The Liberal government has let down B.C.’s municipalities, children and families who wanted stronger measures dealing with pesticide use, the NDP’s environment critic charged Friday.
Rob Fleming joined local candidates Tom Friedman and Kathy Kendall in Riverside Park Friday to criticize the Liberals’ recently introduced legislation that would allow people with training or licences to continue to apply cosmetic pesticides.
On Thursday, the NDP introduced, for the fifth time, its own proposed legislation involving a provincewide ban on the sale of cosmetic pesticides.
“These pesticides put our kids, our pets, our human health at risk,” Fleming said.
Six other provinces — soon to be seven — have banned cosmetic pesticides altogether. They aren’t sold in stores, which makes it easier to police their use, he said.
Fleming said B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake’s bill doesn’t restrict retail sales of cosmetic pesticides. But those buying them are supposed to hire someone who is licensed to apply them.
When Lake was mayor of Kamloops in 2008, he sought council’s support to write then-premier Gordon Campbell asking for a B.C.-wide cosmetic pesticide ban.
At the time he said: "I think the writing's on the wall. Rather than us going to the work of creating a bylaw that may or may not achieve our objective, I'm going to ask council to encourage the province to go with a provincewide ban.”
But the City brought in a bylaw restricting pesticide use anyway, at the urging of some citizens like Judy Wigmore. The mother of a girl who had multiple chemical allergies, she addressed council at the time.
On Friday, Wigmore stood alongside the NDP members in Riverside Park.
The webmaster for Pesticide Free B.C. said the suspected cause of her daughter’s allergies was exposure to pesticides when she was young.
Her daughter is now studying to be a doctor but needs to be careful of her allergies because they can be fatal.
“I’ve never been political, but this is something the Liberals have backed away on,” she said.
Lake said Friday the Liberals’ proposed legislation came out of a bipartisan committee that recommended more education and some restrictions on pesticide access.
It will still reduce pesticide use and put it only in the hands of those who know how much to use, he said.
“These are legal products that have been through a thorough licensing and testing system. There are lots of people who want to be able to access these products — I’m advocating through a trained professional,” said Lake.
“It’s certainly not unanimous that everyone wants to see them banned.”
Fleming challenged Lake’s comments about the committee, saying he was on the Liberal-dominated committee led by MP Bill Bennett, who openly did not favour a ban.
What the Liberals have come up with is a half-measure to what was promised by the premier, he added.
“Christy Clark talked personally about protecting her son and other kids from pesticides,” he said.
“She’s broken her word. This is disappointing.”
B.C.’s municipalities wanted leadership from Victoria on banning pesticides and instead they got a useless law, Fleming said.
“This is not a left-right issue.” Governments in other provinces that have put in bans have been from all sides of the political spectrum.
Lake didn’t know if it would get passed before the spring election.