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The Good Earth
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

April 20, 2003

The use of pesticides in a non-agricultural setting is a controversial topic. Recently, though, the disagreements have become more pronounced with the relative positions polarised. The venue has moved from gardening journals and trade magazines to the political and legal arenas. In this first column we'll take a look at two aspects of this issue. The first is a brief review of the pertinent pieces of federal and provincial legislation. and the second an even briefer look at some of the legislative responses in major municipalities across the country.

The federal government is concerned with the registration and approval of a pesticide while the provinces and territories are concerned with the sale and use of the product. It is interesting to note that municipalities are also recognised within this federal act, dependant upon enabling legislation within that municipality. The Pest Control Products Act, supplemented by the Pest Control Products Regulations, is the regulatory authority for the federal government and ministered by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency via the Ministry of Health.

In other words, the federal government focuses on the product itself to establish its scientific credentials. It is then up to the provinces and territories and the municipalities to govern the actual use of the product. Sanctioned products by a superior body do not mean lesser jurisdiction must use those products. They are free to accept or reject any or all of those products. They are not free to introduce their own.

The seminal case seems to have occurred in Hudson Quebec, a small town of 5,400 people just west of Montreal.

By-Law 270 was enacted in 1991 and was intended to restrict the use of pesticides within the municipality's boundaries. Two companies (known at that time as Chem-Lawn and Spraytech) were charged for violating this by-law in 1992. They plead not guilty, essentially arguing that the by-law was not within the town's mandate to enact or enforce. Their request to have the by-laws declared inoperative was struck down by the Superior Court in August 1998 and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the ruling on June 28, 2001. Subsequently , a number of municipalities across Canada have introduced or are developing related laws.

In Regina, Bill 388 "...calls for a moratorium on the cosmetic use of chemical pesticides in the home, garden and on recreational facilities such as parks and golf courses until evidence shows that such use is safe..."

In Vancouver, the use of pesticides is outlined within health by-laws. Basically, the city follows the regulations of the province and provides no other comments on restrictions or bans. However, The Board of Parks and Recreation adopted an IPM program in 1987 and no cosmetic pesticides are used. This is a matter of policy not law. As a result of the success of this program, the city is developing means of educating their residents. Ottawa and Toronto are studying the issue but nothing concrete has emerged in a legislative sense. It is important, especially in the case of Toronto, to note the wide scope of representation to the meetings.

The City of Halifax has taken the restrictions a step further than most other municipalities. They have compiled a list of the residential and municipal properties affected by this law within their jurisdiction. Along with a ban on pesticide applications an individual can register their property as a pesticide free zone with medical documentary backup. This zone extends 100 metres beyond the property line, thus imposing those restrictions upon their neighbour.

It is important to remember that the main point of the legal challenge was not the ban: rather, it was the determination of who had the authority to regulate the use of pest control products. As this ruling arose from Quebec we can expect other challenges to arise in different provinces.

However, the issue of jurisdiction is problematic. When all is settled, the stakeholders concerned will shift the focus of their lobbying efforts on whatever body is deemed responsible for creating pesticide legislation.

Note to readers: if you are interested in any of the facts or references mentioned please contact me.

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