Our Bees Deserve Better!  


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, islandbees.ca

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.


Anger, relief at new B.C. meat-slaughter regulations  


Producers in three remote regions can conduct 'farm-gate' sales to consumers

By Glenda Luymes, The Province May 6, 2010 7:31 AM


The provincial government is making it easier for farmers in remote communities to sell meat at the farm gate, while those in the Fraser Valley must continue to find innovative ways to sell direct to consumers.

Recent changes to B.C.'s meat-inspection regulations now allow farmers in three remote regions — Bella Coola, Haida Gwaii and the Powell River Regional District — to obtain a licence to kill a limited number of livestock on site and then sell them to consumers in their region.

Elsewhere in the province, animals must be sent to a government-inspected slaughterhouse.

The new rules have met with both relief and criticism in an industry still struggling to deal with changes brought on by the mad-cow crisis.

"It's a ridiculous piece of nonsense," mobile-abattoir owner Lars Jongerdon said Tuesday.

The former executive chef left Vancouver to homestead near Fort St. John several years ago. When the mad-cow crisis led the province to require all meat for human consumption to go through a licensed slaughterhouse, he responded with B.C.'s first mobile abattoir.

The $400,000 machine is designed to travel to remote regions, giving farmers a butchering option that doesn't involve driving hours to the nearest facility. An on-site inspector ensures food safety.

"We've spent the money to build this, to respond to what the government said farmers needed, and now we're going to be left with egg on our faces," said Jongerdon. "You can't have one set of rules for one person and another set of rules for another."

Farmers in northern B.C. also continue to feel the effects of the changing regulations. Some have formed co-operatives, sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into abattoirs and meat-processing plants that only operate a few times a year and continue to accumulate debt. A clause in the new regulations says farmers within 100 kilometres of a licensed slaughterhouse or mobile abattoir can't receive a licence to do their own butchering.

NDP agriculture critic Lana Popham said the government's "mishandling" of the regulations has led to turmoil in the industry, pitting producers against processors.

"The regulations have failed in all aspects," she said Wednesday. "The government says this ensures food safety, but we don't see people getting sick from farm-gate sales."

Popham urged the government to take advantage of a consumer demand for local products.

"That's what's going to make or break agriculture in this province and we should be embracing it."

Ida Chong, Minister of Healthy Living and Sport, said the licences will protect food safety while adding stability for licensed facilities, with ticketing by local health authorities to ensure farmers' compliance.

"The province is recognizing the importance of existing provincially licensed facilities and the investment they have made to comply with the regulation," she said in a statement.

Queen Charlotte Islands veterinarian and rancher Don Richardson called the new regulations "a breath of fresh air." Since the government began requiring animals to be killed at licensed facilities, he's had to make a 20-hour trip, including a ferry crossing, to bring his cows to the nearest slaughterhouse.

"It's a ridiculous amount of cost and time," he said.

In the Fraser Valley, farmers don't have to make a long trip to have their animals killed.

Chilliwack organic farmer Mary Forstbauer sells her meat at farmers' markets after it's returned from a nearby slaughterhouse. While she supports the new regulations for farmers in remote regions, she's content to bring her animals to a government-inspected facility.

"It's close by, so it's not a real hardship," she said.

"I don't know that we should relax the rules all over. Some of the people we meet at the farmers' markets want to know that their meat has gone through a facility."