Committee votes down support for pesticide ban | St. Catharines Standard

Committee votes down support for pesticide ban

By Rob Houle

Thursday, March 6, 2014 1:11:45 EST PM

They debated whether to support a region-wide pesticide ban for the better part of an hour, voted against it — and then because of a procedural issue, ended up keeping the issue alive by voting to only receive a staff report on the matter.

Niagara Region’s integrated community planning committee Wednesday afternoon considered a staff report related to a request from beekeeper George Scott.

He asked the Region to implement a ban on the non-farm use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Non-farm use examples are flea-control medication for pets and bug sprays.

Before committee members discussed the report, Scott made a presentation reiterating evidence he said shows the devastating effects of neonicotiniods on bee populations and the potential effects to human health.

Scott said Niagara’s bee industry was poised for substantial growth should a neonicotinoid ban be implemented.

“There is an enormous business opportunity here that is unique to Niagara,” he said.

He said he has investors looking to expand bee breeding programs in Niagara that would generate “200 new jobs. High-tech environmental, sustainable, genetic jobs as well as revenues of $20 million.”

“My investors are coming in here and they have two requirements — No. 1, land and No. 2, the reduction of neonicotinoid release.”

Scott said he has an agreement in place with Ontario Power Generation to use land it owns along the Welland Canal, where bees are thriving, he said, because the lands are above urban and farm drainage that carries neonicotinoid residue.

“We are looking for some movement on neonicotinoids,” Scott said.

“If the investors don’t see that, they will not make the investment.”

Scott pegged the investment at $10 million. He said Niagara bees are in particular demand to pollinate blueberries in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia because bees there have not come out of their winter hibernation when the berries in those provinces flower.

Prior to the committee tabling the report from staff, St. Catharines Coun. Andy Petrowski made a motion that the wording in the first line of its recommendations be changed from “not support” to “support.”

The ensuing discussion saw Petrowski and St. Catharines Coun. Bruce Timms vigorously argue for a ban based on health issues.

Petrowski questioned the legal interpretation in the staff report that indicates a ban on pesticides falls beyond the jurisdiction of municipal governments.

He was assured by staff that is indeed the case, as the Pesticides Act was amended in the last couple of years with the intent there be a uniform system of regulation in the province.

The discussion at that point went from instituting a ban to one of whether to show support for a ban.

Lincoln Mayor Bill Hodgson and Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs were against a show of support for a ban, citing the concerns of farmers, even though Scott is asking for a ban of non-farm use neonicotinoids.

Jeffs said farmers she has spoken to are concerned a neonicotinoid ban would “snowball into other restrictions.”

Hodgson concurred.

“I can tell you as chair of the agricultural policy and action committee,” Hodgson said, “and as a farmer myself, I can tell you the concerns are very real. Every concern is there to make sure that there’s a balance between the practices that we have — make sure that they are environmentally sustainable and sound — and make sure we don’t do something that actually destroys our competitive position in world markets.”

Committee members voted 10-3 against the motion supporting a ban on the non-farm use of neonicotinoids. But because of procedural confusion related to Petrowski changing the recommendation in the staff report from “not support” to “support,” committee members ended up voting to just receive the staff report for information, which keeps the subject of potential support for a neonicotinoid ban alive.

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