I have received a response from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
BC Housing has entered into a lease agreement with a local farmer to harvest hay. The lease has a strong covenant to comply with environmental laws and a related indemnity not to use or permit to be used any harmful or hazardous substance. The reported chemical used by the farmer at Woodwynn Farms, glyphosate, is approved for use in Canada by Health Canada.
Last week the upper field at Woodwynn Farm in Central Saanich went brown. From what I have seen and the photos I have been sent it looks pretty clear, the owner sprayed a herbicide on the farm. The owner is BC Housing and the provincial government.
I began receiving messages from my constituents expressing their horror that the government would apply a herbicide to the farm.
So in Question Period this week I asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to provide clarification. Unfortunately, as you will see, she did not have an answer and promised to get back to me with an answer.
Woodwynn Farm is an iconic farm in central Saanich. It’s about a 200-acre contiguous piece of agricultural land. It has massive potential. It has had its fair share of controversy over the decades, since I’ve been at the local government table and now in provincial politics.
Thousands of people drive by the farm each week. It’s, frankly, a very important part of our community. Many of us who’ve lived in the community a long time have gone by there and noticed and known the Holsteins that used to graze underneath the Garry oaks next to the road.
Last weekend I noticed that the upper field was brown, completely dead. The field further to the south, part of the farm operation — still lush and green. I’ve been receiving messages from my constituents asking whether the government has treated the property with glyphosate — Roundup, as it’s known — or another herbicide.
My question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: did B.C. Housing, the owner of Woodwynn Farm, spray that property with this or any other herbicide?
Hon. S. Robinson:
I want to thank the member for the question and for drawing my attention to this matter. I just became aware of this concern, and I will commit to getting more information and sharing the details with the member as soon as I have more information.
Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
Taking a closer look at the farm — and I’ve had photos sent to me — it’s very clear. Where you get to the side of the field, it’s green, and then there’s just this massive dead field. It has very much all of the signs of a field that’s been sprayed with glyphosate. We know that there are an awful lot of challenges with it. There’s a lot of evidence of the harmful impacts.
Woodwynn was either organic or was on the way to becoming organic. The future of it was to achieve organic status. It runs next to ḰENNES, an important watershed within Saanich and Central Saanich.
I know that First Nations communities have got a huge interest in that land.
I recognize that the minister has just become aware of it, and I would just ask if the minister would also, in her response back to me, at some point, be able to acknowledge whether or not the local First Nations were also consulted on this.
Hon. S. Robinson:
As I said, I will get more details and certainly share them with the member.