Health and environment groups sound alarm about pesticide bill
TORONTO, June 16, 2008 – Environmental and health-care leaders are calling on the McGuinty government to act on flaws in the province’s pesticide legislation to better protect the health of Ontarians.
Bill 64 will ban the use and sale of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. However, as the bill winds its way through committee hearings and reading in the legislature, a group of prominent health-care and environmental organizations says the government must act on the bill’s weaknesses. Unless it’s amended, Bill 64 will strip municipalities’ of their rights to protect their citizens through their own pesticide bylaws, and would nullify any existing bylaws.
“It is essential that the province not take away the municipal power to pass bylaws dealing with lawn and garden pesticide use,” says Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “Thousands of Ontario citizens have worked closely with their municipalities to reduce unnecessary pesticide use.”
“Pesticide use represents a real threat to all of our health, and the health of children in particular,” says Jan Kasperski, Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario College of Family Physicians. “Municipalities must retain the power to protect their citizens’ health by passing bylaws that are tougher than the provincial legislation.”
Doris Grinspun, Executive Director of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, says the bill needs to be a floor that will set a base on which other bylaws can build, not a ceiling that prevents further protections from being enacted. She says nurses are also gravely worried about a loophole that would allow future governments to introduce exemptions to the ban.
“Nurses worked in good faith with the McGuinty government, believing that the government would produce the strongest possible protection for the public,” she says. “But these shortfalls are unnecessary and undermine public protection from the devastating effects of pesticides. We urge Premier McGuinty to reconsider his government’s position.”
Gideon Forman, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, agrees that there are significant concerns with Bill 64. "While doctors applaud the proposal to ban the sale of 300 pesticide products, we're disappointed the new Act stops municipalities from passing stronger pesticide legislation. We're also concerned that any exemptions could permit the very cosmetic pesticides this law is supposed to prohibit."
Members of the coalition calling for the government to address concerns with Bill 64 include: Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Ecojustice, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario College of Family Physicians, Pesticide Free Ontario, Prevent Cancer Now and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.