Monday, May 12, 2008

Brave New World

On April 22nd - Earth Day - the McGuinty government made good on its promise to enact a provincial ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides. When Bill 64 is passed, Ontario will become the second province in Canada to have such sweeping legislation. Quebec has already taken this brave step forward.

Learning from the lessons already learned in Quebec, the Ontario Bill has vastly extended the list of targeted chemicals, making it one of the toughest pieces of legislation in North America. And unlike municipal by-laws, which can only limit the use of pesticides, Bill 64 will also restrict their sale. The move will replace a variety of by-laws already in communities across Ontario where the cosmetic use of pesticides is banned.

The government intends to move quickly on the Bill, and the ban will likely take effect as early as next spring.

Critics have already taken pains to point out the legislation doesn't go far enough because it exempts agriculture, forestry and golf courses. It's important to note that this was never the intent of the legislation. It targets cosmetic use only. It's expected that legislation will be forthcoming specific to golf courses.

Other applications, such as agricultural and pest management are already carefully controlled. Given the mounting pressure to minimize the public's exposure to these chemicals, these applications will also face increasing scrutiny and further controls.

This is a very big step for Ontario and one that should not go unrecognized. It is also a rare and encouraging example of a government that has actually listened to what its voters want. 44 percent of Ontarians currently live in communities that have enacted pesticide bans.

"Many municipalities have already shown leadership in banning or restricting cosmetic use pesticides. We're extending that protection to all families wherever they live," said Environment Minister John Gerretsen.

"Our generation is becoming more and more aware of the potential risks in our environment, not only to our health, but to our children’s health. That's why we're taking action on behalf of the next generation of Ontarians, and reducing their exposure to chemicals," said Premier McGuinty.

It's important that everyone who has fought so hard and so long for this major shift in public policy take a moment to let the government know that it's moving in the right direction. The Bill was posted on Ontario's Environmental Registry for a 30-day public comment period commencing on April 22nd. Anyone can - and should - take the time to make their voice heard on this very important piece of legislation.


On a related note, public health and safety is the focus of Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada, which is being held May 4 to 10. As climate change continues to make extraordinary weather events the new normal, flooding, prolonged power outages as well as water and food shortages will also become the norm. Add to this list the potential for man-made environmental disasters such as nuclear accidents, chemical releases and acts of terrorism. Don’t forget to add health emergencies like infectious disease outbreaks that are also predicted to increase.

As one public official warned, "It's not a question of if, but when."

Emergency Preparedness Week encourages Canadians to be ready to cope on their own for at least 72 hours in the event of a disaster.

Everyone is encouraged to follow three simple steps:

* Find out what your risks are in the event of an emergency.
* Make a plan and review it with your family.
* Organize an emergency kit that will provide you with the basic necessities of life.

If all this seems like a daunting task, Public Safety Canada has a great Get Prepared website that can walk you through all three steps. It also offers a tremendous number of resources and guides - everything from "What to do" brochures to Natural Hazards poster map.

You should also take the time to investigate local emergency preparedness plans. All local governments are now required to have plans in place to assist residents at the community level. For more information, contact your local fire department.


Go to the Environmental Registry and make your comments known on Bill 64. The EBR Registry Number for Bill 64 is 010-3348.

For more information about preparing for an emergency, or for a list of kit items, visit or phone 1-800-O-CANADA.

Emergency Management Ontario’s new website was launched on May 2, 2008 just in time for Emergency Preparedness Week.


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