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What's Abbotsford doing
about propane cannons?

Dear Mayor and Councillors:

On April 5, we attended a meeting with a group of concerned citizens at the office of the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. John van Dongen. We had previously expressed our serious concerns about the use of propane cannons by Fraser Valley blueberry farmers and subsequently the Minister had his staff investigate the problems and present him with their recommendations. New guidelines for the use of propane cannons were issued by the Minister in the spring of this year.

Mr. van Dongen informed us that he has "encouraged local governments in the Lower Mainland to establish farm bylaws regarding the use of audible bird scare devices". He also stated that, "we have empowered local governments to regulate this issue and impose fines as necessary" ( this is a direct quote from the Minister ).

Cannon season is fast approaching and we, as well as other concerned Abbotsford residents, would like to know what action is being taken by Abbotsford Council in regard to the cannon issue. In particular, we have the following questions:
- Is Abbotsford rewriting it's noise bylaw to incorporate new cannon regulations?
-Will Abbotsford bylaw officers be the group responsible for policing the use of cannons?
- Will fines be imposed on those who do not follow the new cannon regulations?
- What phone numbers will be made available for complainants if a farmer is not following the new guidelines?
- Will these phone numbers be manned on a 24 hour basis ( cannons firing all night is a typical complaint)?
- will all complaints be recorded to help determine the magnitude of the problem and will the records be readily available to the public?
In 2001, we attended several meetings chaired by Mayor Ferguson to review the propane cannon issue. We also attended a presentation given to council by Roger Clapham. It was clear to us, at that time, that Mayor Ferguson and most councillors were sympathetic to the noise problem faced by residents due to propane cannons. However council was unable to do anything about the cannon situation due to the Farm Practices Act.

Now that the city has the authority to address this issue, we would like to see an approach taken that could ultimately lead to the phasing out of propane cannons. As the Mayor suggested at his Propane Cannon Review Meetings, a five year phase out of propane cannons would be appropriate, whereas the two year plan proposed by the Ban the Cannons group is probably not achievable.

There are a number of ways that cannons could be phased out, as follows:
- by decreasing the number of cannons allowed per acre on an annual basis. For example, currently 1 cannon is permitted per every two hectares. This could be decreased to 1 cannon every four hectares in 2003, etc.
- the frequencies of cannon firings could be reduced from one every five minutes, to one every eight minutes, then twelve minutes, etc.
- we would also like to see current cannon use be frozen, and no new cannons permitted on newly planted fields. If a grower is to start up new fields, he should know up front that cannons and other noise makers cannot be used on new fields.
- we also feel very strongly that cannons should not be allowed on fields anywhere in the vicinity of schools. Distances from schools should be clearly defined in the bylaws.

The group we belong to ( Ban The Cannons ) has now been successful in convincing the Ministry of Agriculture to make some changes to the regulations controlling propane cannons. The onus is now on the city to regulate and police the use of these devices and we would like to know what steps Abbotsford is planning to take to do so.

Sincerely, M & D of Abbotsford

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