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Council backs off on pesticides

City council unanimously voted down a pesticide control bylaw that Mayor Walter Jakeway warned the city wouldn’t be able to enforce.

City staff recommended council pass a bylaw that would regulate the use of pesticides on outdoor trees, shrubs, flowers, ornamental plants and turf.

Staff were eyeing an implementation date of January 1, 2013 to allow time to notify the public and local businesses.

However, staff acknowledged in a report to council that the city already has an Integrated Pest Management Plan – which encourages top dressing, over seeding, and fertilizing as alternatives to pesticides – that it doesn’t have the resources to follow.

“Budget reductions to the parks department in the last few years have severely reduced the capacity for a proactive IPM (Integrated Pest Management Plan) approach to maintenance of our sport fields and green spaces,” said Amber Zirnhelt, city sustainability manager. “The budget reductions have increased the need for pesticide applications to control weed infestations.”

That was a red flag for Jakeway.

“I don’t believe in trying to enforce a bylaw that we can’t enforce,” he said at last week’s council meeting.

“I don’t think we have the capacity. I don’t believe in bringing in bylaws that we just don’t have a chance of enforcing.

“Why would we try? It’s a provincial thing in my view. I don’t know why we would do this.”

Coun. Claire Moglove agreed.

“Right now the city already has a policy which we can’t implement because we don’t have the resources. To put it into a bylaw almost gives it more teeth, but we don’t have the funding to implement it and we don’t have the resources to enforce the bylaw,” she said.

Zirnhelt said the pest management plan needs a budget of $107,000 in order to re-establish proper sports field maintenance. Zirnhelt said by adopting a pesticide bylaw, the city could have the option of abandoning the more expensive, less lenient pest management plan.

“The proposed pesticide bylaw is flexible enough to allow the city to apply pesticides as necessary to control serious turf pest outbreaks and to reduce maintenance costs,” she said.

Moglove said that didn’t seem fair and she couldn’t support the bylaw.

“If I read the proposed bylaw correctly, it basically gives the city an out,” she said. “It gives a fair bit of latitude to the city to use pesticides, but it doesn’t give the same latitude to the public.”

Coun. Mary Storry said she felt “uncomfortable insisting on compliance from the community when we may not be able to have the full compliance ourselves.”

Coun. Ron Kerr, who worked in the lawn and garden industry for 30 years, said the city does not need a pesticide bylaw.

“I believe that pesticides have an important role and when applied properly and effectively, they’re safe,” he said. “I think an outright ban is not the answer.”

Storry said she would be open to having the bylaw come back before council once budget issues have been settled.

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