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Summerside city council moving in right direction on pesticide issue

Well, it’s about time. It’s taken them since they were first elected in 2014, but Summerside city councillors on Monday finally passed first reading of the community’s new Cosmetic Pesticides and Integrated Pest Management Bylaw.

To be clear, they passed first reading. It must go through one more reading before becoming law (or in this case bylaw).

Monday represented the first time the wording of the new bylaw was presented in a public forum.

If we may borrow from local anti-pesticide campaigner Karl Hengst, “Cosmetic pesticides are by definition not needed to protect human health or grow food, and therefore are unnecessary.” It was true when Mr. Hengst said it to council in 2015 and it is no less true today.

Mayor Bill Martin who, coincidentally, made the introduction of a cosmetic pesticide ban one of his mayoral campaign priorities, said Monday he was pleased with how the document turned out. He added, however, it’s not likely to please everyone.

Said Martin: “We’ve got a made-in-Summerside … policy that not everybody is going to be happy with.”

The new proposed bylaw states that no person shall apply a non-domestic (meaning commercial, agricultural, etc.) or restricted pesticide for the purpose of maintaining outdoor trees, shrubs, flowers or other ornamental plants on private or city owned land. There are, however, a number of exceptions due to extreme circumstances such as infestations, controlling invasive or exotic species or to prevent negative impacts on human or animal health.

The bylaw also lays out a list of active ingredients in allowable pesticides.

Anyone who breaks the bylaw, upon conviction, is liable to pay a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, plus the costs of prosecution, or up to a maximum of six months in jail, or both.

It’s good to see the city is attaching fines for violators that are actually large enough to act as a deterrent.

As we’ve noted in this space previously, this is not a question of feeding the hungry or providing reasonably priced food to the world. That debate remains significantly more complex. This is a question of having a pretty lawn and we must ask ourselves just how important that is? Is it worth the risk while the ‘experts’ debate the good and bad of pesticides? We don’t think so.

Wanting a beautiful lawn is not a crime. Like many things in life, however, sometimes you have to work hard to achieve what you want. Taking the easy way out - in this case spraying chemicals instead of weeding, watering and fertilizing over a longer period of time - is not acceptable.

So this week Summerside councillors took a first step to correcting their wrong of 2015, when they delayed a final decision on pesticides.

Here’s hoping we get this thing passed before the 2017 spraying season begins.

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