COSMETIC PESTICIDES BAN ACT, 2008 /
LOI DE 2008 SUR L’INTERDICTION
DES PESTICIDES UTILISÉS
À DES FINS ESTHÉTIQUES
Mr. Gerretsen moved third reading of the following bill:
Bill 64, An Act to amend the Pesticides Act to prohibit the use and sale of pesticides that may be used for cosmetic purposes / Projet de loi 64, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les pesticides en vue d’interdire l’usage et la vente de pesticides pouvant être utilisés à des fins esthétiques.
Hon. John Gerretsen: I’m very pleased today to lead off debate on third reading of Bill 64, a bill that proposes a province-wide ban on the use and sale of cosmetic, non-essential pesticides. Why did we propose this ban? We proposed it because all Ontarians, particularly young children, have a right to live in a healthy environment. They deserve to breathe clean air, drink clean water and know that the land they live on is healthy and sustainable. All of us, including young children, deserve to be able walk in the parks and enjoy the gardens and watch themselves and their parents playing outdoors without worrying about the risks of unnecessary pesticides.
Over the past four and a half years, our government has taken historic steps and been highly proactive in protecting and preserving the environment for our benefit and the benefit of future generations. The proposed Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act is another positive step in this commitment, another step in the right direction.
If passed, this act would ban pesticides for cosmetic purposes on lawns, gardens, parks and schoolyards across Ontario. It would make exceptions for agriculture and forestry, and for public health or safety reasons. Golf courses would also be excepted, but subject to strict conditions that would require pesticide use reduction over the year, and those exceptions would only be granted upon the filing of an acceptable pesticides management plan with the Ministry of the Environment, according to the regulations, which are still to be determined.
We want to ensure consistency of law and give all Ontarians equal protection from potential exposure to cosmetic pesticides, no matter where they live in the province. That’s why last fall, during the election campaign, we made it quite clear that we wanted to ban the use of cosmetic, non-essential pesticides and we wanted to have consistent application of that law throughout the entire province.
We all know that current municipal bylaws vary greatly; there are different requirements at home, at work and at the cottage. We will study the various municipal bylaws as part of a regulatory regime we will be bringing in if this act is passed. We will consult on the regulations with municipalities and with all others who have an interest in this. At the end of the day, we know that we will have the toughest law and the toughest regulations against the use of pesticides for cosmetic, non-essential purposes.
One law would ensure that all Ontarians are protected equally, that it’s clearly understood what is against the law and what is not, and that we’re not confused by competing requirements. It will also be clearly understood what the penalties are for not following the law, and that enforcement is consistent, predictable and equal across this province.
We have gone much further than banning the use of cosmetic pesticides; we are also banning the sale of cosmetic pesticides. Banning the sale of the product in the province of Ontario is the best way to eliminate the use of it.
I know that municipalities have some concerns about this, particularly those municipalities that have stronger bylaws with respect to use. But we’ve said right from the very beginning that if we were to implement a ban on the use of cosmetic pesticides, we want it to be equally applied across the province.
In that regard, let me quote from an e-mail I received just within the last half-hour from Jan Kasperski, of the Ontario College of Family Physicians. It’s addressed to me and to Kevin Flynn, my parliamentary assistant. Before going any further, let me just thank him for shepherding the bill through second reading in the House, and through committee. Indeed, I want to thank all the committee members who were involved in listening to deputations and in the clause-by-clause that followed earlier this week.
Ms. Kasperski writes:
“Dear Mr. Gerretsen and Mr. Flynn,
“The Ontario College of Family Physicians and the 8,400 family doctors who are members of the college, on behalf of the patients we serve, are very grateful to both you and the terrific public servants who have worked tirelessly to bring Bill 64 this far in such a remarkably short period of time….
“For 10 long years, the OCFP has been made a target by the pesticides industry. Our credibility has been questioned repeatedly. We faced up to them by reaching out and touching the hearts of Ontarians with our sincere desire to protect children from harm.
“Your sincere efforts to do the right thing for all Ontarians shine through in all that you do too. Some members of the coalition” may not be all that supportive, but we are.
“As for the OCFP, we will celebrate with you tomorrow”-meaning today; this e-mail was sent last night. “We are realists. We know that the best strategy is to take five steps forward…. Regulations will get us” there.
“Thank you so much for what you do. You are both deeply respected and we greatly appreciate your hard work in driving this bill forward. Please give our best to the Premier and thank him on our behalf.”
I’m not reading this for the personal comments she made about Mr. Flynn and myself, but for the fact that the College of Family Physicians is on side with what we’re doing here today. They know we’ve gone further than we said we were going to. We said we were going to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides. By banning their sale, we’re doing something much better.
As I mentioned before, numerous groups, including the Ontario College of Family Physicians, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Canadian Cancer Society, have been calling for a ban on cosmetic pesticides as a prudent measure to protect our health. The renowned David Suzuki Foundation is a strong advocate as well; I received an e-mail from them as well overnight.
By banning the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides, we have an opportunity to eliminate a potential threat to the health of our children, our parents, our friends and neighbours, our water supply, as well as to future generations.
As you know, our government consulted extensively with stakeholders and the public in developing the proposed legislation. We have received approximately 11,000 comments from the two postings on the Environmental Registry. We’ve met with environmental groups, health organizations, and the municipal, agricultural, golf, turf, retail manufacturing and production sectors. I would like to thank all of those individuals and organizations we have met with over the past few months. Their viewpoints and suggestions are valued and the legislation has benefited from their input. At the standing committee as well we heard many insightful comments. Having heard all the submissions, we are confident that we have brought forward the best possible legislation.
In addition to exceptions to the ban for uses related to agriculture and forestry, the promotion of public health and safety and golf courses, Bill 64 is drafted to allow exceptions for other prescribed uses in regulation. This would allow the government to deal with things like endangered species or the preservation of urban trees, which may not fall clearly within the health and safety exception. We have listened to the concerns of stakeholders with respect to the “other” exceptions and have strengthened Bill 64 to make these exceptions conditional. This means that in order to use pesticides that have been prohibited under the use ban, these “other prescribed uses” must meet all conditions placed on them as specified by regulation. Failure to meet those regulatory conditions means that these other uses would lose their exception and be prohibited.
If the bill is passed, we look forward to engaging Ontarians once again to make sure that the strongest possible regulations are put in place to protect our health and environment. We will meet with those municipalities that have passed what they regard as stronger-use bylaws and we will take a look at those bylaws to see how they can be implemented in the regulations.
I would like to add my personal thanks to everybody who has worked so hard on this, both from a stakeholder and from our staff and ministry viewpoint. I also want to thank those who have worked so hard for many years to ban cosmetic pesticides in communities. They, and particularly those municipalities that have been involved in this for many years, have laid a strong foundation that has allowed us to introduce a province-wide ban. We will continue to work with them and with the Ontario Pesticides Advisory Committee, and they will help us on the details to be outlined in regulations.
If passed, my ministry would also consult with stakeholders on draft regulations that list the specific pesticides and ingredients to be banned. Currently on the proposed list, we have some 80 different ingredients and over 300 products, which is much more extensive than any other jurisdiction in this country. I also want to make it clear that if the bill is passed and the regulations put in place, time will not stand still. We are committed to continuing to work with our municipal partners to ensure that we have the strongest possible regulations in place across this province.
As we look ahead, if Bill 64 is passed and the regulations are developed and put into place, the ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides could be in effect as early as next spring, 2009. That’s what we’ve always been aiming toward, even though other jurisdictions have taken as long as two or three additional years. If we want to protect our children from unhealthy risks, then we should implement that as soon as possible. In communities across the province, families and children would be protected from the harm of pesticide use on the lawns, gardens-I might note gardens are not included in the province of Quebec-parks and schoolyards that they live on, pass by or play in on a day-to-day basis.
Our government is not the first to recognize the hazards or the needlessness of the cosmetic use of pesticides. As I mentioned before, Ontario municipalities-some 33-already have shown leadership in banning or restricting them, and I salute them once again for their great work. Through them, approximately 46% of Ontarians are already better protected from harm. A province-wide ban would ensure this protection is extended to all diverse communities in this province, whether urban or rural. We recognize that including rural communities in the ban moves away from our original view that we would not focus on restricting those areas. However, rural residents and children deserve every opportunity for good health and our government simply will not leave them out. We want a uniform law across this province, whether it’s urban or rural.
We want all parents, no matter where they live, to have the security of knowing that their children are not subjected to these chemicals. As I mentioned before, Quebec has implemented a prohibition on the sale of pesticide fertilizer mixes and other pesticides for domestic use by the general public. Ontario proposes to take one of the toughest stands against cosmetic, non-essential pesticides in North America and, certainly, it would take the good work of our municipalities one step further because we’re not only banning use, we are banning sale, which is the best way to ban use.
Our legislation would prohibit the use and sale, as I mentioned before, ensuring not just consistency and clarity in law that would apply to all municipalities equally, but also making sure that products containing banned ingredients would not be available for purchase in Ontario. We chose to go beyond our original commitment during the election campaign last fall in this regard because we believe that taking these products off the shelves in the first place is the single most effective way to reduce their use. This step is strongly supported by environmental and health groups, as well as the general public.
Taking this thought a bit further, let’s look again at the economic impact of our proposed changes. Here in Ontario, we are proud to be home to an environmental industry that contributes over $8 billion a year to our economy and is at the leading edge of the burgeoning green economy. We are confident that, if passed, our proposed legislation would provide another boost to this important sector and a new direction for growth, as our innovative businesses create new, pesticide-free products, new services, new jobs and economic growth. We are absolutely convinced that the industry is capable of coming up with these new, pesticide-free products.
In our recent budget, our government allocated over $10 million over four years to support our proposed plan to ban the use of non-essential pesticides. These funds will help support Ontario-based research to foster development and commercialization of green alternatives that are better for the environment and for the health of Ontario families. This also has the potential to position Ontario as a research and development leader, as more provinces, states and countries ban the use of cosmetic pesticides and begin to look at alternatives. These funds are also targeted for education and outreach.
Our government continues to be gratified by the number of stakeholders that have expressed interest in working with us to ensure that the general public is aware of alternative methods of lawn and garden care. These include educational institutions, municipalities, retailers, service providers, health units and organizations ranging from the Canadian Cancer Society to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. With their help, we propose to focus on education and outreach as the principle means of ensuring compliance with the ban. Fines will be a last resort. The most important thing is banning both the sale and use of the product.
This bill is the first step in our government’s commitment to reduce toxins and tackle the environmental cost of illness. If passed, it will ensure that our children and all Ontarians are no longer exposed to cosmetic, non-essential pesticides that can harm their health. It would provide a new avenue of growth for innovators and entrepreneurs who are propelling Ontario’s green economy, and it would promote natural, organic solutions to lawn and garden care that are better for our environment and would help improve the health of our planet.
By supporting this legislation, we, as legislators, would be protecting our province and our people not just today, but for generations to come.
Mr. Peter Shurman:
Then there’s a bill like this one. The McGuinty government says, “Hey, let’s ban pesticides.” The instant response from people goes something like, “Pesticides are poison; poison is no good. Great idea.” That’s all the thought they give to it, but that’s instant and it is also false. “Wait a minute,” says the government. “We can enforce it, and it’ll look great.” If you want to talk about a cosmetic ban, indeed that’s what this is. It’s a perception that you’re selling, not a reality.
Why am I against it? No science backs this up-zero, none. You talk about timely? Read Terence Corcoran’s piece in yesterday’s National Post on this very problem. Before anyone tries to characterize my stance as pro-pollution, pro-big business or devil-may-care, stop. Abuse of pesticides and irresponsible use of pesticides must be stopped. There are few who would argue with that-I certainly wouldn’t-but this legislation does not distinguish at all between the use of pesticides and the abuse of pesticides.
Bill 64 targets responsible users of pesticides. In fact, based on no scientific fact, it punishes them for acting responsibly. It is short-sighted. It is unfair. It is irresponsible. When we act as responsible legislators, we need responsible and factual support data, and Bill 64 is not based on scientific fact. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture wrote: “OFA would like to voice our very strong objection to the limited hearing time allocated to Bill 64 (four hours), and to the incredibly short application time afforded those wanting to address the standing committee …. The fact that Laurel Broten, a committee member, reported that the committee clerk was to ‘post information regarding the hearings … in major newspapers, if possible,’ would be comical if it was not so disrespectful. It was preposterous to suggest that notification could possibly have been provided through newspapers, when the clerk was only informed on Thursday that the deadline for application to attend the hearing was 5 p.m. the following day.”
When we, the official opposition, assess any proposed legislation, we consider a number of factors, including: (1) Does the proposed legislation speak to the needs of Ontarians; (2) Is the proposed legislation effective in achieving what it sets out to achieve; (3) Is the proposed legislation informed, based on knowledgeable sources; (4) Is it fair and responsible; and (5) Has there been sufficient attention paid to its enforcement?
Unfortunately, the resounding answer to all of these questions with respect to Bill 64 is no, it does not pass the test on any of them.
The McGuinty Liberals would have Ontarians believe that this bill is about protecting the environment, but there has been no evidence presented. “My God,” said one deputation in committee, “pesticides killed 1,600 people last year and half were children.” So I questioned them: “Was it exposure, or did they drink the stuff because dad left the cap off on the front steps?” Answer: “Don’t know.”
If the McGuinty government were serious about protecting the environment, they would take real action on closing inefficient and harmful coal plants, smog and toxins. They would take action that has its basis in science and good government, not headlines and hearsay. Health Canada, the definitive authority, has over 500 experts who set standards for our pharmaceutical drugs and we can’t trust their views on pesticides? Give me a break.
Allegations of responsibly used pesticides causing cancer and poisoning children were made before the committee, but the evidence was never presented. Groups that needed to be heard were not, like Petro-Canada, with an entirely new and promising approach to pesticides, using products which are the equivalent of baby oil. If you drank baby oil, the only result would be a longer than usual visit to the bathroom.
Here is a quote from their written submission:
“A golf turf fungicide that goes beyond the current requirements proposed in Bill 64. Our product is 100% free of active ingredient and is scientifically proven to maintain efficacy.
“A selective herbicide that has eliminated approximately 85% of the active ingredients (with the goal to reach 100%, similar to the fungicide). Again, scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that this product maintains its effectiveness when measured against other leading brands with full concentrations of active ingredient.”
The product commonly known as Roundup is banned, despite Health Canada classifying it as a reduced-risk product. In this legislation, the McGuinty Liberals chose to ignore science and, indeed, our own Canadian scientists from Health Canada. Why are they there? Health Canada scientists are the gold standard in terms of testing and protecting us from chemical or pharmaceutical formulations. It’s a fact that proper use and administration of proper quantities is, arguably, the single most significant determining factor of health risks. Scientists from Health Canada have concluded that if used according to instructions, pesticides do not harm children or pets or the very people who apply them.
Every one of the people in this chamber benefits from the pesticides this city uses to control mosquito infestations to prevent the spread of West Nile virus. Everyone here eats Ontario fruits and vegetables, grown with the aid of judicious and responsible applications of pesticides. That’s legal under this bill. If our crops were grown without it, we’d have a yield of 30% to 40% less than what we get. So pesticides work. Like any chemical, they work best and are beneficial only when used correctly.
The government chose to rely on a report by the Ontario College of Family Physicians-the Pesticide Literature Review-which had a great many limitations, including selective reporting of data, ignoring Health Canada’s role in pesticide registration and rolling all pesticides into one definition. That’s like saying all medications are bad. Anyone here take no pills whatsoever? I think not.
This McGuinty government runs a public relations machine. First it builds misconceptions, then it plays on fear and then it pretends to propose solutions-kind of like an arsonist who sets a fire and comes back 10 minutes later and extinguishes the fire so he can be hailed as a hero. The problem is that the McGuinty Liberals’ idea of solutions is just to ban things. Indeed, I’m not sure what they would do in this House if they ran out of things to ban. Maybe they could ban bans for a while and deal with real problems by bringing real solutions. Our economy comes to mind, but never mind that today.
I’m quite worried; perhaps the next time I have a headache I won’t be able to take an ibuprofen because they’ll decide to ban it. Following the logic that was applied to this bill’s development, they could easily do that as their next ban. They’ll say if I take 100 capsules I could cause serious injury to myself or even die, and they’d be right, but I don’t plan to take 100 capsules. I read directions, and so do pesticide users.
Both medication and pesticides are reviewed for proper use by the very same Health Canada. Does this government seriously believe that people operate on the lowest common denominator? In other words, is their legislation designed for someone who may take 100 ibuprofen pills or inhale or drink pesticides? The comparison is fair. Why? Because these things are ably and rigorously tested by Health Canada. Used as directed, they’re safe-not maybe safe, they are safe. For the sake of my head, I hope sincerely that ibuprofen will remain a legal product to sell and use, not abuse, in Canada, and in Ontario particularly.
The truth is that this is yet another piece of smoke-and-mirrors legislation which pretends to accomplish something while it really achieves nothing. I have to ask what general is leading this army, because the battle is in the other direction. Meanwhile, the troops are fighting imaginary skirmishes, looking for an enemy that just isn’t there.
Bill 64 only targets a few people who are basically using pesticides responsibly. It exempts agriculture, forestry, golf courses. That leaves people and properties, accounting for only 2% of pesticides used. Yes, I said 2% of the total. Stakeholders across Ontario wanted to make these points-responsible people who were not heard because of location and time. The government rejected our request to take hearings on this bill on tour, and the total time for hearings was about four hours. The McGuinty government neglected to seek input on this legislation from experts and responsible users of pesticides.
Here’s one result already, and I quote from the Ontario Vegetation Management Association:
“OVMA is seeking an exemption for the use of pesticides for industrial vegetation management. Herbicides used to control vegetation in industrial situations are an essential component in maintaining the integrity of the infrastructure that the Ontario public depends upon for safe and reliable services. Control of brush and conflicting vegetation is necessary for the safe operation of economically important facilities (eg. power lines, gas pipelines, oil pipelines, railways, roadways), prevention of catastrophic failures and life-threatening emergencies. Pesticide use in these operations is not a cosmetic use and should therefore be exempted from the proposed amendments to the Pesticides Act.”
The government didn’t bother to listen to Ontarians to define essential or non-essential uses.
From the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association:
“Bill 64 makes it very complicated for those of us who use pesticides to understand who we answer to. The PMRA-a federal body respected internationally as a tough regulator-can approve a product based on a thorough scientific evaluation. The municipality up till now has had the power to ban its use, claiming it is harmful, and yet Bill 64 hasn’t banned it. How confusing is this? We need to have one regulatory authority-the PMRA-that has the power to evaluate and approve (or reject) products based on the science.”
This government decided to introduce a blanket law that once again doesn’t pay attention to details.
In conclusion-and I state emphatically-there is no science to back up Liberal rhetoric here. This bill was not introduced with the health of Ontarians in mind. It was introduced with the goal of distracting people from the fact that this is a do-nothing government that specializes in meaningless, token gestures.
I close as I began. I will not be supporting Bill 64 because it will not accomplish what it claims. We are stuck in a bad movie. Ontarians are getting what passes for leadership and protection from the Wizard of Oz: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
My message to this government is: Go back to Kansas; get the courage to make the right choices; get the brains to give us smart legislation, not fluff; come back to reality to deal with Ontario’s real challenges.
People in my riding of Thornhill and of this province deserve better leadership on key issues.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I’m pleased to say off the top that while my colleagues and I support the concept of eliminating non-essential use of pesticides to protect our health and environment in this province, having sat through committee hearings and having read the legislation, I have a number of concerns.
First and foremost, the word “cosmetic” has not been clearly defined and is left open to interpretation. Bill 64, the Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act-I’ll just say that for those at home who have maybe just tuned in-would see the government ban the cosmetic use of pesticides. Does this bill refer to cosmetic pesticides or does it refer to a cosmetic ban? What is cosmetic, the pesticide or the use? I’m not sure the minister or the folks on that side can answer that question. They certainly haven’t answered the question to date, and the three pages of Bill 64 don’t contain the answer. I would imagine it depends on which side of the issue you want to discuss.
This bill, in my opinion, has been presented as a “ban now, ask questions later” approach-political feel-good stuff, typical McGuintyism.
Many of the presenters we heard from felt the same. Wendy Fucile, the president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, began her testimony by saying that “Bill 64 has the potential to be an important step in the right direction, but we’re not popping the champagne corks yet.”
Gideon Forman from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment suggested three amendments to the bill and spoke at length about the government limiting cities’ ability with regard to pesticide use.
Sheila Clarke of the Canadian Federation of University Women, Ontario Council, proposed seven recommendations to Bill 64, while the Canadian Cancer Society made it clear that the bill is not sound in its current form.
Two days ago, a news release was issued from the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario. The headline reads: “Health and environment groups sound alarm about pesticide bill.” The news release says:
“Environmental and health care leaders are calling on the McGuinty government to act on flaws in the province’s pesticide legislation to better protect the health of Ontarians.
“Bill 64 will ban the use and sale of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. However, as the bill winds its way through committee hearings and reading in the Legislature, a group of”-more than a dozen-“prominent health care and environmental organizations says the government must act on the bill’s weaknesses.”
Words and phrases like “shortfalls,” “undermines public protection,” “significant concerns,” “disappointed,” “gravely worried” and “loopholes” are rampant throughout a news release written by the very people this government was supposed to have listened to and consulted with.
How does this bill go awry? This news release is evidence that this government did not listen to the experts on either side of the issue.
What is Bill 64 based on? I have a few guesses, and I’m confident that it’s based on political science, not on real scientific facts. There’s been much doubt cast over the lack of scientific proof to support the Minister of the Environment in his banning of the use of cosmetic pesticides.
First, we heard from the Premier that municipalities could go above and beyond the legislation. Now we’ve heard that that wasn’t true. That was an interesting contradiction of opinions-a nice way to start off this legislation. For months, the Premier and the minister have stated that this is about public health, but we’ve heard from the government’s own health officials that this isn’t the case.
Let me quote from the Ottawa Citizen of May 28:
“When I asked if this would change the government’s view of the safety of 2,4-D, he responded ‘It’s not a safety issue.’ Huh? Practically every statement the McGuinty government has made about the ban includes the claim that it will ‘protect human health, especially children’s health.’ And that’s not a safety issue?
“‘No,’ says the spokesperson,”-from the ministry. “‘The issue is not public health.'”
We’ve heard on a daily basis from municipalities, Health Canada and health experts who are seriously questioning the legislation. The minister has told the Premier that he is wrong. He’s told Health Canada that they’re wrong. He’s told municipalities, farmers and small businesses that they’re all wrong. Experts across the province have legitimate concerns about Bill 64 and they deserve to be heard through province-wide hearings on the regulations of the bill. So I question the minister’s integrity if he refuses that democratic opportunity for experts across the province. Frankly, if this is about protecting the health of children, I think we should take this opportunity to get it right through expert advice, proper science and real facts. I think our children deserve that. They deserve to be given the facts when it comes to their protection.
My colleagues and I believe that we must immediately begin reducing the amount of toxins that Ontarians come in contact with each and every day. However, we also feel that Bill 64 duplicates work already being done at federal and municipal levels, while other environmental issues such as smog go unchecked by this government.
Lorne Hepworth from CropLife Canada summed things up best when he said, “We want to capture the benefits, but we too do not want to have any unnecessary risk, any unacceptable risk, to the public’s health or the environment. We have children, we have grandchildren, we have pets, and we like to play on the lawns and on the sports fields too, so I think from that standpoint we share in the goal of this legislation and the committee’s approach to it.
“The bottom line, however, is that we also support the safe, proper and responsible use of Health-Canada-approved and -registered pesticides when their use is deemed essential.”
This issue of banning pesticides is a very complex one. I can’t stress enough that it needs to be based on science. We’ve seen this government, in their haste to please special interests, shut out other approaches and actively work to ensure that science doesn’t get in the way of a great headline or a great photo op. Many would agree this bill does not appear to be based on anything close to consensus or any examination of neutral objective research, evidence or science.
As the bill stands, it suggests that there’s something inherently wrong with the pesticide products currently for sale in Ontario. One is left scratching one’s head on this because Health Canada and other internationally known research organizations disagree with the idea suggested by the government that there is something wrong with various herbicides, fungicides, algaecides and insecticides that control pests in our environment. Up until now, the province has become content with the fact that Health Canada sets the standards on pesticides in this country.
The Premier and the minister are implying that they now know better than Health Canada. It’s a very similar theme from the McGuinty Liberals: They know better. If this government thinks Health Canada is wrong when it comes to pesticides, do you also think they are wrong when it comes to other areas of jurisdiction such as pharmaceuticals? If members opposite are sitting on information suggesting that we can no longer trust Health Canada, then I think it’s time they brought that information forward.
Bill 64 also establishes a double standard for health of urban residents compared to rural residents as well as those working on golf courses and those on farms and in the forestry industry. Scotts Canada made a submission to the Environmental Bill of Rights that I’d like to quote in part: “A ban focusing on towns and cities while ignoring rural areas would be seriously flawed. To introduce a ban on the use of Health-Canada-approved pest control products in urban centres while permitting their use in rural settings establishes two standards of health and safety for Ontario residents. Clearly where our health and the health of the environment is concerned, a double standard is neither desirable nor acceptable.” That says it all.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Ontario’s largest farm organization, said, “Banning pesticide use in urban settings while maintaining they are safe in agriculture undermines the public’s confidence in farming, the safety of our food supply and Health Canada’s regulatory safeguards.”
Prior to the provincial election last fall, the Premier was on the Bill Carroll Show on CFRB. While on the show, Premier McGuinty was asked about the pesticide legislation and was reported to have said that banning pesticides for cosmetic purposes is the first step. So I question: What is the next step?
Those in the forestry and farming sectors are allowed to use the chemicals because they are bound by stringent training on the application and storage of pesticides. Farmers are required to be certified under the grower pesticide safety course before they can purchase pesticides, let alone use them. Recertification is required every five years. Common sense should tell you that a product is not more or less toxic depending on where it is applied. Therefore, perhaps this government will examine the benefits of educating and training. This certainly may be a more effective route to take than trying to enforce this legislation. Enforcement is something we’ve heard very little about from that government side.
Exemption for the agriculture and forestry industries is a good thing, but I’ve spoken to representatives from both sectors who fear that the bill has the possibility of becoming a slippery slope. Rural Ontarians are well aware of the government’s track record. It has them worried.
There is a place for pesticides in Ontario. Without them, farmers would be hard pressed to grow consumable products. What about infestations of emerald ash borer or gypsy moth? What about infestations that could wipe out many trees and tree cover that provide cooling effects? During committee, we heard from municipalities that admitted to using larvicides, which are pesticides, to control mosquito populations that can cause West Nile virus. The members opposite like to talk about the risks associated with pesticides because it’s politically friendly to the ear, but there are many benefits as well if used properly. That’s where education and training come into play. This is where public hearings could be so important; to hear what the experts have to say in how best to proceed.
I agree with Craig Hunter from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, who told the committee that he supports “the elimination of misuse, overuse and unnecessary use of any pesticide in any venue. It is essential that to be able to do so, one must know what safe use, appropriate use and justified use are. It takes education and training, like any other complicated issue we deal with in society today.” I think we all agree that protecting human health and the environment are paramount.
Bill 64, at the mere three pages that it is, is short on facts, big on rhetoric; the Ministry of the Environment has been as well. If this bill passes, there is a lot of work to be done, as there is the potential for the devil in the details. I’m not sure that the minister wants the devil to be ousted from those details.
I want to refer to the Endangered Species Act and the forestry sector, which certainly feels that the government has double-crossed them as it moves through the regulatory process. The government gave the forestry sector a commitment in writing to recognize their forest management practices, which have long been a world-renowned platinum standard for excellence in forestry. Our forest management practices have worked in support of endangered species, and the science proves that species have been brought back from the brink under current forestry practices: species like caribou, red-shouldered hawks and bald eagles.
A few weeks ago, under the regulatory process, with the Endangered Species Act, the McGuinty government sent a clear signal to the forestry sector that it would not honour its commitment to provide for long-term regulation under the new Endangered Species Act. That sets a very scary precedent, that the regulations and the process that are going to take place with this bill have taken place with the Endangered Species Act.
It was mentioned about the short notice for committee hearings and how people just did not know in time. Some people actually flew, on blind faith, from Ottawa hoping to get on the schedule. That is not the proper way to conduct public committee hearings. The government, again, was doing this all quickly; not enough details, not really wanting to hear from the people, especially people from rural Ontario.
Let me quote from the member from Huron-Bruce on Bill 64 from May 26. I just want to make sure she’s listening. “I look forward to the hearings, and they should come to rural Ontario, where they will be very graciously received by the McGuinty government.” You can check that Hansard from May 26. I don’t know if she has been sleeping or a little slow at the switch because, as sincere as she tries to let on, I say to the member for Huron-Bruce, your own McGuinty Liberals haven’t graciously received rural Ontario. As a matter of fact, the environment minister shut them out, and you can read the letter from Geri Kamenz, the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, in that respect.
Yesterday I asked in question period to the Minister of the Environment if hearings would be held across the province and in rural Ontario: no answer; lots of the usual rhetoric; lack of facts. It’s regrettable that a bill of this level of importance has been rammed through the House and committee.
The parliamentary assistant for the environment, the member for Oakville, has said he has faith in the agriculture sector. So I say: Why are you shutting them out? Why didn’t you give more time for them to appear? I ask again to the Minister of the Environment: Will you take the hearings on these regulations to rural Ontario, take them public and across the province? The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs: Where has she been in this whole picture? This is important legislation and it has not had its open hearings for the public across the province. One day of hearings in Toronto just does not cut it.
I’m running short on time. The devil’s in the details, as we’ve said about this bill. I’m calling on the government to do its due diligence and open transparency. I want the Minister of the Environment to go on record that he will take the regulations across the province for hearings.
Yesterday’s National Post carried an article on the lack of validity of this bill: “When Ontario’s environment minister, John Gerretsen, was asked last week about Health Canada’s finding on the safety of 2,4-D, he raised another issue. Health Canada, he said, was looking at pesticides on a ‘product-by-product’ basis. That’s not good enough.”
Another quote from the article: “It’s easy to lay the charges and mount a campaign, to convey fear and uncertainty, compared with the dry business of actually conducting a science review…. You make stuff up, exaggerate the risks, politicize the subject and spin it into a corporate and ideological battle. And, above all, you ignore the facts.”
That seems to be nailing what’s happening here right on the head. Ontarians and children certainly deserve real action from their environment minister. If the health of Ontarians and our environment is truly to be taken seriously, then we should have serious legislation that will improve the health of Ontarians, and this legislation certainly does not cut it.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The matter before the House is Bill 64. The debate having concluded, I will now put the question. Mr. Gerretsen has moved third reading of Bill 64. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will say “aye.”
All those opposed will say “nay.”
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
Call in the members. This will be a 30-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1205 to 1235.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): All those in favour will rise one at a time and be recorded by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Broten, Laurel C.
Brown, Michael A.
Cansfield, Donna H.
Flynn, Kevin Daniel
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Van Bommel, Maria
Wynne, Kathleen O.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): All those opposed will rise and be recorded by the Clerk.
Runciman, Robert W.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 56; the nays are 17.
Official Records for 18 June 2008