An Edmonton city bylaw committee is considering introducing a city-wide ban on the use of pesticides.
February 26, 2011 – 10:15 am
One could call him the Great Lawn Defender, a man so passionate about keeping a pest-free lawn that he sprays the park across from his house with pesticide on his own dime. This week, David Montgomery presented his lawn-love manifesto to an Edmonton city bylaw committee mulling a city-wide pesticide ban. The turf-grass consultant (and licensed pesticide applicator) spoke with the Post’s Sarah Boesveld from his home in Edmonton.
Q You’ve cast yourself as a champion of the taxpayer who’d rather the government just step off their lawn. What was at the heart of your speech on Wednesday?
A I’ve been in and around the turf and landscape and golf industry since 1996, and I just see a genuine appreciation for landscapes and green spaces. I don’t think anybody has the right to push that aside for no gain. I’d be all for it — I have two little ones — if there was some iota of a health issue here. And I do have a scientific background (a degree in physiology from the University of Western Ontario).
Q You asked the committee, “Since when is it a criminal offence to take pride in your property?”. Do you feel a pesticide ban would infringe upon your rights as a landowner?
A Yes … If it’s a legal product that I can buy, and it’s been proven safe, what authority does a specific body have to say, “No, you can’t”? Where does the expertise lie? It’s the worst kind of vote-pandering there is. It’s going to a vocal minority as opposed to the normal taxpayer, everyday person who works 8½ hours, gets home from work, cuts the lawn, gets rid of a few dandelions — spritz here, spritz there, it’s all done. You got mites in the tomatoes? You can go treat them. Trees can be treated to protect from emerald ash borer. These people would rather lose those trees, lose those tomatoes and have an ugly lawn, I guess.
Q What about their assertions that pesticides are harmful to a person’s health. You don’t believe them?
A I’m a cancer survivor. I had testicular cancer eight years ago. Before the bylaw meeting, I went to my doctor and said, “Would you have ever mentioned that I stay away from pesticides?”. He said, “No, that would be pretty far down my list.” I’ve yet to see a study that says that, a peer-reviewed study. If these people have these studies, they should be handing them over to Health Canada. And they don’t seem to for some reason, and that raises my antennae a bit.
Q You did refer to “extremists” during your speech Wednesday. Who are they?
A It would be a very big victory for people who really just want us to wear hemp clothing, live in a commune, ride our bikes to work, use solar power. You’ve got to find the middle ground. And I consider myself an environmentalist, I’m [involved with] the Sierra Club.
Q There are no pesticide bans in Alberta. Why do you think that is?
A We’re very conservative. We don’t like being told what to do, especially when it doesn’t have any benefit. That, and our education system for commercial applicators is second to none.
Q And what about all the other provinces that have banned pesticides, such as Ontario and Quebec? They can’t all be wrong, can they?
A I don’t think it’s right to ban them anywhere. I think the bans passed because they got worked up into a lather and I guess the pushback wasn’t strong enough from industry, from the homeowner himself.
Q If this bylaw is indeed passed, would you be willing to break it to prove a point?
A I’ll call the news stations and say here you go, here’s what they’re going to put me in jail for. And I’ll show them exactly what’s entailed in treating my lawn. I’m not painting my lawn. I’ve done well. I can endure a bit of financial hardship to take on the city. But I guarantee you that I will win.