Charlottetown city council hits the brakes on cosmetic pesticides

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 15, 2015

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee speaks with group of unhappy residents Monday after the issue of cosmetic pesticides was briefly discussed during the monthly public meeting. Council was supposed to give a bylaw on the cosmetic pesticides second reading when an attempt was made to send the issue back to the province. Council will meet soon to decide behind closed doors what it wants to do.

©Dave Stewart/The Guardian

They asked for the power. Now they may be giving it back.

Less than a year after Charlottetown city council asked the provincial government for the right to enact a bylaw regulating the use of cosmetic pesticides (which the province granted) there was an effort on Monday night to give it right back.

Council was set to give the pesticide bylaw second reading when Coun. Bob Doiron, chairman of the environment and sustainability committee, put a motion on the floor to send the issue back to the province.

Before a vote could take place, Mayor Clifford Lee stepped in asking to defer the matter to a committee of the whole meeting. That’s where council meets behind closed doors. He was successful although Lee stressed Monday night the actual vote will take place in public.

“The ban we were given by the province is like a 25 per cent ban,’’ Doiron told the media following council’s June public meeting. “It doesn’t ban golf courses, it doesn’t ban farms and it doesn’t ban the average person going to Home Depot or Canadian Tire and buying their pesticides and spraying.’’

Doiron said what it does do is prevent professionals from spraying product, leaving it in the hands of the average resident.

“We need strong legislation from the provincial government.’’

A group of residents in favour of pesticide restrictions were at the meeting and were not pleased with the outcome.

“I’m surprised because I wasn’t expecting this,’’ said Roger Gordon, a retired biologist and former UPEI dean of science, who was asked by the residents at the meeting to speak to the media. “I’m appalled at what council has done. It is my understanding municipalities wanted to have the authority to regulate these pesticides so I feel they have abrogated their leadership.’’

Gordon said council is playing “footsie’’ with products that harm the health of residents.

“This is just outrageous that council would do something like this.’’

Council seems divided on the issue.

Coun. Eddie Rice isn’t handling the issue right at all.

“I was quite shocked with the process that, all of a sudden, we had a resolution where we send it back to the province. I hadn’t heard one word until a couple of minutes before,’’ Rice said. “We went to the province and asked for this. The province didn’t bring it to use.’’

Lee said it only makes sense that the province deal with it so there aren’t 74 different rules for 74 P.E.I. municipalities. But . . .

“I’ve asked the province for the authority to deal with this issue and that’s because the province is not dealing with the issue,’’ Lee said. “I think everybody would be happier because you would have one set of rules for everybody.’’

Lee said council needs to decide what it wants to do, pass a bylaw or hand it back to the province, very soon.

Doiron said he’s already spoken to Robert Mitchell, minister responsible for communities, about it.

“He had concern with giving us jurisdiction in the first place,’’ Doiron said. “(The province) has the resources, expertise (and) economic ability to enforce it.’’

Doiron added that Halifax asked for the power to regulate cosmetic pesticides and then handed it back to the province. The same thing, he said, happened in New Brunswick and other provinces.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart