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Ontario Pesticide Ban - Two Years Later

Ontario’s pesticide ban of two years is now starting to annoy a growing number of residents who are just a bit tired of seeing every green space now a field of dandelions!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale

email: art@artdrysdale.com

Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at http://www.artdrysdale.com


June 10, 2012



Above, A dandelion-infested lawn in Toronto; and a lawn infested with the dandelions in full bloom. Below, a typical dandelion-infested lawn with the flowers all gone to seed; and a ‘beautiful’ ragweed plant fully ready to release its seeds and cause major problems for hay-fever sufferers—another weed easily controlled with products such as 2,4-D. Author photos.



On May 31st, a private members bill introduced by MPP Ted Chudleigh, member for Halton in Ontario, was defeated by a combination of members of the Liberal and NDP caucuses.

Ted Chudleigh’s bill was designed to amend the Pesticides Act which came into effect on April 22nd 2009. On May 9th 2012 Mr. Chudleigh moved first reading his Bill 88, An Act to amend the Pesticides Act to provide for the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes with a licence. It passed first reading.

Then the Liberals and NDP members ganged up to defeat the bill on its second reading on May 31st.

However, the amending bill had a great deal of value, for among other things, it brought together the great swell of the public who apparently now think the original 2009 bill has gone a way too far.

According to Mr. Chudleigh, in the House on May 9th, “basically, this bill allows a professional applicator to apply approved pesticides to control weeds or pests on your lawn or garden.”

Note it only included application by professional applicators and did not include application of such chemicals by homeowners/gardeners themselves! Had I been introducing a private members bill on this topic I would have included application of these chemicals by homeowners as well as by professional applicators. I personally believe, based on my observation of the entire pesticide application scene in both Canada and the USA for the past 40+ years, that caring homeowners can do at least as good a job of applying the needed pesticides as can professional applicators. But, that is a discussion for yet another time!

Further, according to Ted Chudleigh: “There are serious flaws with the Liberal ban on pesticide use. Instead of ensuring pesticides are properly applied, the ban risks creating an unmonitored black market which is a greater threat to our environment and health because of the unprofessional and improper application of pesticides. [See Doug Moulton’s letter in my column here just last week for just one indication of the trafficking of Pesticides across the US border!] The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada undertakes rigorous testing before approving a pesticide for use in Canada. The system I am proposing accepts the science be-hind these tests, and uses the existing licencing framework under the Pesticides Act to ensure that pesticides are applied properly and are not a threat to our health or environment.”

Turning specifically to the situation in the City of Toronto, grassy spaces have a scruffy and neglected look. Legions of dandelion stalks are topped by puffs of white seed. Parks are so crowded with weeds that the grass will never grow fast enough to become dominant again. Public spaces are quite literally going to seed. The grass is losing. The lawns in some parks are literally destroyed. The turf in many parks is unsalvageable. There has been a marked increase in weeds, especially dandelions, on both public and private properties. They are mowing only weeds. Anti-pesticide prohibition destroyed Toronto’s public and residential green spaces by turning them into garbage dumps.

Instead of spraying with pesticides, the city now cuts the grass more often: every five business days on average instead of every seven to 10. [This cultural practice will NOT control weeds.]

The aim is to “dead head” the weeds before they start spreading their seeds [although if the state of David Balfour Park, where a friend walked recently] is any indication, the mowers often come too late. The city has also raised its mower blades to increase the cutting height to three inches. [This cultural practice will NOT control weeds.] That is supposed to ease the stress on the grass and help it fight back against invading weeds. [This cultural practice will NOT control weeds.]

Lawn-care experts say it is not working.

Kyle Tobin of LawnSavers Plant Health Care says that after a wet spring and dry summer last year … “this is the worst season I’ve ever seen for grubs and weeds, and I’ve been in the business 22 years”.

Home-owners can control weeds with a concerted program of fertilizing, over-seeding and aerating the grass say the enviromaniacs [wrong!], but, with 1,500 parks and 4,300 hectares of maintained turf to tend, the city doesn’t have the money for anything that ambitious, except on some experimental patches.

So, the weeds are moving in-not just the almighty dandelion, but thistle, plantain, clover, black medic, spurge, knotweed and crabgrass, without even mentioning the poison ivy and toxic giant hogweed you find in Toronto ravines. The grass is losing! Already, says Mr. Tobin, the turf in many parks is unsalvageable-so crowded with weeds that the grass will never grow fast enough to become dominant again. The lawns in some parks are “literally destroyed,” he says. “They are mowing weeds.”

Many Anti-Pesticide Environmaniacs would say … “Fine, a few dandelions are a small price to pay for the health of children who play in the parks and roll on the lawns. [Wrong!]

The problem is that there is no proof that the banned weed control products harm anyone’s health. In a review of the latest scientific evidence in 2008, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency determined that the most popular weed control product, 2,4-D, “meets Canada's strict health and safety standards, and as such can continue to be sold and used in Canada.”

Only last week, a special committee of British Columbia legislators concluded that there was no reason to question Health Canada’s judgment and impose an anti-pesticide prohibition like Ontario.

According to British Columbia’s Special Committee On Cosmetic Pesticides, in an exhaustive 118-page report: “The committee concluded that despite the intensity of arguments in favour of a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides and a general misunderstanding of the risks associated with chemicals, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support a province-wide ban on pesticides for cosmetic use.”

If you live in Ontario, do by all means contact your provincial politicians, as well as all local municipal politicians, and let them know that you want the right to use pesticides on your own property back!    

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