Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our Bees Deserve Better!

To everyone concerned about our precious pollinators,

Today in the Legislature I made a two minute statement about the `Day of the Honeybee`.

As you know, the government recently ended a twenty-two year old quarantine on importing bees from the mainland, and did so without consulting local bee-keeping communities and associations.

During Question Period, I raised the issue directly with the Minister responsible, asking him to pull back from this short-sighted decision and provide the protections our island honey bees desperately need.

More information is available on my website,

You can watch both videos below, transcripts follow.

"Day of the Honey Bee" - Two-Minute Statement in the Legislature

Honey Bees in Question Period, May 27, 2010


L. Popham: May 29 has been proclaimed the Day of the Honeybee in British Columbia. Honeybees are a big part of our pollinator population and play a critical role in the production of many B.C. crops. In fact, much of B.C.'s agricultural production is dependent on honeybee pollination. Without them, our food systems will fail.

Our proclamation was signed recently, and within our proclamation, the virtues of B.C. bees as well as the threats they face were brought to light:

"Whereas the honeybee has, through its role as pollinator, been an important part of agricultural efforts since ancient times; and whereas the honeybee plays an essential role in the success of agricultural enterprises in British Columbia; and whereas the honeybee has been under serious threat due to disease and environmental conditions that ultimately threaten the future of agriculture in our province; and whereas the government of British Columbia has worked with the agriculture industry to improve production and the honeybee has been under serious threat due to disease and environmental conditions that ultimately threaten the future of agriculture in our province. Whereas the government of British Columbia has worked with the agriculture industry to improve production and stabilize the industry. Whereas it is in the interest of furthering that goal to raise awareness of the role of the honeybee and the plight it faces."

In early May, a 22-year-old policy restricting the importation of bees to Vancouver Island was lifted. This significant decision is of grave concern to the Vancouver Island bee-keeping sector. Bee keepers are especially concerned because last winter on Vancouver Island almost 90 percent of honeybees died, largely because of the varroa mite which was introduced to island hives when an individual contravened our island quarantine.

I am wondering, given recent decisions, if the day of the honeybee will become a day of memorial for honeybees on Vancouver Island in our near future.

L. Popham: Beekeepers on Vancouver Island are reeling from a recent decision to change the policy around the import of bees to Vancouver Island from the mainland — a policy that has been in place for 22 years. This was done without consultation, and the results may be devastating to our bee industry. The test results, which were the basis for the government to lift the quarantine, are not being made public.

Will the Minister of Agriculture commit today to listen to all island beekeepers and ensure that there will be no honeycomb and no used equipment brought onto the Island from the Lower Mainland?

Hon. S. Thomson: The member opposite is aware that we've equalized the restriction for imported bees onto Vancouver Island with federal standards. Vancouver Island beekeepers were able to import bees from Australia and from Chile before. We've equalized those standards with federal standards so that they can import bees from the Lower Mainland, providing those opportunities for the Vancouver Island bee producers.

I'm fully aware of the concerns of Vancouver Island. The member opposite knows that I've met with the presidents of the associations. For bees to come onto Vancouver Island, they require inspection, and they require a permit. We've committed to continue to work with the associations to make sure the inspection protocols are in place so that we can protect the health of the Vancouver Island bee population.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

L. Popham: I understand that the minister has met with the local Island bee clubs, and so have I. It's not the bees that are a problem and that they're worried about. They're worried about the honeycomb and the used equipment. The minister has been claiming that there is science to back up the decision that was made. If he believes this is true, then there should be nothing to hide. Will he commit today to release the provincial test results to the Island beekeepers?

Hon. S. Thomson: I have met with the presidents of the associations, and I've committed to continue to meet with them. As I said, it requires inspection. It requires permit for bees to come on to Vancouver Island. We're going to continue to work with the associations around the inspection protocols to make sure that we protect the health of the Vancouver Island bee population.

Coming from the agriculture industry, I understand the importance of the bee industry to both the agriculture industry and to value-added production for small-scale farms on Vancouver Island and in British Columbia. We'll continue to work with the association to make sure that those inspection protocols and those permits are in place to protect the health of the Vancouver Island bee population.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bike to Work Week!

Hi Everybody,

Bike to Work Week is just around the corner! May 31st - June 6. See their website for all the details: I hope you'll get in on the action.

And don't forget to snap up a t-shirt! I know shirt sales are an important fund-raiser for the group. Details on the much-loved shirts are here:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lyme Disease

From Hansard, May 19, 2010.
L. Popham: Mr. Speaker, May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Lyme disease is North America's fastest-rising infectious disease. It's utterly debilitating if not detected and treated with antibiotics, which rarely happens in British Columbia. People get Lyme disease from ticks. Ticks are sneaky. They anaesthetize their bites so they can feed in peace. Western black-legged ticks abound here, and up to 10 percent now carry Lyme in endemic areas like the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and southern Vancouver Island.
May is awareness month because it starts a fresh tick season, the time when nymphal ticks, no larger than a speck of pepper, lurk on tips of long spring grasses, waiting for a blood meal to pass by. Risk of infection can be greatly reduced if we know what precautions to take, what places and actions to avoid, like playing in tall grass while wearing shorts. 

Being Lyme-aware is vital for children in suburban schools next to wooded areas frequented by deer. There are many such schools in B.C. 

Today our public health officials are silent on the rising risk of Lyme disease. However, there are signs that our local schools are taking the risks to children more seriously. At Rogers Elementary in Saanich South, the May newsletter has a tick alert that's informative, non-alarmist and tells parents what to avoid, what to look for and what to do if a tick is discovered. That's prevention as it should be practised. 

It inspires me today, in Lyme Disease Awareness Month, to urge our public health agencies to get serious about reducing public exposure to this preventable, debilitating and largely untreated illness.