The use of pesticides on Prince Edward Island is an issue that probably won’t be spoken about too often by politicians during the province’s election campaign, except for members of the Green party as they push for tougher regulations.
Political scientist Peter McKenna of the University of Prince Edward Island says the Liberals and Conservatives want to steer clear of a fight with farmers before the Oct. 3 election, particularly Premier Robert Ghiz’s Liberal party.
“A soft underbelly of Robert Ghiz’s administration has always been the claim, rightly or wrongly, that he’s not in touch with rural P.E.I.,” McKenna said.
“The last thing that Robert Ghiz wants to do is to be seen as coming down against the farming community by putting into place something that they would probably perceive as hurting their interests and hurting their ability to maintain the family farm.”
Questions about pesticide use surface a few times each year after heavy rains. Thousands of fish in rivers in western P.E.I. were killed after heavy rains in July. Two farmers were charged after traces of pesticides were found in nearby rivers.
The province’s Environmental Protection Act mandates a 15-metre buffer zone between row crops — such as potatoes — and rivers or streams. But Green Party Leader Sharon Labchuk argues that’s not enough and she’s convinced the government won’t enact stricter rules.
“To tell the truth, I think they honestly believe that there’s nothing wrong with an industry that kills fish and poisons people.”