Council’s environmental decisions mystify NCES President Sarah Newton

By David F. Rooney

This week’s City Council decisions to put off a cosmetic pesticide ban for six months and to put on hold a plan to hire an environmental sustainability consultant mystify North Columbia Environmental Society President Sarah Newton.

To her, the decisions look like political waffling. Council should, she believes, be forging ahead and showing real leadership.

“Council has a responsibility to protect Revelstoke’s citizens,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Newton said the decision to give staff six months to come up with a plan to ban the chemical poisons used to rid lawns of and gardens of weeds is especially galling.

“The Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment came and spoke to Council last year,” she said. “At the time Council was very receptive. They committed toi a ban of their own volition.”

The decision on Tuesday to give staff six months to, as Councillor Antoinette Halberstadt puts it “come up with a road map,” coupled with comments about the City needs to consult with School District 19 and other potential stakeholders leaves Newton wondering what they’re doing.

SD 19 already bans the use of chemical pesticides, which are shown to be linked to certain cancers, on its playing fields and playgrounds and national major retailers such as Rona and Home Hardware are already on the no-cosmetic-pesticides bandwagon or are going that way, she said.

“We all have a vision of what a lawn should look like and maybe that has to change,” she said.

As for Council’s decision to put off a decision on hiring a part-time environmental sustainability coordinator, Newton says he doesn’t make sense.

For starters the position was to be paid for using federal Gas Tax Fund money — not local residents’ property taxes.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Newton said. “Cities across the country are using the Gas Tax Fund to hire environmental coordinators.”

As for the work load that appeared to appal Councillors, it consisted only of “those commitments that Council has already made,” she said.

“There is nothing on there that the City hasn’t signed on for. If they’re only now realizing that they can;t honour all of those commitments then they should prioritize them.”

Council did vote to approve, in principle, the hiring of an environmental sustainability coordinator but it won’t make that decision until after it has dealt with the budget.