Letter: Are politicians working for us or for major corporations?

Sometimes you really have to wonder

To the Expositor:

Both The Expositor and Recorder have been most diligent in reporting the efforts of a number of concerned citizens to promote restrictions in the use of pesticides on Manitoulin Island.

Whenever we have asked people—residents and visitors—to sign petitions, the common response is, ‘certainly, we want this place to be as close to pristine as possible.’

When those petitions have been carried to Queen’s Park by Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha to be presented to the current environment minister (their faces change like a revolving door), all we get back are polite letters of acknowledgement, and a little sidestep—licencing of these products rests with Health Canada.

While patiently planning for the longer term, in the short term we are trying to ensure our successes to date are not wiped out. For example, when we asked several municipalities to tell Hydro One that they did not want the utility spraying Garlon in its rights of way in their jurisdiction, at least one municipality (Billings) limited this decision only to the term of the then sitting mayor and council. We would like any new councils to continue with this “ban.” We hope to approach Manitoulin Municipal Association with such a request, but recognize that MMA does not have a legal authority to impose such position on individual municipalities, but we also know that a recommendation from MMA carries a good deal of weight with Manitoulin’s municipalities.

Ontario’s Pesticide Act allows for four groups to be excepted from its broad thrust banning pesticide use. One is utilities, discussed above. Another is hardware stores, which were given dispensation to run down their stocks over a four-year period, supposedly ending in 2013, but you can still go into hardware stores on the Island and, after whispering the magic phrase ‘I am not a contractor’ be sold Roundup—the most notorious of the pesticides that resulted in major changes to the Pesticides Act in 2009. Golf courses were the third group given an exception for four years from 2009 to make changes to their practices. Do our golf courses on the Island use pesticides? Currently, I don’t know, but I’d like to find out. The last group excepted is agriculture. If you see a farmer dressed in a white hazard suit with a sealed helmet, you can be sure of one thing—he’s mixing some noxious brew, probably a pesticide, and knows how hazardous these products are. The old panacea answer from the manufacturers has always been, ‘yes, it is potent but it breaks down to benign components within hours.’ Well, more and more scientific studies are demonstrating that these products do not break down as advertised, and residue is turning up in fruit, vegetables, even processed food like your breakfast cereals. And people who have been poisoned by these products, resulting in cancers etc. are going to court and winning their cases resulting in huge penalties being awarded against the manufacturers. Meanwhile, even before he got comfortable with his role, Environment Minister Rod Phillips was moved to another chair around Doug Ford’s Cabinet table, and a brand-new minister with no appropriate background has backfilled. Sometimes I have to wonder, are these politicians actually working for us, or for major corporations?

Paul Darlaston