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Ontario pesticide ban made official


July 2, 2008
By The Canadian Press

July 2, 2008 – Ontario joined Quebec in banning the sale and cosmetic use of
pesticides at the end of June but critics say the move will actually weaken
existing anti-pesticide rules across the province.

The ban was the last government-backed bill to be rammed through
before the legislature adjourned for the summer, passing 56-17 over the
objections of health groups and municipalities.


More than 80
ingredients and 300 pesticide products will be prohibited once the ban
is fully implemented next spring, which supporters say will give
Ontario the toughest rules in North America.

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It's even looking at banning the herbicide 2,4-D, which has been deemed safe by Health Canada.


"All
of us, including young children, deserve to be able to walk in the park
and enjoy all the gardens, and watch themselves and their parents
playing outdoors without worrying about the unnecessary risks of
pesticides," said Environment Minister John Gerretsen.


Experts,
such as the Ontario College of Family Physicians, have warned that the
long-term effects of exposure to pesticides can be devastating,
especially to pregnant women and children.


The province will only
allow pesticides to be used in farming, forestry or for health and
safety reasons, such as controlling mosquitoes that can carry diseases
like the West Nile virus.


Golf courses will also be able to use
pesticides, but must meet certain conditions to minimize the effects on
the environment – regulations that haven't yet been drafted.


But unlike Quebec, Ontario municipalities are forbidden from enacting tougher anti-pesticide rules.


In
announcing the ban in April, Premier Dalton McGuinty mistakenly said
towns and cities could have stronger bylaws if they wanted to, a move
many applauded.


Two weeks later, McGuinty admitted he "screwed
up," but shifted the blame to Environment Minister John Gerretsen, who
failed to correct the premier at the time.


The government's refusal to amend the legislation has angered some municipalities and health groups.


Toronto
is considering taking legal action to challenge the provincewide ban,
which doesn't include Roundup, a prohibited pesticide under municipal
bylaws.


Erin Shapero, a councillor in Markham, said she'll be talking to lawyers as well.


"The premier got it right when he got it wrong," she said.


"Deep
down in his heart, I know he knows that. And it's just unfortunate that
the legislation that passed today doesn't reflect his true wish."


The bill drew some support from the Progressive Conservatives but was panned by the province's 10 New Democrats.


When
the legislation went to committee, the Liberals voted down amendments
that would have allowed municipalities to retain their power to enact
tougher rules, said NDP critic Peter Tabuns.


As a result,
municipalities will be stripped of their ability to protect the health
of their residents and may be forced to spend a lot of money and time
fighting the province in court, he said.


"This government should not put municipalities through this," he said.


"Municipalities
are pioneers. They've shown the way forward on smoking, on the
environment, and to reduce their powers like this doesn't make any
sense."


Others who were among a coalition of environmental
activists and health professionals that banded together to lobby for a
pesticide ban, withdrew their support Wednesday.


"We …
applauded what we thought was a step forward to protect people from
these poisonous chemicals," Wendy Fucile, president the Registered
Nurses' Association of Ontario, said in a statement.


"But today,
we see what the province's legislation actually means is that
municipalities will be stripped of their tough municipal bylaws to
protect people, and the provincial legislation will serve as a ceiling,
not as a floor upon which stronger local regulations can build."


The
governing Liberals just wanted to grab headlines, rather than coming up
with a ban that was based on real science, said Progressive
Conservative Leader John Tory.


"They've done something that's been motivated more by political science," he said.


"I think it's just another attempt to curry a headline and take away from the real issues."


Gerretsen
acknowledged that "a lot of hard work" still has to be done in drafting
regulations, but pledged to work with municipalities to get it done
right.

The Canadian Press


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