Letter: Ford environment minister ignores law of unintended consequence

Two Manitoulin asks ignored in proposed regulations

To the Expositor:

Regular readers of The Expositor and Recorder will be aware of a two year-long campaigns on Manitoulin to have the Minister of the Environment restrict use of pesticides for vegetation management along Rights of Way by Ontario utilities, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). We also asked the minister to restore to municipalities the authority to control spraying within their jurisdictions which was taken away in 2009. 

Campaigners followed regular procedures. We collected signatures on petitions (two petitions together gathered well over 1,000 signatures). Michael Mantha presented the petitions to the Ontario Legislature and the minister. We even got a letter of acknowledgement from the minister. 

In parallel, we had approached individual municipalities and, even though their authority had been taken away, they issued statements opposing this type of use of pesticides. We have also approached Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) but thus far, have not been scheduled on their agenda. All this brings us to the present day, when we discovered that the Ministry is proposing amendments to the Regulations administering the Pesticides Act. 

The ministry published the following: “Proposal summary – We are proposing amendments to O. Reg. 63/09: General made under the Pesticides Act to reduce complexity and modernize pesticide management in Ontario while ensuring protection of human health and the environment. This proposal is related to proposed amendments to the Pesticides Act. This consultation closes at 11:59 pm on: December 12, 2019.

We have only had a short time to review the proposed regulations, but so far, we have found nothing which addresses our two “asks.” In fact, quite the reverse. Here’s another extract: “Ontario believes these adjustments will reduce complexity and modernize pesticide management in Ontario, a system developed in 1990, while ensuring protection of human health and the environment. Ensuring continued environmental protection is a key part of our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan commitment to maintain a healthy environment” and “…As stated, Ontario remains committed to its cosmetic pesticides ban, including existing exceptions. Ontario believes this province-wide ban prevents a patchwork of varied municipal bans…After 10 years of experience with the cosmetic pesticide ban exemptions, a few existing requirements, such as the need for advertising in newspapers and hosting community meetings (which have had limited attendance) will be removed from some exempted uses, such as at golf courses. However, other public notification requirements will remain.”

In summary, this smacks of classic “reduction of red tape” dear to the hearts of the Mike Harris/Doug Ford ideology—and instantly makes one word come to mind—Walkerton! 

We will be submitting a response to the proposed regulatory changes. We hope other Islanders continue to support these efforts. We welcome input from folks who have experience with existing pesticides use. There is a group on Facebook Petition – To Change Ontario’s Pesticide Act where you can post your experiences. With the support of the editors, we plan to post our draft response here prior to December 12. 

Paul Darlaston