MPP trying to close a loophole
Posted 2 hours ago
CORNWALL — After being approached by a handful of people from Glengarry County last fall about the issue of weed-spraying along county roads, Jim Brownell, MPP for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry, says he decided to do something about it.
“There were individuals looking to see if I would help them out over this issue,” says Brownell. “They felt the Pesticide Act needed some tightening up. I encouraged them to bring to me what they thought was important.”
The result? A private member’s bill which aims to amend the Pesticide Act, 2009, says Brownell.
“Any private member’s bill has to go through legislative lawyers,” explains Brownell. “(This bill) is in their hands right now.”
Brownell says the bill suggests alternatives to roadside spraying.
“Right now, there are opportunities for the counties roads department… to not use pesticides,” he says. “This bill wouldn’t allow (the use of pesticides) to happen.”
Currently, Brownell says, he and members of CARS believe a loophole exists in the Pesticides Act : that municipalities can claim an exemption under the health and safety regulation. In this case, this exemption could be toxic plants. This, in turn, allows the municipality to not consider non-chemical options, such as mowing.
Municipalities then use the “alternative notification process” to place a single advertisement in any local newspaper, and then spray with unmarked vehicles.
The bill, if passed, would amend the Pesticide Act to ensure that health and safety exemptions cannot be used to bypass alternative non-chemical mechanisms to address Health and Safety issues, such as mowing.
Should spraying be the only alternative, after all non-chemica l mechanisms have been explored, the bill also provides for vehicle signage where application is undertaken.
As well, it provides for improved notification to the residents in non-residential areas, where spraying may be the only al ternat ive, wrote Brownell in a follow-up email.
In sum, Brownell wrote, essentially, the belief is that mowing is the safest, non-chemical mechanism, and if mowing cannot be done, then spraying may be the only other alternative, but that signage and notifications must occur or be expanded.
Brownell says his involvement on county council allowed him to have insight into al ternat ives that have been used in previous years.
“In the past, the counties have done shoulder cutting and whatnot,” he says. “With the respiratory problems and illnesses from pesticides, any opportunity to eliminate them from our society, I say, all the better.”
On a personal note, Brownell says he hasn’t sprayed his lawn, long before that was made illegal in Ontario.
“There are some alternatives, green alternatives,” he says. “I think if there are alternatives, let’s use them. Cutting is the best way to eliminate. I think that’s still the answer.”
As of Thursday , Jan. 13, Brownell hadn’t received any information back about the bill, but was hoping to hear about it “relatively soon.”
“I’m just waiting now to see if I have a draw between now and June,” he says. “We’ll have to see. Hopefully, a new member will take up the charge (after I retire) and see what can be done.”
David Rawnsley, founder of Citizens Against Roadside Spraying, was one person who brought the issue of weed-spraying to Brownell.
“David has done an awful lot of work on this,” says Brownell. “He’s done a lot of good work in this regard.”
Rawnsley is hoping the results from this bill will be “good.”
“‘This (issue Brownell) said, was a no brainer,'” recalls Rawnsley. “I remember his words vividly. If we can get those loopholes closed down, or the counties could see that they are just playing with loopholes…then, hopefully, sense will prevail and we’ll stop using this stuff.”
Rawnsley says the province intended to halt usage of chemicals under the Pesticide Act.
“We know that there are other ways,” he says. “The counties have just got to deal with the fact.”
Rawnsley says he has been battling this issue since 2007.
“My joke is that poisonous parsnip must be an intelligent weed, because it only travels on county roads,” he says. “I hope (this story) will shock the new councillors into saying ‘whatever is it that we’re doing?’ We are one of the few organizations doing this anywhere, and we’re doing it through some backdoor that Jim Brownell wants to try and close off. We wouldn’t need to close it off it someone wasn’t trying to go through it.”
Brownell says he did not consult with the counties on this issue.
Back at the end of December, preliminary data from a year-long study which strove to determine if the counties’ chemical treatment program was effective at reducing and or el iminat ing undesirable weeds suggested the counties develop a sophisticated and more effective weed control program.
Counties engineer Ben de Haan says the counties is still examining its program.
“Once we get the final report, we will certainly be taking a closer look at it,” he says. “We’ll adjust it as we see fit.”
de Haan says he couldn’t comment specifically on Brownell’s bill because he didn’t have further details, but he did say that generally, he would caution against a blanket, no-spray bill.
“Generally speaking, certainly, there is still a rationale behind spraying at a certain threshold,” he says. “The study indicated there was effective reduction at a certain threshold.”