City staff recommend a pesticide-free future

By David F. Rooney

Revelstoke City staff are recommending that Council enact a bylaw that will make the community free of almost all cosmetic pesticides on public and private lands.

In a memo to Council that will be dealt with in its Committee of the Whole meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Public Works Director Brian Mallett said that “if the City decides to proceed with this bylaw and have it in place before the spring of 2011, then the Council will need to direct staff to:

“1. Complete a final administrative and legal review of the draft bylaw;

“2. Present the final bylaw to Council for adoption;

“3. Develop a communications/public education plan as per the report; and

“4. Implement the communications/public education plan in time for the 2011 growing season.

“At present the above items with the exception of the implementation of the communication plan, can easily be completed before the end of 2010.”

If the City agrees to this, it will be good news for organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment that believe governments should err on the side of caution and lessen the level of toxins in our towns and cities.

It will definitely not please organizations that are trying to stop municipalities from enacting such bylaws.

As reported in The Current, some go so far as to threaten dire and unspecified legal actions against individuals and Councils that ban cosmetic pesticides.

This bylaw is not a done deal. City Councillors need to know what you think about cosmetic pesticides. And, Revelstoke residents need to know why they are dangerous. Towards that end the Canadianncer Society, the North Columbia Environmental Society and The Current are sponsoring a presentation of the award-winning film, A Chemical Reaction, at the Community Centre at 7 p.m. tonight Jerilynn Maki of the Canadian Cancer Society will be on hand to say a few words and answer questions. She has also been invited to speak before Council.

It should be noted that City staff are not recommending a complete ban. While the golf course does not use cosmetic pesticides such as products containing 2,4-D, it does use fungicides from time to time. Mallett said the staff report advocates allowing the golf course to continue using fungicides.

As Council prepares to consider the proposed ban, Mayor David Raven and Councillors Phil Welock, Peter Frew and Antoinette Halberstadt attended a screening of the award-winning American documentary A Chemical Reaction, which examines the case of Hudson, Que. That small town in western Quebec defied convention and the power of the chemical industry by banning the public and private use of synthetic chemical pesticides for cosmetic purposes. The town was sued and the case went up through the Quebec judiciary, winning at every level. It eventually reached the Supreme Court of Canada which unanimously declared that municipalities have the right to ban such toxins using the precautionary principle.

Basically that principle means you are better off safe than sorry.

Now it’s Revelstoke’s turn to decide what to do?

Do we want to be safe? Or sorry?