Banishing bans

Last updated at 8:36 AM on 21/05/10

Brian Jones
The Telegram

The way things are going, anything you like or need could be banned tomorrow, so you’d better enjoy it while you can.

Canada has a culture of banishment. The latest frenzy occurred when the Liquor Control Board of Ontario banned the sale of the Crystal Head vodka because its bottle is shaped like a skull and, in the LCBO’s view, presents an inappropriate symbol of death to its customers – unlike, say, thousands of other brands of bottled mayhem and destruction.

The LCBO seems not to realize it is in the business of selling one of the most deadly substances on Earth.

But that’s the thing about bans. They don’t need to follow logic.

They only need to be endorsed by people who have the power to implement them.

Green is good

Municipal politicians in St. John’s want to ban the use of pesticides by city residents.

The favoured catchphrase of banners is “the cosmetic use of pesticides,” as if the desire for a fine-looking lawn is frivolous and facile. Perhaps the city councillors who favour banning pesticides would prefer that most yards in St. John’s look as if they should surround a Detroit crackhouse.

Their use of the term “cosmetic” reveals this debate is about propaganda, not facts.

The poor old lawn has taken a beating in recent years.

First, it became a symbol of suburban indulgence.

Now, it’s polluting Mother Earth and harming her children. For something so green, it’s deceptively unGreen.

Be brave. Go ahead and say it: “I like my lawn.” I like that it is smooth and soft. I like that it is good to play on, or to just sit on. I like that it resembles a mini-park.

For the record, I don’t use pesticides of any kind, “cosmetic” or otherwise, on my lawn.

I prefer the manual method of weeding. It is labour intensive, but it works better. You get down on your knees and cut the weeds out. Yes, “weeds” – sure, dandelions are a legitimate plant and they have a right to exist, but not on my lawn, dammit.

But, not being a city councillor, I am not arrogant or authoritarian enough to demand other people do it my way.

Misleading argument

Too often, environmentalists hurt their own good cause by making outlandish claims.

Does anyone believe anything the David Suzuki Foundation says anymore?

Apparently, that weed killer you brought home last weekend contains bottled apocalypse that will lay waste to life on Earth as we know it.

Similarly, St. John’s city council apparently wants citizens to believe residential pesticides are harmful to their health and to their children’s well-being.

Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary goes further. She apparently believes, and wants you to believe, that Health Canada’s approval of residential pesticides available in stores is erroneous and unreliable, because its endorsement is based on research it receives from the businesses that produce them.

What the. …? Shocking. Scandalous. Unbelievable. Suzuki-esque.

Also untrue. And further proof this issue is about politics, not science.

O’Leary is apparently unfamiliar with the concept of independent, third-party verification.

According to Health Canada, pesticide producers submit their research data to the agency, which then checks it against other research that has been conducted on the substance, to see if the company’s safety claims are valid.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization use the same method.

O’Leary doesn’t seem to recognize the subtle but important difference.

If you told her, “Being environmentally conscientious, I like to drink tap water rather than bottled water,” she might reply, “So, you like to drink.”

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at

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