Monday, August 31, 2020

Bat Pups in Saanich South!

I’m not going to lie – I love bats! I find them adorable, and the fact that they voraciously eat mosquitos (not a love of mine), makes them even better!

And this year has been the best year for bat sightings in a very long time. My back deck looks out into a wooded area and it’s such a joy to see them flutter in and out of the trees as they dine in the evening.

Are you noticing more bats around your house or property too? Apparently, you’re not alone!

Mid to late summer is the time when people typically notice more bat activity. You may have bats flying into your house, occasionally find a bat on the ground (don’t touch it!) or roosting in unusual locations.

Our friends at the BC Community Bat Program have just sent out a press-release alerting us that this is a great year for bat sightings – and NOT to worry if they seem to be flying erratically. Because they are babies!!!

Ronna Woudstra, regional coordinator with the southern Vancouver Island and southern Gulf Islands Community Bat Program says that she is currently receiving a large increase in calls about bats behaving strangely. In truth it is just that the baby bats are learning to fly and it takes a while to get the hang of it.

Ronna explains that female bats gather in maternity colonies in early summer, where they will remain until the pups are ready to fly. Pups are usually born in late June, learn to fly in July and August, and then move out in late summer. I’ve included a ‘bat calendar’ below.

Some species of bats have adapted to live in human structures, and they may make their homes in eaves or siding, in attics, sheds, or other buildings. Many people love having them around for the natural insect control. Others may not be as keen. Please know that under the BC Wildlife Act it is illegal to exterminate or harm bats.

But if they end up in your home by accident – don’t panic.

If you find a bat, alive or dead, NEVER touch it with your bare hands. Bats in BC have very low levels of rabies infection, but any risk of transmission must not be taken lightly. Contact Public Health, Health Link 811, a doctor or veterinarian if a person or pet could have come into direct contact (bitten, scratched etc.) with a bat. Visit the Got Bats? BC Community Bat Program’s website for information on safely moving a single bat if necessary.

If you find a stray bat in a safe location outside, out of the way of people and pets, you can leave them alone they will move off on their own within days.

People that feel like their health is at risk will often do desperate things, and with their safety and the lives of the bats in mind, Ronna is hoping to spread the message of “don’t panic and don’t touch” as far as possible. So let your friends or family know that baby bats are out and about and not to worry – or harm them. If you’re not keen on the little critters – try and wait until September and October to do any bat exclusion work on your home.

You can find guidance on timing and methods through the BC Community Bat Project website at . Download the “Managing Bats in Buildings” booklet, or contact your local Community Bat Program at or call 1-855-9BC-BATS ex. 12

The BC Community Bat Program is funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, the Government of BC and private donors.

Monday, August 17, 2020

4-H BC - Growing BC Farmers & Leaders!

I know the past few months have been especially challenging for young people, but thanks to the creativity of 4-H BC, their camp program has been adapted so youth can safely learn about B.C. agriculture.  

As BC’s Minister of Agriculture, and the MLA for Saanich South, I am so proud to support 4-H BC and the young people of our community in becoming our future agriculture and community leaders. Our commitment helps ensure that agriculture learning is accessible to all youth throughout B.C. 

Last month, a small group of 4-H British Columbia teen members gathered at the Saanich Fairgrounds to learn more about B.C. agriculture through the Food for Thought agriculture awareness day-camp program, delivered by 4-H BC. 

Due to COVID-19, 4-H BC is adapting its Food for Thought conference into a series of six one-day agriculture awareness programs for 4-H members who are age 14 to 15 years. They’re offering virtual farm tours and agriculture presentations for small groups this summer in Abbotsford, Rock Creek, Kamloops, Williams Lake, Vanderhoof - and here in Saanich! 

Over the next year, the B.C. government is committing $153,000 to 4-H BC to support the club and their programming including youth farm safety and outreach program that supports underrepresented groups, and fun Buy BC 4-H BC Instagram contest that encourages 4-H members to celebrate B.C. products on social media. 

During the pandemic, my ministry’s youth development staff have been working with 4-H club leadership, members and volunteers providing them with guidance in organizational management, agriculture and community leadership education. My youth development team recently supported 4-H BC in adapting existing youth and volunteer programs to virtual formats, in developing the new 4-H @ Home project and in creating a new gardening-basics video series for at home gardeners. 

This past Spring I was thrilled to announce $50,000 for the Field to Fork Challenge. This fun contest asks the 4-H members to create and submit videos of themselves preparing a recipe highlighting a B.C. ingredient, such as produce, meat, dairy, grain or honey. The videos will include information about how the ingredient was farmed, raised or processed and how it can be used in culinary creations.  

The winners from two categories, junior and senior, will be awarded cash prizes. Winners from the senior category will also go to Vancouver to attend the Field to Fork Challenge Weekend, along with some special guest participants from the Agriculture in the Classroom Take a Bite of BC program. The trip includes four days of touring farms, meetings chefs, participating in a cooking challenge and spending a day at the next Every Chef Needs a Farmer, Every Farmer Needs a Chef event, giving them an opportunity to interact with leading chefs and farmers from around the province. 

4-H BC Junior & Senior Members entry deadline is August 31st, 2020 and the BC AITC Take a Bite of BC Students contest closes September 30th, 2020. 

I’m looking forward to sharing some of the videos on Facebook/Twitter and Instagram when they come in. It thrills me to no-end when we can support our youth in developing passions around food and agriculture.  

What a great investment in the future of BC! 

Friday, August 14, 2020

I love Cycling!

As you may know – I love to cycle! It’s a great way to clear my mind, strengthen my body, have some fun, get to where I need to be, and connect with my community without increasing my GHG footprint. I have been an avid cyclist since I was a kid tackling the hills of Quadra Island. 

With all these great benefit to cycling, it’s just no wonder that during COVID-19 we’ve seen bicycle sales skyrocket and bicycle repair shops with line-ups down the block. If ever there was a time for a clear mind, a sense of fun, a healthy body, and connection to community – it’s now. 

And lucky us – Saanich South is really one of the best places in the world to cycle. With both rural and urban destinations very accessible with our network of Lochside and Galloping Goose bike trails, there’s really no excuse to not be heading out for a short ride for ice cream, to work – or an epic weekend adventure to Leech Town! 

That’s why the programming this year of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition (GVCC) is so welcome. 

The GVCC has been organizing recreational and themed rides for almost three decades. Understanding that getting out on your bike is a great way to get and stay healthy, the GVCC made sure to create new themed rides this summer. You can even win great prizes! 

Saanich South is part of a couple fun rides that are happening now until August 20th. Choose between a 43 km Lake Loop ride that takes you by the sea in Gordon Head, along the E&N, and meanders along the lakeside roads of Prospect and Elk Lakes. Or explore the diverse neighbourhoods of Highlands on a  Scavenger Hunt ride where you'll find the site of the Plaskett’s Star discovery and a tree stump with the face of an old man on it. 

To enter the GVCC contest send in your photos, stories and videos telling the GVCC about your ride by August 20th, 2020. Check out the GVCC’s website for all the rides, contest details and entry form. As always, remember to allow space for others to pass on trails and roads when necessary to maintain social-distancing. 

And have fun – it’s summer! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

UPDATE on Strawberry Vale School

As you know our beloved Strawberry Vale School endured a fire on July 11, devastating some of the school’s roof. I’m still very grateful that no one was hurt – and that the school can be repaired!

I’ve now heard back from the Ministry of Education that the repairs are well underway and will be complete in time for August 31 registration and school opening sometime later in September. This is great news!

Currently the cranes are onsite removing debris and the repairs have commenced. The final costs of repairing it are still undetermined.

Go to the school website for more information on school opening.

A huge shout-out to the construction crew for making the school opening on time a priority!

PS – Dan Wood, deputy fire chief with the Saanich Fire Department encourages everyone to check any of your cordless appliances as lithium batteries have a history of over-heating, depending on the manufacturer. While it’s not yet clear what started this fire – this sounds like great advice!  

Monday, August 10, 2020

Supporting Small Farms

Did you know that Saanich has almost 400 properties that have farm status? Many of our local farms are small, family-run operations that are favourite suppliers of fresh eggs, fruits, vegetables and flowers for so many of us in Saanich South. Each of our local farms plays a key role in creating a strong and resilient food system – as does our government.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for some B.C. farm operations, including smaller-scale farms that depend on roadside stands, farm markets and public interaction for sales revenue. That’s why the Government of British Columbia announced this week that they are waiving minimum income requirements for existing B.C. farm operations, allowing them to maintain their current property tax farm status for 2021.

Our government is committed to helping farmers farm. It's been a difficult year for many people, and this change is just one more example of how we are recognizing the challenges and supporting farmers. Without this action, a number of properties would have been in jeopardy of losing farm status for the 2021 tax year, significantly increasing the property tax burden on those farmers and farm families.

In order to be classified as a farm in British Columbia, properties must meet certain criteria, including generating a minimum amount of gross income from a qualifying agriculture use based on the size of the parcel of land. This minimum income requirement must be met every two years and there must be some income generated every year. BC Assessment sends out self-reporting income questionnaires and conducts intermittent inspections to determine whether a property should maintain its farm status for the upcoming tax year.

This approach aligns with the Province's COVID-19 Action Plan to support businesses through the pandemic, as well as government's commitment to encourage agricultural production.
We know that robust and healthy farm operations will play an important role as we restart our economy. We know that the people in Saanich look to their local farmers to put healthy food on their tables.

Thanks for making an extra effort to support our farmers! Buying local is a delicious way to support our economy!

Learn More:

  • The Ministry of Agriculture has additional COVID-19 response and restart information for the B.C. agriculture and seafood sector available HERE.  
  • For further information on farm class assessment, visit BC Assessment HERE.