Ontario’s pesticide ban toothless | London | News | London Free Press

Last Updated: June 13, 2010 11:01pm

Not a single charge laid

Thirteen months after Queen’s Park brushed aside London’s pesticide ban and replaced it with its own ban, not a single person or business has been charged.

The absence of enforcement has upset those who fought for a local ban that would have slapped a costly $500 fine on anyone caught spraying pesticide.

“It’s sending an open invitation to violators to ignore the law,” said Sam Trosow, a local activist who played a leading role lobbying for a ban.

“I’m really disappointed,” said Stephen Turner, who chairs the Urban League of London.

The city ban, seven years in the works, took effect September 2008, and officials planned to start issuing fines the following spring. But those charges never came.

Instead, on April 22, 2009, the Ontario government set aside all local pesticide bans for a provincewide one that only provincial officers would enforce. Since then, the Environment Ministry has not punished violators, instead asking them to stop and explaining the ban and alternatives to pesticides.

“Across Ontario, the ministry focused its efforts on education and outreach to ensure that the public and regulated community understood their obligations under the new rules,” said ministry spokesperson Jim Durham.

But it appears that outreach has lacked a crucial component — whom to phone if you see what you suspect is the illegal use or sale of pesticides.

Complaints about pesticides were supposed to be made to the ministry’s regional office in London.

But instead, those with complaints continued to phone city hall by the dozens while the ministry phone remained mostly silent.

From May 1, 2009, to May 1 of this year, 13 people phoned the ministry, Durham said.

If the ministry wants to educate Londoners, it should begin by publicizing how to phone in a complaint, Turner said.

“(That effort so far) has been anemic at best,” he said.

The absence of fines and lack of calls also concern two members of city council who supported a local ban, Coun. Bill Armstrong and Controller Gina Barber.

Londoners have debated the use of pesticides since 2001 and it’s about time the province stop relying only on education, they said.

“If you don’t have enforcement, then there really isn’t any law,” Armstrong said.

“I’d certainly like to see the province stepping up to the plate,” Barber said.

The Environment Ministry has about 250 officers across Ontario to investigate all sorts of environmental complaints of which pesticides are only one. Investigations are triggered in London by calling its regional office weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 519-873-5000.

But Trosow believes the past year has shown that the province was wrong to scrap local pesticide bans and enforcement — something he warned of a year ago.

The Dalton McGuinty government should have instead followed the lead of Quebec that created a pesticide ban but allowed cities to keep bans that were even stricter, he said.

“(Ontario government officials) set things back quite a bit,” Trosow said. “They should admit they were wrong and give that power back to municipalities.”

jonathan.sher@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/jsherLFPRESS

PESTICIDE CHRONOLOGY

2001: City politicians debate pesticide use.

2002: Council backs plan favoured by lawn-care industry that called for voluntary reduction through education.

2004: City committee on pesticides chaired by employee of a chemical business disbands after it can’t reach consensus.

2005: Council defeats bylaw to limit pesticides to 20% of a property.

2006: Council supports continuing education and later endorses ban to take effect September 2008.

2008: City ban starts with offenders to be warned and educated. Tickets to be issued the following spring.

April 22, 2009: Ontario bans sale and use of pesticides and nullifies city bans.

Ontario’s pesticide ban toothless | London | News | London Free Press.

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