Daily News Archive
From October 17, 2006                                                                                                        

Ottawa Grappling with Lawn Pesticide Ban
(Beyond Pesticides, October 17, 2006)
The cosmetic use of pesticides is an issue that will likely be decisive in the upcoming November 13 municipal elections of Ottawa, Ontario. The city has not historically been able to reach an agreement about unnecessary pesticide use despite the fact that 122 communities across Canada, including the entire province of Quebec, have chosen to restrict cosmetic use of pesticides.

After a second motion to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides failed last autumn, Ottawa’s incumbent mayor, Bob Chiarelli, pledged to challenge councilors on the controversial proposal and make it an election issue. If Mr. Chiarelli or mayoral candidate Alex Munter are elected, the ban is expected to pass, but if challenger Larry O'Brien is elected, the outcome is uncertain.

Despite a call for a ban on the use of pesticides for lawns and gardens by the Canadian Cancer Society, due to the rise in cancer rates and evidence linking pesticides with cancer, Mr. O’Brien is taking the stance of Croplife Canada (reported in Daily News, April 14, 2006), claiming the evidence still does not paint a direct link between pesticides and health hazards.

Peter MacLeod, the executive director of CropLife Canada, a trade association that represents pesticide companies, rejects the cancer society's argument. According to Mr. MacLeod, "I think that their explanation is very simplistic and misleading." Mr. MacLeod continued by saying no pesticide used in Canada is known to cause cancer, and that he believes towns and cities should steer clear of regulation. Although the call for the ban is coming from the Canadian Cancer Society, Mr. MacLeod said, "We just feel that municipalities by and large do not have the scientific capacity to make that choice, whether a product should be used or not. We should leave that to Health Canada."

Ottawa was very close to passing a ban last year, but got mired in the implementation details. According to the Ottawa Citizen, a first motion before council in October 2005 ended in a tie vote, 10-10, and a motion two weeks later was defeated 12-9 when councilors could not agree to hold a plebiscite before instituting a full ban due to a debate about what constituted an infestation. Councilors were willing to put exemptions on the ban should weeds cover a certain percentage of a resident's lawn, but couldn't agree on the percentage.

"Two-thirds of city councilors agreed there should be a bylaw. All the polling showed that residents believed there should be a bylaw. Even the lawn-care companies agreed there should be a bylaw," said Mr. Munter, who was the chairman of the city's health committee when the pesticide debate first hit city hall in 2002. "So, we had this consensus around a bylaw last fall that then broke down around the details . . . My point is, we shouldn't be talking about this. This issue should be crossed off the to-do list, and it's not." He summarized, "This is a health and safety issue. This is about the protection of our soil, our water, our sewers, the health of our kids and of all people."

According to the Coalition for a Healthy Ottawa, an additional nine pesticide by-laws are at the draft stage in Canada pending adoption.

TAKE ACTION: Why can’t the U.S. do what Canada is doing? Learn about State Preemption Laws and how, due to industry lobbying, all but nine states in the U.S. ban their local municipalities from passing pesticide ordinances that are more protective of public health than state laws. See our Tools for Change for model U.S. local policies and information on organizing your community for change.