Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers


Toronto Star
23 May 2003

Toronto bars cosmetic pesticide use
Ban enrages lawn care operators

Warnings but no charges until 2006

by Bruce Demara and Paul Moloney

Toronto homeowners will have to find alternatives to chemical weed killers to keep dandelions at bay and lawns green after city council adopted a bylaw to restrict the use of pesticides on private property.

The bylaw, which comes into effect next April, will focus on public education to discourage pesticide use before enforcement begins in September, 2005. Even then, property owners using pesticides for non-essential or cosmetic purposes will only face warnings until 2006, when $250 fines kick in.

City council adopted the bylaw by a surprisingly wide margin — 26 to 16 — after almost two days of debate which saw an urban-suburban split.

Throughout the debate, politicians were under the watchful eye of lawn and garden care industry operators who had very reluctantly signed onto a "compromise" deal, which included delaying enforcement and having a special committee deliberate on contentious issues such as a definition of "infestations," in which restricted pesticides could be used, and whether golf courses should be included.

"I'm in celebration mode and I think the residents of the City of Toronto should be proud. We are now in the forefront of pesticide legislation in Ontario and indeed in Canada," said Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul's), chair of the board of health, which first championed the bylaw.

Councillor Jane Pitfield (Ward 26, Don Valley West) called the decision "almost miraculous."

"This is going to have huge repercussions for the whole (pesticide) industry. This is the largest city in Canada to do this. A lot of other municipalities are watching us. It's going to have a domino effect across North America," Pitfield said.

But the council chamber exploded into shouts of anger and recrimination during the voting process after city council approved the addition of a member of the organic gardening industry to a 11-member pesticide implementation advisory committee that will spend the next year ironing out the contentious parts of the bylaw.

Security guards removed several lawn operators amid cries of "fascist" and "it's a screw job."

City council hastily beat a retreat, re-opened the item and reversed their decision.

Katrina Miller, spokesperson for the Toronto Environmental Alliance, called the council decision "a big win."

"We had the (lawn care) industry lobby coming at us with everything and the kitchen sink. We feel ... that city council has supported a bylaw that's going to protect children's health, protect the environment and it's going to allow people to have beautiful lawns," Miller said.

But Lorraine Van Haastrecht, spokesperson for the Toronto Environmental Coalition, which represents a group of lawn care operators, said she felt "very angry, very disappointed and actually violated."

Despite reaching a compromise on the bylaw, Van Haastrecht said her colleagues did not get equal representation on the pesticide advisory committee, which will deliberate on the critical issue of "infestation" — the level beyond which pesticides can be used.

"How can you trust these people? For 26 months, they've been lying to me. I don't trust them at all," she said.

In fact, lawn care and landscaping representatives have four positions on the committee, compared to two environmental representatives.

Councillor Rob Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) called the bylaw "the worst thing that could happen."

"This whole city is going to be weeds, mice, rodents. It's already dirty as it is. We have to clean it up.

"We're losing our rights in this city. You can't do anything and it's your property. That's dictatorship," Ford said.

"Flawed bylaw, flawed process — end result is that homeowners will have their properties looking just like most of the public properties I saw ... infested with weeds and dandelions," said Lorne Hepworth, president of CropLife Canada — which represents pesticide manufacturers.





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