LETTERS: Limiting pesticide use on Manitoulin

The frustrations of following political process

Dear Editor:

Over the last two years, concerned citizens across the Island have been working to highlight the dangers of pesticide use (mainly by licenced sprayers) working for utilities like Hydro One, Bell etc. and contractors to the Ministry of Transportation (MTO).

The Manitoulin public has been most supportive on petitions to date but real positive action from authorities has been less than we had hoped. Part of that was that there have been four environment ministers, and the current one, Rod Phillips, has a radically different mandate from the Ford government. True, Hydro One changed its schedule and decided to go spray elsewhere where public opposition was less, but nothing legally has changed. They could come back anytime.

A group of us met with Michael Mantha, Algoma-Manitoulin MPP last week to figure out next steps and for any advice Mr. Mantha could give us. It has been an uphill struggle. Following established political process (delegations to individual municipalities, paper petitions to Queen’s Park in this day and age when even the Feds use online petitions) hindered the process. Existing legislation has largely taken responsibility away from municipalities (Cosmetics Pesticides Act) so at best they can only give us moral support.

We don’t know if or when any of the utilities will be coming back in 2019 to the Island to spray. They only need to post public notices two weeks ahead. Now Hydro One is partially privately owned, they seem less cooperative in providing information. Our big argument with all of them is that for vegetation management, they don’t need to spray pesticides as they have mechanical equipment to cut down growth along rights of way. It is our understanding they are not permitted to spray on First Nations land, so why are we having to go to each municipality in turn to obtain such a decision?

Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) apparently does not have formal Island-wide authority. We have to go municipality by municipality. We know the public is behind this initiative: we have collected more than 1,000 signatures. We know from chats with petition signers that they have witnessed many breaches of prescribed spraying procedures. If enough formal complaints were filed we would get attention. We hope this summer this will be one action concerned citizens can take. 

Other jurisdictions like the European Union (EU) are already well on the way to banning pesticides like neonicotinoids suspected of killing bees. Triclopyr, the active ingredient in Garlon, used by Hydro One, is under review in the EU as well as by Health Canada. Mr. Mantha hopes to bring all of these matters to the attention of the minister. We will continue informing concerned citizens of Manitoulin what is happening, organizing petitions when appropriate, keeping local media up to date of progress as it unfolds. In the meanwhile, thank you again Manitoulin for your support.

Paul Darlaston, Kagawong

Petra Wall, Square Bay

Zachary Nicholls, Little Current

George Kopylov, Tehkummah