Wednesday, December 30, 2009

63 percent of Canadians support banning battery cages for egg-laying chickens, poll shows

By Stephen Hui, Dec 28, 2009
Almost two-thirds of Canadians support banning the use of battery cages to house egg-laying chickens, a new poll shows.

Across the country, 63 percent of Canadians would back a legislative ban on battery cages in their province, according to the telephone survey, conducted by Harris/Decima for the Vancouver Humane Society.

Twenty-six percent of respondents said they would oppose such a ban, while 11 percent didn’t know where they stood or refused to offer an opinion.

“British Columbians and women continue to be more strongly opposed to the use of battery cages, with 69% (respectively) indicating they would support their provinces making battery cages illegal,” the executive summary of the poll results, released today (December 28), states.

The survey defines a battery cage as a wire cage used to house five to seven egg-laying chickens. It notes that battery cages are stacked two to eight cages high and are found on more than 90 percent of Canada’s egg farms. These farms hold an average of 17,000 hens each.

Even more Canadians would agree with requiring cartons of battery-cage eggs to be labelled “eggs from caged hens”.
The poll found 77-percent support nationally for mandatory labeling. Sixteen percent of Canadians would oppose “eggs from caged hens” labels. In terms of how Canadians feel about battery cages, 58 percent are against their use, 17 percent are in favour, and 24 percent have no opinion. Seventy-two percent of Canadians said they are willing to pay more for animal products “certified to humane standards of care” by a third-party group.

When it comes to cage-free eggs, 54 percent of Canadians are willing to pay a higher price.

The poll also found that 62 percent of Canadians believe farm animals are treated humanely in the process of producing food and other products.

Harris/Decima surveyed 2,012 Canadians from December 3 to December 13. The poll’s national results are considered accurate plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The Vancouver Humane Society is an animal-welfare organization that runs a campaign to improve the quality of life for egg-laying hens.

In response to a request from the society, the Metro Vancouver board of directors in February voted to send a letter to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency expressing opposition to the use of battery cages due to the “inherent cruelty of confining egg-laying hens” in them.

Original article:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nicole Bottles

For Immediate Release
December 16, 2009

Lyme Disease Victims Forced Back to USA To Buy Healthcare

Forcing Nicole Bottles and other B.C. Lyme disease victims to pay for treatment in the U.S. is a grievous harm that contravenes the Canada Health Act, said David Cubberley, past MLA and a Director of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation.

“Nicole and her mom, Chris Powell, are back in California paying $3900 U.S. to have Nicole's IV antibiotic port replaced,” said Cubberley. “Last week they were refused placement at an ER ward on the grounds that Nicole hasn’t tested positive on Canadian soil for Lyme.”

“This is costing the Bottles thousands of dollars – money they don’t have – to buy care they’re entitled to under Medicare,” said Cubberley “ Nicole has chronic Lyme that tested positive at a registered U.S. lab, but she’s being denied antibiotics and home services here despite being wheel-chair bound.”

Nicole is like many hundreds of British Columbians whose Lyme disease is never diagnosed in B.C. because of faulty guidelines and flawed testing. Lyme-literate physicians from Seattle to Los Angeles provide the bulk of care to B.C. lyme victims.

“I’m concerned that Nicole is being denied the treatment she needs here in B.C.,” said Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South. “The family is living in extreme hardship, paying $1100 U.S. a month for Nicole’s meds alone.”
Popham and Cubberley are making a plea for donations to help cover Nicole's recent medical expenses which will total well over $7000. "This situation has all but bankrupted the Bottles family," Cubberley said.
"We have begun a fundraising drive this week to help them with this financial emergency,” Lana Popham said. “David Cubberley started the drive by donating $500. So far, over $1000 has been donated directly to Nicole Bottles and we hope to have at least $7000 by the end of the month".
A cheque, payable to Nicole Bottles, can be mailed to: Nicole Bottles, 622 Agnes St., Victoria, B.C. V9Z 2E6.
17-year-old Nicole showed symptoms of Lyme two years ago but saw 12 specialists in B.C. without a diagnosis. The B.C. Healthguide suggests B.C. doctors will clinically diagnose Lyme from symptoms and promptly treat it without tests. In reality, many doctors don’t recognize Lyme and depend entirely on a flawed diagnostic and testing protocol that misses most Lyme infections.
Media Contact:
David Cubberley 250-818-1129
Lana Popham 250-507-4222
Chris Powell 778 433 1047

Friday, December 11, 2009

One step removed from 'dream job'

MLA loves her role as agriculture critic, but thinks she'll love it more when she's the agriculture minister

During an all-night session of the legislature, Lana Popham slept on a cot in her small office.

During an all-night session of the legislature, Lana Popham slept on a cot in her small office.

Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury, Times Colonist, Times Colonist

Lana Popham likes to walk around the stuffy old legislature and open all the windows. The blast of fresh air reminds the NDP MLA from Saanich South about her pre-political life, when she spent all day outside working in her organic vineyard.

As her first session as a provincial politician comes to a close, her farming life is but a distant memory. It has been replaced by a daily routine of early-morning lobbying breakfasts, committee work, house duty, caucus meetings, question period, lobbying dinners and late-night arrivals back home where her 11-year-old son is asleep without a goodnight from his mother.

There's a cot in her office where she recently slept during an all-night session. She had to speak in opposition to a government bill that forced ambulance paramedics back to work.
Her speaking time was 2:30 a.m.

"The pace of the session is excruciating," she said. "We've prepared ourselves pretty well but I have been away a lot and that's probably the hardest part. You don't realize how much you miss. Your family sacrifices for your dream."

Popham, 41, is riding the rookie MLA rollercoaster, a journey that begins with the joy of election, morphs into panic at voter expectations and concludes with humility when you walk into the legislature for your first day.

"Coming into this building you get a really amazing sense that you better take this job seriously because there's a sense of responsibly that hits you very hard."

The NDP appointed Popham its agriculture critic, and she admits she's "very lucky" to get a topic so close to her heart. Still, there's been a steep learning curve for unfamiliar parts of the industry, such as meat regulation disputes that have required tours of slaughter houses.

"I'm the queen of the abattoir now," she joked. "But it's my dream. Well, actually minister of agriculture is my dream, but that's next time."

As critic, Popham keeps a watchful eye on Liberal agriculture minister Steve Thomson. She's responsible for questioning his budget in the house, line by line, in a nerve-wracking process called estimates.
In theory, she's also the one to verbally eviscerate him in question period -- the 30 minutes of the day when political theatre and rhetoric overtake constructive discourse.

It's not a part of the job Popham enjoys. "I'm finding that although there's an artificial hatred that starts to build up, it doesn't really mean anything outside of that chamber and you can get a lot of work done just by having a conversation."

With all its catcalls and heckling, question period "is just not my personality," she said. "And I really do think that it's out of control. I don't know of many people who appreciate how it works in there."

People might be surprised to know she has "a great rapport" with Thomson, who is also a rookie MLA.
"We may not agree on some of the issues, but we both have an agriculture background, so we're both generally on the same page for things, which helps."

She said she hopes to continue to raise environmental concerns in the house in other ministries, such as environment and the climate secretariat. But she admits to still battling her nerves on occasion.

"Before you do anything in this place you are a nervous wreck and that's the honest truth. Anyone who doesn't want to admit that is lying. But I absolutely love it. I've always been an activist and I guess I've always had a big mouth. So now I have a place to use it.

"Even though I'm exhausted and pretty worn out, I'm thinking about the next session and starting to get excited."

Original article is here:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

12 ways to a green Christmas

Make it yourself or buy it locally -- just make sure your gifts won't add unnecessarily to the landfill site

Purse made from salvaged material, available at

purse made from salvaged material, available at

Photograph by:,

It seems an increasing number of people are interested in a green holiday season. Numerous books are on the shelves, such as Green Christmas: How to Have a Joyous, Eco-Friendly Holiday Season and A Greener Christmas, if that's any indication. But it's tough to know what's green and what's "green washed," products that masquerade as environmentally friendly, but aren't really. It's an important time of the year to read labels, ask questions and do your research on products you're interested in purchasing.

It's still early enough to put some thought into your gifts. Know why you're getting a gift for the person you're buying it for. There's nothing worse than giving someone a gift they don't want or can't use; those are destined to collect dust on a shelf -- or worse, get tossed.

What else can you do in addition to looking for ethical and sustainable gifts? Recycle your old holiday lights and replace them with low-power LED versions. With a bit of planning, you can take your holiday parties and gatherings toward zero waste: Just set out a few bins for recycling, compost and waste, and direct people appropriately. Take it a step further by removing the trash can entirely, and watch your uncle's hesitation as he tries to determine which bin his used paper plate goes into. That should make for interesting conversation around the dinner table.

A few days ago someone told me that "it takes green to go green." Not so, especially during the holidays. It's the thought that counts, and, in the case of a green and sustainable Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, using your noggin and skills will help you find -- or make -- the perfect gifts while staying true to your ethics and sustainable leanings, all while keeping within your budget.

I've assembled a list of 12 holiday gift ideas to help you have a green holiday season. Hopefully, we'll all be green and still have some snow.

1. Make a card: It's estimated that there are more than 1.9 billion cards sent each holiday season in the United States alone. This year, why not give something more personal: buy some hemp or recycled paper card stock and some art supplies, and add your own creative flair to the business of card-making. Keep the supplies and use them year after year.

2. Bake a gift: Ever wonder why you should save cookie tins? Now you know: It's for the holidays. Sweets such as peanut brittle can be made in advance and store well. Preserves, such as jellies and jams, are always appreciated, as are baked goods, such as cookies. Plus, the tins and jars can be reused. Some people are wary about homemade goods, so for those folks, try another option.

3. Give consumables: A lot of people -- students, retirees, newspaper columnists -- live in the tight confines of condos, apartments, or basement suites and physically don't have enough space for more "stuff." Instead, give those people consumables, such as grocery gift certificates.

4. Buy services: Gifts don't always have to be material. Give gift certificates to local services, such as a trip to a massage therapist or spa, a trial membership at a yoga studio or gym, or a gift certificate to a hair salon. This keeps waste out of landfills and provides worthwhile local employment.

5. Give ethical products: Buying a fair-trade product -- such as organic chocolate -- is another good way to go green for the holidays. Fair-trade products ensure the farmers and craftspeople who produce the product are remunerated fairly. It might not be the right shade of green you're looking for, but it does provide a better quality of life for farmers and craftspeople who may be at risk of being exploited.

6. Buy vintage and second-hand goods: Buying second-hand furniture, books or other used products is another great way to go green for the holidays. Know the tastes of the person you're buying for, though: One person's sweet find is another's old junk. But with all the great second-hand and vintage stores in town, there's a gift available for everyone.

7. Give a gift that gives twice by donating to charity: If there's a group that the person you're buying for really loves, donate some money to it on their behalf. For example, you can adopt a cougar or a grizzly bear through The Land Conservancy ( Give to the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre ( Donate to the Dogwood Initiative, which wants to make British Columbia the global model for sustainable land reform ( Give to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, which last year assisted more than 2,300 households in need ( Through an organization such as World Vision (, you can buy livestock for a family in need or donate school supplies to Canadian families that could use some help.

8. Pick organic for babies: There are so many options for babies, from unpainted, unfinished wood toys to cosy organic cotton jumpers. Local crafter Dress Me Up ( makes organic cotton stuffed rabbits for teething, while Good Planet Baby Store on Broad Street ( also sells all kinds of green baby products.

9. Buy organic clothing: Clothing is always a popular gift for Christmas. Look for organic cotton, which uses less water and no pesticides, unlike traditional cotton. Ditch your mental image of a pony-tailed hippie wearing an itchy hemp hooded sweater. Nowadays, hemp, which uses less water to grow than cotton and grows faster, can be made into comfortable and nice-looking duds.

10. Look for up-cycled materials. Products made from salvaged materials are becoming increasingly available. Simple Shoes ( are sneakers soled with old tire treads, while messenger bags made from recycled seatbelts and bicycle tires, such as those from Alchemy Goods (, are also available. Some local crafters make items out of salvaged fabric, such as handbags sewn from old leather jackets (

11. Re-gift: Do you have an item or collectable that your friend or family member has been eyeing for some time? Are you not using it? Are you particularly attached to it? If not, let it go. It might come back to you next year.

12. Buy local: If you can buy something locally made, do it. The environment isn't just about hemp toilet paper and leafy vegetables: it's also about community. Local businesses create industry and employment, and are vital to building healthy communities.

Reprinted from:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sustainable BC

Here is a vision document that inspires me!

For more information, please visit:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Victory for Wild Salmon

Does the Fisheries Act have teeth?

An update from
Alexandra Morton, November 26, 2009

We are one step closer to applying the laws of Canada to salmon farming! It was a pivotal day in court. Although it is only one more step towards enforcing the laws of Canada on fish farmers,  it was essential if we are to bring reason to this situation.

In September I laid charges against Marine Harvest for illegal possession of juvenile wild salmon. This came after months of correspondence with Fisheries and Oceans, asking them to uphold the Fisheries Actand lay a charge themselves.

Today was our third court appearance. The first two were simply to set dates, and then extend those dates so that the Department of Justice could review the details of the case. Today's appearance was a "process hearing" with a judge to lay out the charge and our evidence. The judge could either have refused to issue a summons, or approve the charge.

Today in Port Hardy, the judge approved the charge and a summons will be issued to Marine Harvest to appear in court and the trial could proceed.

There are several directions this could take from this point:

1. The Department of Justice could take the case over and run the case. My lawyer, Jeff Jones and I are hoping this will occur as this is truly David against Goliath, a tiny North Island law firm working Pro Bono to date, against a multi billion dollar international corporation. A round of applause for Jeffery and Marianne Jones they have done so much already!

2. If the Department of Justice takes the case, they could proceed to trial where all evidence can be heard, and a Judge will rule on the merit of the case. Or, the Department of Justice can stay the charges and the case is closed without a trial.

3. Jeff Jones and I might have to run the trial ourselves. While this seems a good idea, the reality is a tidal wave of paperwork that could overwhelm his firm, even though this appears to be an extremely straightforward charge which many fishermen have faced. However, well funded corporate defendants can stretch a trial out for days if not weeks, making it extremely costly for a private citizen to enforce the Fisheries Act.

In any case we are setting precedence. Canada cannot manage its fisheries in a sustainable way unless the laws about how many fish are caught are enforced. Over-fishing is a global problem, it is not sound management to allow salmon farmers unlimited access to BC wild fish.

Thanks to all of you for all your support. If you know anyone who would like to join us in signing the letter to the Minister of Fisheries to PLEASE ENFORCE THE FISHERIES ACT, the letter is still on our website Until the Federal government is
willing to uphold the laws of Canada we will continue to do what we can to fill the void.

My deepest thanks to all of you, we face tough stretch ahead, but once again the courts have agreed with our position.

A remarkable film will be released next week on the Global impact of salmon farming, here is the trailer:

No individual can right the wrongs we have wreaked on our planet.  Thank you all for being with me on this.

alexandra morton

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Local food includes local meat

New Democrats are introducing a bill in the legislature today which, if passed, could mean meat from local farmers can be purchased directly by customers.

The new bill amends the Food Safety Act, which will change the current rules that all meat offered for sale must be processed at centralized facilities, a burden for some small producers.

“Forcing farmers to ship their animals hundreds of miles for processing not only makes local meat unaffordable, it also puts undue stress on the animals and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions,” said Lana Popham, New Democrat agriculture critic, calling it a "common-sense bill".

“Even as increasing numbers of British Columbians are looking for local food choices, the centuries-old tradition of the family farm is at risk,” said New Democrat MLA Nicholas Simons, who introduced the bill.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fresh evidence BC government supports off-shore oil drilling

Minister Blair Lekstrom: "We believe it can be done".

"The Battle is Still Someone's to win."

by Catherine Turnquist

Last Friday was National Child Day, a day meant to recognize the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among them are the right to healthy development and the right to pursue an education.

The machete trail being currently hacked through our social and health services is putting those rights in jeopardy. Children, particularly those with special needs, must always be a priority, whatever the economic climate. If their needs aren’t met, their health, growth and education are all compromised.

Intensive therapy for autism, treatment for Fetal Alcohol Disorder, services for children with Down’s Syndrome, an anti-bullying program for schools, literacy initiatives – all are being dropped in favour of deficit reduction.

Public health nurses, the only clinic in B.C. for youth with addictions – supports we expect to have available are being lost almost daily. It took years to build up some of these systems and if we let them go now, it will take years to get them back - if we ever get them back.

This has become nothing less than a fight for what kind of society we want to live in and what kind of province our children are going to inherit. Priorities come from values. Values are what make a society what it is, what decides how liveable and how civilized it is.

If we don’t insist that our government protect special needs children, we're moving a step closer to barbarism, to social Darwinism. The biggest, strongest and most-neurotypical will thrive. The children with autism, or cerebral palsy - they'll all get trampled and have their meagre resources strip-mined for cash by the very public officials meant to protect their interests.

Fight, people. This really is life or death and the battle is still someone's to win.

Nov. 20, 2009

Thanks Monday Magazine!

Nov. 12-18 2009 issue.

I'm cramming for an A+ before the end of the year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BC Legislature must come together in support of a Global Climate Treaty in Copenhagen

Yesterday in the Legislature I rose to ask all MLAs to make a joint appeal to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to engage constructively and help make the Copenhagen negotiations next month a success.

I will be following up with Premier Campbell on this request and will let you know what happens.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Agriculture and the Green Economy

Here is a short speech I gave yesterday in the Legislature in support of a private member's motion made by Rob Fleming. This motion would strengthen our green economy and I spoke about the important role agriculture can play.

Friday, November 13, 2009

New website shares intimate messages from B.C. parents to children with autism

Parents of children with autism have opened up their hearts and personal lives to British Columbians, describing the triumphs and struggles of raising their children, said MLA Lana Popham.

“The new website,, offers a window that few of us ever look through. It’s a window into the world of people with autism and just how challenging - and inspiring - it is to raise a child with autism," said Popham. “The parents are bravely sharing their experiences with the public, so other British Columbians have the chance to experience a little of this private world.”

Launched today, the website will allow the parents to record their personal messages to their children. The parents created the site as a response to the B.C. government’s recent decision to cut funding for early intensive behavioural intervention (EIBI).

The public will have access to the private thoughts of care-givers as they struggle to explain to their children the devastating effect of the B.C. government’s cuts.

“While you can never truly describe what living with autism is, this site can offer a glimpse into the challenges and victories we endure and celebrate every day," said Hollie Davis, a mother to a child living with autism. "Often those who live with autism or who are raising children with autism are completely isolated. It’s wonderful to get to a point as a parent that you can say 'my child may have autism, but autism does not and will not have my child'.”

Autism affects approximately 1 in 165 children in Canada, a number that is steadily increasing.

“Our hope is that the stories here will help raise awareness of the importance of funding EIBI for children with autism in addition to creating a support system for parents and care-givers alike," said Sylvia Michalewicz, co-founder and volunteer coordinator of

Thursday, November 5, 2009

No HST on bikes in BC!

Hi Everybody,

This week in the B.C. legislature I took on a challenge from Ian Black, the Honourable Minister of Small Business. Minister Black claims no bike stores have contacted him regarding the new 7% tax on bicycles; and he is arguing that making bicycles less affordable will not reduce bike sales.

I’m saying cyclists all over British Columbia agree that increasing the cost of cycling is not going to get more people riding their bikes! We don’t want our government to add a new tax on buying a bike. No HST on bikes in BC.

It also directly contradicts the BC Liberal government’s “Great Goal” of making our province environmentally sustainable.

To meet our provincial Climate Action Plan Goals we must strengthen transportation options like cycling. The HST on bicycles and cycling equipment will create a disincentive to cycling.

Visit a Victoria bike store like Recyclistas and you’ll hear how many view this issue.

"[The HST] is kind of frustrating”, said Luke Postl of Recyclistas, “especially with things like helmets. Helmets are already a huge chunk of money for some people. You have to wear them, or you get a fine, and now the cost is going up. The cost is going up on other accessories too — oil and grease, patch kits, reflective stickers and locks. All of that was PST-exempt. I'm against the HST. I think it will alienate a lot of people from riding. It's added a cost that is too much. The cost of living is already exorbitant, and the minimum wage isn't going up.”

This week I reminded the Minister that for almost thirty years bicycles have had an exemption to the provincial service tax. This has always been good policy: it supports healthy living and less polluting transportation.

John Luton, a Victoria City Councilor and transit expert sums it up: “Cycling is our fastest growing mode of transportation, especially in Victoria and Vancouver. When it comes to cycling, Victoria is setting standards across the country demonstrating the viability of cycling as an environmentally friendly, convenient and low cost commuting alternative. During a time when governments across the world are looking at ways to encourage cycling, our government has imposed a brand new tax on bikes. It just doesn’t make sense - and this decision must be reversed.”

I want the government to withdraw the Bill creating the HST and develop a tax plan based on consultation and the will of the province. We just completed an election where the Liberals said in writing they were not contemplating a HST. Bringing it in now without a public debate is an affront to democracy.

I am asking every cyclist and environmentally-responsible person out there to sign the petition at   
Thank you!

Best, Lana

(We’ve created a pdf version that you can print out and have at bike stores etc. Let me know if you want me to email you a copy.)  

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Taxation of Local Farming needs Improvement

Hi all,

A number of people have asked me what is happening with the results of the Farm Assessment Review Panel and the report they submitted this summer.

Today, in Debates, I asked the Minister responsible for an update. In a nutshell, he said the government is still working on it and they hope to make a decision on the panel`s recommendations for 2010 before the end of this year.

A number of you have also spoken to me about how unfair the farm tax re-assessment process has been as the decision-makers don’t seem to understand that organic farms are often structured differently than conventional farms: they may be smaller but still very productive; and they may make use of natural assets like buffer zones, or forested land as part of farm and if so, expect that these areas be considered as part of the farm to a reasonable extent when their taxes are assessed.

I raised the issue of how harmful the assessment process has been to farmers and got a commitment from the Minister to be included in their discussions as to how they move forward.
I`ll keep you in the loop and please share your thoughts and concerns with me.


Lana Popham.

PS. The picture is of Dieter Eisenhawer and I. Dieter is an excellent local organic farmer. (This is a picture of a recent visit I made to his farm: he is admiring my un-farmer-like fingernails).
PPS. Transcript is below.






Morning Sitting


Committee of Supply

L. Popham: I'm under the impression that the farm assessment review panel falls under this ministry, and I'm just wondering if the minister would be able to confirm that for me. 
Hon. B. Bennett: Yes. 
 L. Popham: The report was submitted this summer, and I'm wondering at what point the recommendations would be accepted or would be implemented for farmers in B.C. 
Hon. B. Bennett: When I saw the member come in, I turned immediately to the farm assessment review project briefing note in my binder. The member knows that there are recommendations that go to 2010 and recommendations that go to 2011. 
What I can tell the member today is that we are looking seriously at the recommendations that relate to 2010. We have not made a final decision. It's government. There's process to go through. There is still some consideration of these recommendations to take place, but we're well along in terms of thinking about how and when. 
With regard to the recommendations for 2011 and beyond, we are also discussing those in some considerable detail and trying to determine all of the implications of implementing those. We've got more time with those, and we're going to take some more time with those. 
L. Popham: I understand that there's process in government, but the reason I bring this up is because the destructive way that this assessment project was initiated has actually brought a lot of damage, probably, to my constituency, Saanich South, and it's damage that is not reversible at this point. We've had farmers walk away from their farms outside of the agricultural land reserve. 
I would like to impress upon the minister that the priority of finishing this project is crucial. The reason I'm saying that is because we have farms outside of my constituency — for example, in Sooke — that are trying to make future plans. The way that they have been treated through the assessment process…. I think the future isn't certain for the way that they're able to continue their business. 
The farm that I'm talking about is a farm in Sooke called ALM farm. They do a seed business. The future of it is in jeopardy because of these recommendations not being brought in, in prompt time. 
I would just like to make sure that it's a priority, and I would like to know if I would be able to be included in those discussions about which recommendations would be accepted. 
Hon. B. Bennett: I'm sorry. I took a little bit of time to discuss this with staff because I would like to be able to give as much assurance and certainty to the member as I can on this. 
I'd like the recommendations for the 2010 tax roll. We have the process that I referred to earlier. I'm going to do my very best to effect this change by regulation prior to the end of this year so that it would take effect in 2010. 
I'm not there yet, so the member and the agricultural constituents that she refers to will still have some uncertainty. They should know that we're well down the road on this. Certainly, the minister likes the recommendations and is attempting to get this resolved before the end of the year. I think that's probably the closest to a commitment that the member can get from me here today. 
L. Popham: That's fine. I understand that there is a process. I'll repeat again that I would like to be included in some of those discussions about the recommendations. 
Hon. B. Bennett: I'm sorry, hon. Chair. I should have responded to the member's request. I am more than happy to involve the member to whatever extent she wants to be involved in this discussion. Members of the opposition meet with me fairly regularly, and they're all invited to do that. Despite the fact that I might get a little testy in here with the member from Port Alberni, he's welcome in my office any day, if he has a problem that he wants to work through on behalf of his constituents. 
The same holds true for the member asking the question. I know that she is an expert in agriculture, so I would value whatever advice she has.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Taking a stand and putting on pressure.....


For Immediate Release
Oct. 27, 2009


VICTORIA - The escape of 40,000 Atlantic salmon from a fish farm in the Broughton Archipelago highlights the B.C. Liberals’ failure to protect wild salmon stocks, say the New Democrats.

Despite the escape, the Liberals will still not commit to implementing closed-containment technology, a system that would have prevented the escape from the open-net Marine Harvest fish farm Friday.

“The legislature’s all-party finance committee has recommended the implementation of closed containment as a benefit to the economy and to the environment, but the B.C. Liberals continue to sit on their hands,” says opposition agriculture and lands critic Lana Popham.

“This latest escape is a shameful, yet shining example of why closed containment is needed in B.C.’s waters,” said Popham. “Forty thousand mature, alien fish have escaped into the wild, meaning they’re competing with native wild stocks for food, looking to spawn and increasing the potential of passing on disease and other pathogens.”

Opposition environment critic Rob Fleming says there are fears the B.C. Liberals are fast-tracking seven new fish farm licenses before they transfer oversight of aquaculture to the federal government in February.

“We’ve just passed a summer in which the Fraser River sockeye returns were dramatically lower than expected,” said Fleming. “A significant stock is in crisis, but the B.C. Liberals are still blithely carrying on as if there is no problem.”

In Question Period Monday, the opposition asked Agriculture Minister Steve Thomson to commit to not fast-track those seven new licenses. Thomson indicated that despite the stocks in crisis and regardless of the escape from the Marine Harvest site, it was business as usual for his ministry.

The opposition has called for the province to commit to three immediate steps:
- No expansion of open-net fish farming activities or approval of new sites on B.C.’s coast.
- Implement the bi-partisan recommendation of the B.C.’s Select Standing Committee on Finance to move finfish aquaculture to closed containment and world-leading sustainable practice.
- Immediately begin open, transparent and complete stakeholder consultation on the February 2010 transfer of fisheries aquaculture management responsibility so that B.C.’s long-term interests in a sustainable fishery are represented in any transfer agreements.

Bob Simpson, the opposition critic for aboriginal relations and reconciliation, says First Nations leaders have expressed significant concerns over the further expansion of aquaculture and the transfer of authority to the federal government, but the B.C. Liberals have turned a deaf ear to those concerns.

“First Nations must be consulted before such a fundamental change takes place that would have a profound impact on their way of life,” said Simpson.


Media Contact: Tim Renneberg 250 361 6314

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do you care about our wild salmon stocks?

Here is a portion of the transcript from the budget estimates I did focusing on aquaculture on Tuesday. There is some interesting answers regarding open net salmon farms........

To see the complete transript click on this link:

L. Popham: I think there has been a statement by the Minister of Environment on the lack of confidence in DFO that the public has regarding the aquaculture management situation and the collapse of our wild stock. I'm just wondering if the minister has confidence that DFO is capable of sustainable aquaculture management and is capable of protecting and helping bring back the salmon stocks in B.C. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: Firstly, I don't think it's appropriate in my estimates to comment on the competency of a federal regulator, but what I can say is that, as part of our discussions that we are having and will be having with the federal government over the next months responding to the decision, provincial interests will inform the discussion and be a significant part of that discussion. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
And I also can say that we are working closely with my colleague the Minister of Environment as part of these discussions, ensuring that the concerns that he has raised are taken into account as we work on this arrangement with the federal government. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: Can the minister tell me how long he expects the transition to take? I know that there has been a discussion that it might be February, but in the briefing I had prior to these estimates, there was an indication that it could take longer than that. Is there an end date for these discussions? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I would like to know the nature of those discussions –– if there have been any stakeholders invited into those discussions. And I would also like to know, while the discussions are happening and while our province is still undertaking the management of the aquaculture and fish industry: will the minister be putting a hold on the permits that are pending right now? And I would also like to know: how many pending permits are there? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: A number of questions there, so just to go through them. First of all, the court decision set out that the jurisdiction was to be transferred by February 9, 2010. That was the direction of the court, and that is the objective that we're continuing to work towards with the federal government. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
You asked about stakeholder engagement or consultation, and I can let you know that the federal government, as a courtesy, has advised us that they intend to have broad consultation on the new regulation, and in the process. That will take place over the next few months. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
You asked about the nature of the discussions. The nature of the current discussions are around essentially how well the federal government regulates and administers that portion of the regulation that is to be transferred to them as a result of the court decision. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
If you look at the court decision, you also know that in that transition period between now and then, the courts directed that the province will continue to administer and have responsibility for the industry under our current set of regulations and current management structure. We will continue to do that over that time period. That was what was directed by the courts. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
You asked about the number of new applications or number of applications. There are currently seven finfish aquaculture new applications that are in a process now of review, consultation. It involves very significant first nations consultation, environmental assessment. Those processes are continuing on those seven new applications. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: Regarding the seven new finfish permits that are pending, I would like to know if these are separate applications from expanding current sites, and if there's a different number for those. I would also like to know if the minister believes that any of these permits will be approved before the transition is finished. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: Yes, the seven are separate. There are a number of other amendments in an application, requests in for…. These are amendments to tenures, licences — a number in the Broughton area, which I think is an area you may be asking about. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
In terms of the approval process, as you know, those applications go through a rigorous environmental assessment, a very significant level of first nations consultation — requires local government involvement in that. I'm not in a position to be able to speculate as to whether any specific number or any of the new finfish applications may be approved within that time frame. Those depend upon that very rigorous process. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
We've got the strongest, strictest environmental regulation on the industry probably in the world and with the level of consultation that's required before an approval. I can't speculate as to whether any specific number of those will be approved within that time frame before the February 9 date. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: Could the minister tell me how many permits are expansion permits? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: We're having some difficulty in very quickly getting that specific information for you. I think what I would like to say is that we're prepared, as a follow-up, to provide you with that information. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
There are a number of different kinds of applications, as you know, related to licensing renewal. Some, as you said, asked some expansion. I think to be fair, rather than provide a number that may not be completely accurate here, what we can commit to do is provide you that as a follow-up — a breakdown of the number of additional applications that we have currently in the system and under review, in addition to those seven new finfish applications that I talked about earlier. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: I would just like to state that it makes me very uneasy to think that we would be considering giving permission for new finfish aquaculture operations to begin as we're transitioning into a different type of jurisdiction with those. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I think the constituents around B.C. are very concerned about the sustainability of the current aquaculture situation. I think people are really concerned that we should be moving from open-net containment to closed-containment aquaculture. I want to know if there's any money in the line item to help fish farms transition to closed-net containment systems. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
[D. Horne in the chair.]

Hon. S. Thomson: No, there is not a specific allocation of dollars for closed-containment work, but we have committed and have our staff resources working in that area. We have significant expertise that we have built up over the years in the industry within our staff — some very, very good staff who are working with organizations and people interested in closed-containment technology. Part of the work of our staff is to do that and to work, looking forward, and researching that technology. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
We do work with organizations directly, like the coastal association of aquaculture reform and the Save Our Salmon society. We're working with those. I've recently met with them, as well, to discuss their interest in these areas. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
We'll continue to ensure that our staff resources and expertise that we've built up continue to contribute to the research and the investigation of that type of technology. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: I would like to know…. Given the court ruling that open-net salmon farming is a fishery and not agriculture, will the industry's tax assessment change from farm tax to industrial tax? Industrial tax is much higher than farm tax. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: Yeah, a good question, and not one I have a specific answer for, but I think it's certainly something we can look into. I think it was also one that was appropriate to be canvassed under the Ministry of Finance estimates, as well, because that's where the tax policy decisions rest. But I think it's a very good question, and I thank you for raising it, and it's something we'll look into. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

L. Popham: What does the minister believe will be the status of the B.C. sustainable aquaculture report now that there is going to be a transfer to DFO? I am concerned that all of this work and the money spent and the hours spent will be lost in the shuffle, and I'm hoping that the minister will be bringing it to the table. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Hon. S. Thomson: Yes, that report and information will be used to help inform our discussions with the federal government. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fishy Business.........

Part of my job as MLA for Saanich South includes being the Critic for Aquaculture. Even though the formal responsibility for Aquaculture in BC will be transferred to the Federal Government in the Spring, I don't believe we should be walking away from our responsibility to hold our BC Government accountable for time up until that transfer happens. We still have a budget for Aquaculture until that time.

We are in serious trouble with our wild stocks. There are many things we can do to help reduce the risk to our salmon. One major change we could make as a province is to require all fish farms to be "closed containment" systems. This is a safer way of farming fish in the ocean.

Here are some frequently asked questions answered by The Living Oceans Society. The Living Oceans Society Living is Canada’s largest organization focusing exclusively on marine conservation issues. They are based in Sointula, a small fishing village on the Central Coast of British Columbia.

What is Salmon Farming?

Salmon farming is the practice of growing large numbers of hatchery-origin salmon for human food in large floating mesh net-cage pens located in sheltered bays along the coast.

How can you tell if fish is farmed or wild?

In Canada neither retailers nor restaurants are required to label their seafood as farmed or wild. In the US, supermarkets are required to include this information on the label but the regulation is poorly enforced. However, if you see Atlantic salmon on a menu or a supermarket shelf it is farmed, there are no commercially viable Atlantic salmon fisheries left in North America. Atlantic salmon is the most commonly farmed species, but some B.C. farms raise Pacific Chinook (spring or king) and coho salmon. Retailers and restaurants often advertise “fresh” salmon. This usually means fresh from the farm—not from the fisherman. Be sure to ask restaurants and retailers if their salmon is farmed or wild. If it is farmed (Atlantic or Pacific), don’t buy it.

Is canned salmon farmed or wild?

Salmon used in canning is primarily wild salmon, although some can be farmed. The label on the can usually name the species of salmon-- pink and sockeye are the most common canned salmons. Neither of these species are farmed so you can enjoy your canned salmon with confidence.

Does eating farmed salmon help protect wild salmon because there is less pressure placed on wild stocks?

Salmon farmers often claim their industry is helping to “feed the world.” In truth, the salmon farming industry accelerates the depletion of wild fish stocks and strains the food supply for people in poorer nations. On average, it takes three to five kilograms of wild fish (used in the feed) to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon. Most of the wild feed for B.C. farmed salmon is taken from the southern hemisphere, diverting local protein to raise a luxury product for northern consumers. Farmed salmon also pose a threat to wild stocks by transferring parasites and diseases to passing wild salmon stocks. The open net-cages used in salmon farming do not allow disease and parasites to be contained, and a growing body of research has documented the decline of wild salmon stocks near salmon farms. Eating farmed salmon does not save wild salmon, it places them more at risk.

Are the levels of antibiotics and other chemicals higher in farmed or wild salmon?

Antibiotics and other chemicals used to treat parasites or keep net pens free of algae are commonly used in salmon farming. As a result, farmed salmon can contain antibiotics and chemicals you would not find in wild salmon.

I’ve heard farmed fish is naturally a grey color and that it is dyed pink or red – is this true?

Wild salmon range in colour from pink to red because of the food they eat. Since farmed salmon do not benefit from a wild diet, colourants (canthaxanthin and astaxanthin) are added to their feed to alter their flesh from an unappealing grey to a marketable “salmon” colour.

What are Sea Lice?

Sea lice are small marine ‘ecto’ (surface) parasites that occur naturally on many different species of wild fish. Sea lice feed on fish by attaching to the outside, usually on the skin, fins and or gills.
The two native species of sea lice in British Columbia, Lepeophtheirus salmonis and Caligus clemensi, share a similar lifecycle (planktonic larvae maturing into juvenile and adult parasitic stages), with the main difference being that L. salmonis requires a salmon host to complete its lifecycle while C. clemensi can survive to reproduce on salmon as well as other fish.

If sea lice are a natural part of the ecosystem, why are they considered a problem?

Salmon farms are unnatural reservoirs for parasite populations. Not only do the high density conditions of salmon farms increase infection rates on farmed salmon, the location of salmon farms near the mouths of rivers puts them on the path of out-migrating wild juvenile salmon. Before salmon farms started operating on the B.C. coast, juvenile and adult salmon were separated. This kept sea lice that adult fish can carry from infecting juveniles who are too vulnerable to withstand infection. Wild pink and chum salmon are the size of a triple A battery and have no scales when they migrate past farms in places like the Broughton Archipelago. As a result, sea lice put these salmon runs at the risk of extinction, affecting the 137 species that depend on wild salmon as food.

What are PCBs, and why are higher levels found in farmed salmon?

Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs, are persistent, cancer-causing chemicals that were widely used from the 1930s to the 1970s and are now banned from North America. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, are chemical fire retardants used in several products and are found in the environment.A study published in the American journal Environmental Science and Technology on August 10, 2004 found on average higher levels of PCBs in farmed salmon than in wild salmon. The authors of the study concluded that frequent consumption of farmed salmon is more likely to boost exposure to PBDEs than wild salmon.The economic incentive to speed the growth of farmed species has led to the use of an increasingly high-energy diet, which means farmed salmon have a higher fat content than their wild counterparts. This makes them more vulnerable to contamination by fat-soluble pollutants (i.e. PCBs) that accumulate up the food chain. And, since feed ingredients are sourced from fisheries all over the world, “local” farmed salmon can contain contaminants from distant seas. Read the CBC’s 2002 story on Vancouver geneticist Michael Easton’s study that found even one meal a week of B.C. farmed salmon could pose health hazards.Find out Health Canada’s position on PBDEs.

What are the solutions to salmon farming problems?

Separate wild and farmed fish.

Remove open net-cage salmon farms from the B.C. coast and rapidly transition to land or ocean based closed containment systems.

No new open net-cage farm sites in British Columbia.

Until the transition to closed containment is complete, provide safe migration routes for juvenile salmon via the emptying of farms along these routes.

No increase in production levels at current farm sites.

Fish meal and fish oils used in farm fish feed must be harvested from verified sustainable sources.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving Saanich South

As our main harvest season comes to an end I want to express my gratitude to the people who are participating in sustainable food production.
My gratitude goes out to those who choose to make farming a career. I want to express my thankfulness to those who frequent our farmers markets. I am appreciative to those who are growing food in their own backyards or in any place they have access.
Thanksgiving is a celebration of a harvest season coming to an end. It's a celebration of food, family and friends.
On Vancouver Island we are fortunate to have a long growing season and many of us are still harvesting tomatoes, but that soon will change and we will be moving into grocery stores for our purchases.
As our own gardens put themselves to sleep for the winter, as the farmers markets close down until Spring, and as consumers, we are presented with foods from other places, I hope an awareness can accompany us over the winter months.

We grow many crops that store well over the winter. One of these crops is apples. As our BC apple crop comes into the market we also see apples from other countries. In order to protect our agricultural viability of this province we should be purchasing BC produce first. Buy BC apples until the BC crop has been sold. It's a vote for for sustainability and BC food security.

Happy Thanksgiving!