Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hunting, one of the biggest divides between rural and urban BC

In urban BC, places like Metro Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna and Prince George most people have no direct connection with anyone that hunts.   Once you get to places like Lillooet, Fort St James, Port McNeil and many other small towns it is almost impossible to live your life and not know someone that hunts.   Most people in urban BC have never tasted and wild meats like moose, cougar, bear and waterfowl while in rural BC the poorer people all tend to have wild meat as part of the annual diet.

This divide on hunting is one of the biggest divisions between urban and rural.   In rural BC a rifle is still a hunting tool that many houses will have.   Bears in your backyard happen and you need to figure out how to deal with them and hunting is a legitimate option.

At the heart the division is one based on how connected people are to the land and the world around them.   Many urban people have an unrealistic view of the wilderness because they have such limited connection to it.  Urban residents have developed a anthropomorphic view of wild animals and goes from the silly of feeding deer to the seriously dangerous view of bears as something warm and cuddly.

I have an very healthy respect for grizzly bears.   I have met a few people in my life who had an encounter with one and lived to tell the story.   I have see a few and been glad they have been far enough away to not be a threat to me such as one time at Leon Creek when I saw one 200 meters away and on the other side of the creek.

Black bears are a much bigger problem because they are happy enough to come into town.   Having seen them up close, less then five meters away, they are not something to be trifled with.  

I considered buying a rifle when I lived in Lillooet to go hunting because it would be a cost effective and healthy way to feed my family.   I could have gone out after work and hunted for an hour or two.  To do something similar here on the island would take a weekend or more.   Ideally I would want to go to the interior to hunt there and that then really means four to five days at a minimum.   My hunting would not be to have a head stuffed and mounted, it would be about getting meat in the freezer.

Urban residents tend to rather divorced from where their meat comes from and have trouble looking at a moose or deer and seeing anything other than a majestic animal.   Few of them look at a deer and think that it is a great way to get away for factory farmed meat even when they are not vegetarians.

 For the rural resident hunting is part of the world around them that they are part of.   The urban resident sees rural BC and the wilderness as a mythic preserve to he held in reverence and hunting has no place in it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Land trusts as a model to protect farm lands

Among the people that are afraid we are losing our farmland, there is a move to use land trusts as a way to ensure that land is kept for agriculture.   The best example I know of is Madrona Farm in Victoria.   While the idea of using land trusts as a way to protect land for agriculture is innovative, it has some major problems.
  1. Farm land costs a lot of money
  2. Farmers need some asset as security for capital investments
  3. Farms have major cash flow problems
  4. Farmers need the freedom to plan for the long term
  5. Land trusts are not as safe or secure as people think
1) Farm Land is expensive
100 acres of prime farm land in the Okanagan will set you back $5,000.000 to $6,000,000.   The largest land trust in Canada is Ducks Unlimited which focuses wetlands for waterfowl.   The largest land trust that could be in the business of buying up agricultural land is the Nature Conservancy of Canada which has an annual income of $70,000,000 or so per year to buy land, most of this is intended for critical wildlife habitat.

The Land Conservancy worked hard to raise the money to purchase Madrona Farm.  The amounts involved were not huge, $1,300,000 for the 27 acres - the owners donated $700,000.   It took huge amounts of effort to raise all the money needed to buy the land.   I am not convinced that there is much chance that a significant sized property could be saved with a land trust in this region.

2) Farmers need security for capital purchases
Farmers need assets to be able to access the capital they need to be able to farm.  A farm needs a lot equipment, as an example, buying a tractor is expensive and needs financing.  Farms also need buildings for storage.   A good fruit and vegetable operation really has to have a cold storage building.  Without an asset you can not borrow the money for farming capital projects.   Working without the equipment needed dramatically reduces the efficiency of the farm.  The land will produce less food while taking much more human effort.

It is not only capital that is needed for machinery, it is also needed for things like fruit trees.   Planting an acre of apple trees will cost you between $5,000 and $15,000 depending on type of tree and planting style.  It also takes a number of years before fruit trees are in full production.    A ten acre high density apple orchard costs about $150,000 to put in and takes three years till properly productive.  If you can not borrow against the land fruit trees, grapes and other long term perennial crops are impossible to develop.

3) Farming has cash flow problems
Farming also suffers from huge fluctuations in cash flow over the year.   100% of the income is between the end of June and the end of October - four and half months at best.   This means for the majority of the year there is no income but life still goes on.  You need an income to live and the farm has expenses all year round.

Farming means having to have a large line of credit to smooth out the cash flow problems which means you need a line of credit the equivalent to a year's income, even a small farm needs $100,000 to $200,000 to be sustainable.   To have a decent line of credit you need an asset to pledge that is worth enough and the only thing that could be is the land.

4) Farmers need to be able to be able to make long term decisions about the land
Farmers need the ability to make long term decisions and this means leases with few or no restrictions.  Realistically most Land Trusts are going not going to be open to any agriculture but only a specific narrow concept of what is agriculture.  A large scale composting facility is not likely going to be ok.  Leases with land trusts will be restricted.

The lease has to be long enough that the farmer can plan for decades down the road.  Putting in an orchard is a long term investment which only makes sense if you know you can benefit from it.   How long will the leases be for?   10 years?  20 years?  99 years?

5) Land Trusts are not as secure as people think
Land trusts can make mistakes and end up short of money.  The last couple of years at The Land Conservancy here in Victoria shows what can happen when things begin to go wrong.  At the end of the day all land trusts are private entities over which the public and government have no direct control

Thursday, June 6, 2013

May 2013 election in rural BC

I consider the following 16 ridings to be the rural ridings in BC.  

  • Boundary-Similkameen
  • Cariboo North - won by Bob Simpson in 2009 as a New Democrat but he was defeated in 2013 as an independent
  • Cariboo-Chilcotin - round three of Donna Barnett (Liberal) versus Charley Wyse (NDP)
  • Columbia River-Revelstoke
  • Fraser-Nicola - won by Harry Lali NDP in 2009, defeated by Jackie Teggart Liberal in 2013
  • Kootenay East - First two person in BC since 1991
  • Kootenay West
  • Nechako Lakes
  • Nelson-Creston
  • North Coast
  • North Island
  • Peace River North - a close race between Pat Pimm Liberal and Arthur Hadland in 2009 turned into a blow out for Pat Pimm in the rematch this year
  • Peace River South - best BC Conservative result in BC since 1979
  • Shuswap
  • Skeena
  • Stikine
The split in seats was nine Liber and seven NDP which is the reverse of 2009
Overall party results
Elect Liberal   %      NDP    %     Green   %     BCCP    %    Others    % 
2013  101,898 43.72  91,889 39.43  11,953  5.13  12,993  5.57  14,330  6.15 
2009   92,741 41.23 100,831 44.82  16,167  7.19   9,558  4.25   4,533  2.02
Change +9,157 +2.49  -8,942 -5.39  -4,214 -2.06  +3,435 +1.32  +9,797 +4.13 

The NDP in 2009 did better in these 16 ridings than it did province wide, in 2013 it did worse than the provincial average.

Peace River North

Elect  Liberal   %      NDP   %    Green    %    BCCP    %    Others   % 
2013    7,905  58.94  1,319  9.84      0   0.00   900   6.71   3,287 24.51
2009    3,992  42.91  1,293 13.90  1,010  10.86     0   0.00   2,957 31.78
Change +3,913 +16.03    +26 -4.06 -1,010 -10.86  +900  +6.71    +330 -7.27
Interesting in this race is that in 2009 Arthur Hadland out of nowhere managed to be a competitive second.  In 2013 he was smoked by Liberal Pat Pimm.   Peace River North saw a dramatic increase in voter turnout, a total of 4,107 more votes than in 2009

Peace River South
Elect  Liberal   %      NDP   %     Green   %     BCCP    %    Others   % 
2013    4,373  46.73  1,988 21.24      0   0.00  2,546  27.21     451  4.82
2009    4,801  62.72  2,057 26.87    553   7.22      0   0.00     220  2.87
Change   -428 -15.99    -69 -5.63   -553  -7.22 +2,546 +27.21    +231 +1.95
What is interesting in this race is the rise of the BC Conservatives.   This is their only second place result in 2013 and their highest percentage of the vote in any race since 1979.

Fraser Nicola
Elect  Liberal   %      NDP   %     Green   %     BCCP    %    Others   % 
2013    6,002  44.14  5,388 39.62  1,314   9.66    895  6.58       0   0.00
2009    5,830  42.46  6,703 48.82    891   6.49      0  0.00     223   1.62  
Change   +272  +1.68 -1,315 -9.20   +423  +3.17   +895 +6.58    -223  -1.62
This is a race some have pointed to as an example of where the NDP could have won if there was no Green candidate, but that does not ring true for me.   The Greens only gained 423 votes while the NDP lost 1,315 votes and that in the face of a right wing split of the vote.   The combined NDP and Green vote in 2009 was 55.31% of the vote but only 49.28% in 2013.

Elect  Liberal   %      NDP   %     Green   %     BCCP    %    Others    % 
2013    5,087  43.27  5,609 47.71      0   0.00    797  6.78     263   2.24
2009    4,328  37.26  5,865 50.49    467   4.02    893  7.69       0   0.00
Change   +759  +6.01   -256 -2.78   -467  -4.02    -96 -0.91    +263  +2.24
I am very surprised to see this race end up so close between the NDP and Liberals.  This has gone from a safe NDP riding to one that looks like a marginal seat now.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Rural Transit Proposal

In rural BC the school districts and BC Transit could work together to provide transit.

The rural school districts have to provide a lot of bus service to get the kids to the schools.  I remember in Lillooet that more than half the kids were riding buses to get to school each day.   These school districts need to have qualified drivers and own the buses already.

A town like Lillooet has no public transit.  If you live in Pavilion or the Fountain Valley there is no way to get to town unless someone gives you a ride.  From one end of Lillooet to the other is more than six kilometers and unless you call the cab you have to walk or drive a car.

What if BC Transit worked with the school districts to make use of the existing buses and drivers to provide a basic transit service?   The school districts could defray some of their expenses, BC Transit could offer a service for lot less than otherwise and a small town would have an alternative.

Routes and schedules could all be worked out, but if we work from the idea of an eight hour work day for the driver and the school schedule, you should be able to stagger some of the drivers a bit earlier in the day and some a bit later and give a transit coverage for close to ten hours of the day.  I am not certain, but the fares could be enough to cover the extra costs of offering the service.

Adults riding on existing runs with the kids would be a direct cost recovery.   All that would need to be done is ensure that the seats are there for the kids and only the extra ones are available to the general public.

During the day some of the buses could offer an in town and near regional service.  At the end of the day possibly one extra commuter run could be an option.  

It strikes me that for many of the small rural towns in BC this could be an easy way to provide a transportation option for those without cars.