Letter: Hey government officials, show us islanders a little respect

Dear Editor:

“I don’t get no respect” – Rodney Dangerfield.

Over the last two years, a group of concerned Manitoulin residents have worked hard hoping to get both public and municipal and provincial government support for reduction (or elimination) of pesticide use by public utilities and provincial ministries on Manitoulin Island. 

We know we have public support based upon the hundreds of signatures people gave us for two petitions to the Ministry of the Environment. Our local MPP Michael Mantha carried these to Queen’s Park and presented them to the Minister of the Environment of the day (there have been four incumbents in the last two years!). Ministerial responses can best be described as perfunctory, so aside from Mike Mantha’s efforts, not much respect shown by the Ontario government!

Cockburn Island (just off the West End of Manitoulin) was in the news last week. Hydro One published a statutory notice announcing it was doing vegetation management on its rights of way on Cockburn, including spraying of an herbicide (triclopyr) after brush cutting. At least they had the political sensitivity to approach the main landowner on Cockburn, Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in the spring to inform NCC that they wanted to do this work. NCC asked them to hold off because it was bird nesting season. A wise call in hindsight because over the weekend, a scientific survey was published that found North America has lost three billion birds from the bird population since 1970. There are many causes speculated but certainly pesticide use is a major suspect. Remember what happened to peregrine falcons when DDT was in broad use a few decades ago? We are strongly opposed to standard operating practices by organizations like Hydro One where pesticides have been incorporated into them. It is becoming clear, worldwide, that overuse of such products is having a negative impact on the world in which we all live. We don’t think utilities and Ontario ministries are given us much respect, yet!

Support from individual Manitoulin councils to push back on this use has been a positive influence. As a group, we hope to meet with Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) in the near future to ask for support in the form of some Island-wide statement of position on pesticide use.

So why the Rodney Dangerfield reference? Over the weekend, news emerged that US Vice President Mike Pence visited Mackinac Island, just across the border from Cockburn and Manitoulin Islands and an island Manitoulin has a long association with. Mackinac is famous as a place where cars have been banned for a century, but this didn’t deter the vice-president. He ordered up an eight-vehicle motorcade and did a “drive” across the island. The move was described by one person as ‘sacrilege.’

I’m guessing Mackinac Islanders are feeling a little like Rodney Dangerfield this week! Let’s hope our upper tiers of government, and public utilities, show our concerns about pesticide use a little more respect!

Paul Darlaston