Local residents' push for a region-wide bylaw that would stop the cosmetic use of pesticides has proven unsuccessful. A handful of Halton citizens turned out for regional council and its health and social services committee meeting recently to request that the Region get the ball rolling on such legislation. While the individuals were ultimately told that it'll be up to each local municipality to enact their own pesticide bylaws, they were still given the chance to make their case. Area resident Tania Orton kicked things off at the committee session with her passionate plea to "stop the peddling of poisons." "I believe we need a strong pesticide bylaw to protect our health, to protect our pets and to protect our environment," she said. "We need our politicians at the municipal and regional level to step up like they have in Quebec and protect us all from their unnecessary use." Oakville resident Rosemarie Green shared similar sentiments, urging the regional councillors to take "the next step" and create a regionwide bylaw. "Education programs work only to a point and that point has been reached," she said. "It's time to get into the new century, look forward and take responsibility for cleaning up the toxins in our badly neglected environment."
Pesticide Alternatives for Milton, or PAM, also asked the Region to take stronger action on the cosmetic pesticide issue. The group recently petitioned Milton council to implement a bylaw to restrict the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes on private property. Councillors went on to make their own comments and ask the residents a variety of questions, which led to some heated exchanges. While Burlington Councillor Rick Craven suggested the cosmetic pesticide ban needs to be handled by the Province and that a "patchwork" of different bylaws across Ontario won't be effective, Orton said she thought that's an attempt to "pass the buck." Tensions mounted as Craven asked Orton, "How do you know we have a (pesticide) problem?" She told him that she has a chemical sensitivity, so every time her neighbour sprayed pesticides, she had a seizure. She went on to say she doesn't understand why Craven doesn't know more about the issue, since he's a councillor. Chairman Joyce Savoline then jumped in, angrily telling Orton that her answers are "disrespectful." "You're being very flip and rude," she said. "Please don't do that anymore." Orton apologized and said she didn't mean to be rude, but Savoline retorted, "I think you did."
The chairman later said she doesn't think the Region would ever enact a pesticide bylaw because each municipality wants to craft their own based on their values, local needs, etc. Halton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Bob Nosal agreed, saying, "It is the call of the local municipalities to determine how they're going to deal with this issue." PAM president Erika Ristok suggested that the Region could encourage the four local municipalities to put bylaws in place. "We'd like Halton to take a stronger stand in guiding municipalities," she said.
Halton Hills Councillor Clark Somerville believes pesticide bylaws should be handled by the municipalities. "I think it's at the best level," said Somerville. The number one reason he said was, "we (the towns and cities) own the parks." "The region is not in the recreation business," he said. "We have more roadsides." He said the Town of Halton Hills adheres to a "prudent avoidance"
policy with pesticide use on town
property. He explained pesticides are not applied by Town staff unless they believe they have to be used. Before they can use them, however, they have to go to town council to get permission.
A report from Nosal was presented to the committee and council to update councillors on the issue of reducing pesticide use for non-essential purposes. The report says the health department continues to support a "prudent avoidance" approach to pesticides. "Prudent avoidance means relying on natural control and preventative measures and using chemical pesticides only when all other measures fail," the report reads. "Halton will continue to promote a policy of prudent avoidance and work with its partners in building on the success of the Naturally Green education and awarenessraising program in the months ahead." Halton CAO Brent Marshall went on to outline the Region's current environmentally-friendly initiatives, such as the fact it discontinued spraying pesticides along rural roadsides 20 years ago and on all Region properties four years ago. In the end, regional council approved having Savoline write to the federal and provincial governments urging them to take a leadership role on the issue of restricting non-essential and cosmetic pesticide use. It also endorsed getting staff to report back on a budget and business plan to continue with the Naturally Green initiative on a cost-share basis amongst the Region and its four municipalities, focusing on prudent avoidance and awareness strategies