The pesticide issue and our failing democracy

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The present connection between politics and the chemical pesticide issue is reflected in the old saying; “You may not be interested in politics but politics is interested in you.” This statement reminds citizens that they cannot avoid the consequences of the present government’s willful blindness to the dangers of chemical pesticides.

The enormous amount of chemical pesticides that will be sprayed on Island fields over the next five to six months and the correlation to rising cancer rates and increasing health costs to treat such chronic diseases need to be addressed. Yet the response by successive provincial governments to the demands, protests and petitions by numerous community and environmental-health coalitions has been delaying tactics (e.g. another commission), green washing and half-hearted efforts at best.

The real answers to our pesticide problem are commonly known: a strong regulatory and enforcement system to significantly reduce and eliminate chemical pesticides in the short-term and a 10-12 year, government led and financed, organic agricultural conversion program.

The failure by our governments to act reflects the priority of short term profit and backroom power over Islander’s health. This failure calls into question the function and legitimacy of our present political system and its major players, the two main political parties. It also calls into question the role of citizens, every four years, as ballot markers in what some have called, “a faux democracy popularity contest”.

Major reforms to our democratic system and new political leadership are sorely needed if we, as a community, are to deal with both the pesticide issue and the broader issue of environmental degradation. Reforms such as proportional representation and community policy agendas that have real political power and impact are long overdue.

The soon-to-begin annual chemical pesticide season, with its lethal impact on Islanders health and wellbeing, is a reminder that politics is too important to be left up to just the politicial parties. The situation requires genuine citizen participation and power. Yet people cannot effectively participate in a political system which is archaic, top down and unresponsive to the critical health and economic needs of the vast majority of Islanders.

The time has come to significantly reform our democracy, open it up to meaningful public engagement and for we, as Island citizens, to finally take a degree of responsibility for our failing democracy. Our future and the future of our children and grandchildren depend upon this democratic renewal.

David MacKay,

Charlottetow, P.E.I.

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