By a narrow 5-4 vote, the City of Charlottetown decided Monday night to stay the course on its cosmetic pesticide bylaw.
On the table was a proposal to eliminate the $50 surcharge residents are hit with if they claim to have an infestation. Also under consideration was eliminating the clause in the current bylaw that allows property owners to apply to an exemption to the rules if they have an infestation of pests.
Council was split down the middle with Greg Rivard, Terry MacLeod, Bob Doiron and Terry Bernard opposed to the change while Jason Coady, Mitch Tweel, Mike Duffy (chairman of the environment committee) and Kevin Ramsay voting in favour of it. In the event of a tie, Mayor Clifford Lee must cast the deciding vote.
Lee chose the status quo so the $50 surcharge remains, as does the exemption clause.
Couns. Eddie Rice and Melissa Hilton did not attend the meeting.
“I voted the way I did because we need to keep in mind that the bylaw is a year old,’’ Lee told the media following council’s regular public monthly meeting. “It was very important for the city of Charlottetown and the two towns of Stratford and Cornwall that we all have a bylaw in place so that we didn’t have different sets of rules for the Charlottetown area.’’
The bylaw applies to the application of non-domestic pesticides by licensed cosmetic pesticide applicators. It allows for the application of 41 different products. It also includes exemptions where a property owner can ask the city that a product not on that list of 41 be used. One of those exceptions is for an insect infestation.
In 2017, out of 9,000 detached homes in Charlottetown, 304 exception applications were received and 295 were approved. The $50 surcharge brought in about $15,000.
Lee feels the pesticide industry deserves more warning before any more changes are made so companies don’t order supplies for the upcoming season, or already have them on hand, only to find out suddenly that they can’t use them.
Members of Pesticide Free P.E.I. were in attendance for the vote.
Roger Gordon, a member of the group, called the result very unfortunate.
“I’m very disappointed at the short sightedness of certain councillors,’’ Gordon said. “You use your hands, you work the soil with your hands. If you were to come to my lawn, in the summertime, you would see a beautiful lawn, but I don’t use any products. What I use is hard work.’’
Gordon said people who continue to fight pests, like cinch bug, with chemicals end up killing their lawns.
“It makes as much sense to say, for example, that you spray a product on a lawn and it mysteriously becomes a beautiful lawn as it does to say that you spray a product on a flower garden and all of a sudden you’ve got roses coming up.’’
Gordon echoed comments made by Duffy in council chambers in explaining that toxic products simply kill the soil.
For cinch bugs, Gordon, who is an entomologist and a parasitologist, recommends pouring soapy water and a handful of grass seeds over them.