It was a very difficult decision for me to ultimately reconfirm my support for a ban on cosmetic pesticide use in Kamloops.
As is often the case on controversial issues, there are people on both sides with very strong views, and typically many of these people really can't see much validity in the other side's arguments.
This is certainly in the top five (maybe even top three) most controversial issues I've seen on council in my almost seven years of service.
I've supported a ban on cosmetic pesticide use since I was first elected. But given the controversy and the complexity with this issue, I decided to try to keep as open a mind as I could in the six or seven weeks between when Councillor Tina Lange first proposed this motion and the vote this week (July 14th). I was specifically open to reasons why I should not support the cosmetic pesticide ban.
I feel strongly that is is important with these highly controversial issues to research thoroughly, think carefully, be respectful of all, and realize that, often enough, good people will come to different conclusions.
Here are some of the primary reasons I’ve heard opposing a ban on cosmetic pesticide use:
- Health Canada approved pesticides pose no risk to human health, when used according to label
- Imposing a ban will take pesticide use out of the hands of the professionals, causing loss of business and jobs and increasing the indiscriminate use of pesticides in the community.
- city council should not interfere with what citizens do on their own property
- a ban cannot be enforced
- that there are no good alternative to the use of cosmetic pesticides to maintain a lawn and ornamental gardens
I’ve also heard these reasons opposed to a cosmetic pesticide use ban:
- City council does not have authority to impose a ban
- If city council implement a cosmetic pesticide ban, what’s the next thing we will ban or try to regulate (slippery slope argument)
Why I ultimately voted for the ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides
I am very reluctant to interfere on citizen’s personal property rights and I am also very reluctant to support bylaws that might negatively impact very good businesses in the community. There has to be very compelling reasons for me to even consider going down these roads.
The debate about the health benefits versus the health risks of pesticides rages on. We have reputable government scientists who, for example, test pesticides for health impacts and improve them for sale. On the other hand, we have various cancer societies, doctors associations, and public health professionals who have stated the cosmetic pesticide use has unnecessary health risks.
After much researching, thinking, and soul searching, I came to conclusion again that cosmetic use of pesticides is an unnecessary health risk.
I totally understand that my judgement is not shared by everyone. But, reasoning through the different methodologies, this is the view I have come to.
This especially hits home to me when it comes to more vulnerable populations. Not everyone’s immune system is the same. I think of the impacts on young children, on seniors, and those with more acute chemical sensitivities. And I truly believe that many of these folks will have adverse health impacts from the cosmetic use of pesticides. It may not be a one time thing, it might be from a cumulative effect over time.
What makes my the case for a ban on cosmetic pesticide use a bit stronger yet, in my view, is the presence of alternative practices and substances for using on lawns and ornamental gardens. I know the local lawn care companies who advocated against a ban are feeling now like they will have to scale back business and lay people off. I believe that there may be a bright future for them still in offering services and products that don’t involve pesticides we have banned for cosmetic use. I agree these companies are good, responsible corporate citizens with very loyal customers. I feel there is a very good chance they will not lose business. I say this, obviously, not as a member of their industry but as someone has seen quite a few businesses innovate from difficulties and thrive.
I think city hall has to embark on robust education campaign, promoting the alternatives to cosmetic pesticide use. So many people have shared with me, in the past weeks, stories of their wonderful lawns and gardens that are pesticide free. I know a lot of people feel like this ban has left them without options. My strong belief is there are options and my strong commitment is to help promote them.
I think this education campaign can largely mitigate the admitted challenges with having city bylaw officers try to enforce the ban. I think if people feel confident and comfortable employing alternatives to cosmetic pesticide use, then the use of these pesticides will decrease. I think there will be misuse and people breaking the bylaw, but I think we can achieve a lower level of pesticide use in Kamloops.
Other future steps
In October 2015, we will be debating and I think approving a policy that restricts pesticide use by the city in a way which mirrors the restrictions on residential properties.