Central Manitoulin against Hydro One Garlon use

CENTRAL MANITOULIN—A notice of motion expressing the municipality’s opposition to the use of Garlon RTU and similar herbicides was brought forward to the council table in Central Manitoulin by outgoing Councillor Alex Baran after the motion failed to gain enough support at the committee level to be recommended to council.

Councillor Baran read out the preambles and body of the motion before offering his comments.

“It came from a delegation on the issue to whom we recommended a petition process,” said Councillor Baran. “After culling through the names on the petition I recognized 174 as local,” he continued. “Since then I have realized that there were a couple more.”

Councillor Baran admitted that a presentation to council made by Hydro One last spring had left a positive impression that the use of Garlon RTU was efficient and safe, so he decided to do independent research on the material.

“I went to the company site and read the label,” he said, noting that the warnings included admonitions to wear gloves when handling. This prompted him to look further into the material. “Most democratic countries have placed bans on this stuff,” he said.

The motion was moved by Councillor Baran and seconded by Councillor Derek Stephens.

“Whereas Garlon RTU has been cited by its manufacturer, Dow Chemical, as toxic to fish and birds; and whereas Garlon RTU has failed OECD and EEC tests for ready biodegradability; and whereas 174 local residents of this municipality have signed a petition requesting the municipality to adopt a position opposing the use of Garlon RTU; be it resolved that the municipality declares its opposition to the use of Garlon RTU and other variants and similar herbicides in vegetation management on Hydro One rights of way within this municipality.”

In the ensuing debate on the motion, Councillor Ted Taylor raised concerns on the impact the motion might have on the ferry operations and the work being done to control phragmites in Providence Bay.

Councillor Patricia MacDonald noted that the herbicide is toxic to fish and expressed concerns that the length of time that it takes for the substance to break down could post a hazard to children playing in the area. She cited a report by biologist Judith Jones as informing her position, but she also noted her concern about the use of the phrase “and other variants and similar herbicides” and what impact that might have on farmers.

“I don’t think I am prepared to vote on this,” said Councillor Linda Farquhar. “I would like to look at the names because we do have farmers in our area who use Round-Up and Calisto with sweet corn. If you didn’t put it in your corn fields you would have nothing but a field of weeds to harvest.”

Councillor Derek Stephens pointed out that the motion has no effect on farmers and their use of chemicals, but is simply an expression of the municipality’s opposition to Hydro One utilizing the chemical on its right of ways. “Farmers would still be free to use whatever they want to on their property,” he said. “This has no effect on them, we are only expressing our opposition to Hydro One using it on their right of ways.” Councillor Baran also pointed out that the motion in no way interferes with farming practices or the use of herbicides on properties other than Hydro One.

Mayor Richard Stephens noted his own reservations, pointing out that the trees on his property grow up to the power lines with alarming speed and frequency.

Councillor Stephens pointed out that Hydro One does have other options to using chemicals. “We have a brushing machine that clears the undergrowth from our own roadsides,” he said. “They have a forestry division that does that in other places.”

Councillor Baran added that the motion will add to the body of public discourse and expression of public opinion on the use of chemical control of vegetation along Hydro One right of ways.

Councillor Taylor called for a recorded vote on the motion.

Councillors Scott, Baran, MacDonald and Stephens voted in favour of the motion, while Councillors Taylor and Farquhar, as well as Mayor Stephens’ votes were recorded in opposition. (Note that abstentions in a recorded vote are indicated as nays. Only Councillor Taylor voted outright in opposition.) The motion passed four to three.