability to differentiate between science and the pseudo-science,” said Robert Wager, who teaches at Vancouver Island University and has a background in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Wager argues farmers can benefit from using genetically modified seeds, which can be beneficial to the economy and can result in drastic reductions in the amount of insecticides and pesticides used to protect crops.

He says genetically modified crops that are drought and frost tolerant, and resistant to viruses and fungal infections. “There is so much research out there that rebuts any of the pseudo-scientific information (that informed council’s decision),” Wager said.

Coun. Paul Gerrard stressed Saanich should take the precautionary principle, and conduct more research to ensure council makes the most informed decision possible, which echoed the sentiment of the Peninsula Agricultural Commission.

While the Healthy Saanich committee sought advice from the agricultural commission, the report that came before council was worded much stronger against the use of GMO products, Gerrard noted.

Council supported the motion 9-0 to oppose genetically modified seeds crops and write letters encouraging mandatory GMO labelling.

Protecting farmland the right call

Saanich landowner feeling henpecked
Saanich News October 17, 2012

The chickens aren’t coming home to roost, yet.

A Saanich family’s plan to open a chicken farm on their agricultural land has hit a stumbling block at the municipal level.

Gordon Alberg said his hands were tied after Saanich council twice denied his family’s request to developing housing on property at 1516 Mount Douglas X Rd.

So the family – Gord and his siblings Don Alberg and Florence Davis – went the route council suggested, and proposed a poultry operation that would house 12,000 birds in four barns.

Saanich’s planning department has now denied the family building permits, which Alberg says is all politics.

“They’re trying to have jurisdiction over it,” he said of his property, which is protected in the provincial agricultural land reserve but now sits astride a number of residential neighbourhoods south of Mount Doug Park.

Alberg hired a lawyer, John Alexander, after Saanich staff denied building permits on Sept. 28 due to problems with building sizes and property line setbacks, but not the potential poultry operation.

“This is agricultural land reserve land, and the majority of the concerns that (Saanich) raised simply do not apply to … farm uses,” Alexander said.

Alexander said while Saanich’s lawyers appear to be of the opinion that a building permit should have been issued for the chicken farm, there are still concerns about permitted building sizes and setbacks.

“I’m not convinced Saanich is right about the setbacks. All they’re going to do is drive the project to taller, higher more intrusive barns and more intensive activity along the property lines,” he said. “It’s like ‘be careful what you wish for,’ so to speak.

“The Albergs want to do this in the least intrusive way possible,” Alexander added. “They are committed to getting some productive use of this land, and it really will be council that will determine what the form of that productive use is.”

Saanich’s director of planning Sharon Hvozdanski admits there is conflict between the property as designated farmland while being zoned as residential.

“The use of the land is brought into question based on the existing single-family zoning, and also in regard to the use of the land for farming,” Hvozdanski said. “It’s our opinion that (land-use issues) haven’t been adequately addressed.”

On July 23, Saanich council voted 5-4 to protect farmland and oppose removing the property from the ALR.

The four dissenting voters argued that keeping the land in the ALR could result in a farming operation that would be more intrusive on neighbours than 12 homes and a community garden.

“If you want to save farmland you have to live with it being farmed,” Mayor Frank Leonard said at the time.

Coun. Dean Murdock, one of the more outspoken of the five councillors who voted to reject the housing proposal, stands by the decision.

“We have to stop carving up our farmland and turning it into asphalt-paved subdivision,” Murdock said.

“Our hope was that whatever farm process that might occur there would be a less intrusive farm practice (than a poultry operation) … and I regret the frustration and anxiety this has likely caused the neighbours, but retaining the farmland was the right decision.”

Sustainable Saanich Food Fest

Saanich hosts local food fest
Saanich News September 25, 2012

The Healthy Saanich advisory committee will host an event next weekend to help promote locally grown food.

“It’s an opportunity to showcase local food and local food producers. There will also be opportunities for people to learn more about growing their own food in their own yard or garden,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, who chairs the committee.

The free, family-friendly Sustainable Saanich Food Fest will include displays, lessons and presentations – on gardening and cooking – from Haliburton Farm, Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers, Lifecycles, Donald Street Farm and Saanich Organics.

“Healthy Saanich is keenly interested in local food and promoting local food, supporting our local growers, and we thought this was a great way to walk the talk,” Murdock said.

“I think it’s really important for people to get exposure about growing food and preparing local food, and knowing what’s available locally as part of the lower Island harvest.”

Kids will have an opportunity to learn some cooking skills, through Thrifty Foods’ Young Chef program.

The Saanich food festival happens Sunday, Sept. 30, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., where Darwin Avenue meets the Lochside Trail, behind the Saanich municipal hall.

Murdock says the location is a demonstration site for future trail-side pocket markets.

Last October, Saanich council discussed offering more opportunities to local growers to sell their goods, and the Lochside Trail off municipal hall was suggested as a prime spot for a makeshift market.

“I think (the Sustainable Saanich Food Fest) is a great way to open the door to having pocket markets at the municipal hall, which is really the community’s gathering place,” Murdock said.

Finding relief from cannons for neighbours

Saanich pressured to ban bird cannons
By Saanich News September 12, 2012

When Canada geese were continually attacking blueberry crops at Beckwith Farm in 2010, the farm launched its bird predation plan – which includes a noise cannon.

“The predator kites and other visual deterrents had no effect on the Canada geese,” said Wayne Hopkins, president of Beckwith Farm. “These geese were landing and eating the leaves. They killed somewhere around 12,000 plants in a matter of a few days. It all happened very quickly, so we had to employ noise devices very quickly.”

One such device was a propane cannon, which, when fired, creates a 130 decibel bang to scare birds away. The birds aren’t too fond of the noise, and neighbours near the farm aren’t either.

“It defies common sense to use propane cannons as a bird deterrent 200m from urban homes in long established Saanich neighbourhoods,” reads a brochure from the Concerned Neighbours of Beckwith Farm organization.

“The noise generated by propane cannons firing 200m from urban homes is debilitating to a large number of residents … causing significant impacts to health, livelihood and happiness.”

No propane cannons have gone off at the Blenkinsop Valley farm since 2010, and Hopkins credits that to the predation management plan. Cannons are used as a last-ditch effort when visual deterrents and other audible devices don’t work.

But neighbours aren’t content that there’s a chance the cannons could go off again, at any time, in the event of a new flock of birds swarms onto the nearby crops.

Saanich councillors Susan Brice and Nichola Wade brought forward a motion at Monday’s council meeting asking staff to look at options regarding cannons to mitigate friction between neighbours and the farm.

“The two of us feel we’re very supportive of agriculture in Saanich, however it is an inappropriate mechanism to use propane cannons in such a proximate distance to residential developments,” Wade said.

The two councillors mentioned ongoing frustrations dealing with the provincial government, as the use of propane cannons comes under the Ministry of Agriculture’s authority, and the Right to Farm legislation trumps municipal bylaws.

“Anything that can be explored that’s going to give the neighbours in this area some relief is worth putting on the table,” said Coun. Dean Murdock.

Hopkins says Saanich’s intervening is all politicking, and he anticipates the municipality won’t be able to get far with the province.

“The fact is (propane cannons are) a last report, and unless Saanich or whoever has a better alternative as a last resort, I think they’re here to stay,” Hopkins said.
Council unanimously agreed to have staff look into options.