2012 Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 39th Parliament
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON COSMETIC PESTICIDES
MINUTES AND HANSARD
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON COSMETIC PESTICIDES
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Douglas Fir Committee Room
Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C.
Present: Bill Bennett, MLA (Chair); Rob Fleming, MLA (Deputy Chair); Murray Coell, MLA; Michael Sather, MLA; John Slater, MLA; John Yap, MLA
Unavoidably Absent: Scott Fraser, MLA; Ben Stewart, MLA
1. The Chair called the meeting to order at 10:08 a.m.
2. The following witnesses appeared before the Committee and answered questions:
Ministry of Agriculture
• Grant Thompson, Director, Policy and Industry Competitiveness Branch
• Linda Wilson, Manager, Plant Health Unit
• Madeline Waring, Pesticide Specialist, Plant Health Unit
Ministry of Environment
• Jim Standen, Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Protection Division
• Jim Hofweber, Director, Environmental Management Branch
• Daphne Dolhaine, Manager, Integrated Pest Management Unit
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
• Jennifer Burleigh, Provincial Forest Entomologist, Resource Practices Branch, Resource Stewardship Division
3. The Committee recessed from 12:02 p.m. to 12:34 p.m.
4. Resolved, that the Committee meet in-camera to undertake deliberations on its draft report to the House. (John Yap, MLA)
5. The Committee met in-camera from 1:41 p.m. to 1:44 p.m.
6. Resolved, that the Committee continue in public session. (John Slater, MLA)
7. The Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair at 1:45 p.m.
|Bill Bennett, MLA |
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2012
Issue No. 12
ISSN 1927-0402 (Print)
ISSN 1927-0410 (Online)
Supplementary Briefing and Questions with Ministry Officials
* Bill Bennett (Kootenay East BC Liberal)
* Rob Fleming (Victoria–Swan Lake NDP)
* Murray Coell (Saanich North and the Islands BC Liberal)
Scott Fraser (Alberni–Pacific Rim NDP)
* Michael Sather (Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows NDP)
* John Slater (Boundary-Similkameen BC Liberal)
Ben Stewart (Westside-Kelowna BC Liberal)
* John Yap (Richmond-Steveston BC Liberal)
* denotes member present
Josie Schofield (Manager, Committee Research Services)
Morgan Lay (Committee Researcher)
Jennifer Burleigh (Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations)
Daphne Dolhaine (Ministry of Environment)
Jim Hofweber (Ministry of Environment)
Jim Standen (Ministry of Environment)
Grant Thompson (Ministry of Agriculture)
Madeline Waring (Ministry of Agriculture)
Linda Wilson (Ministry of Agriculture)
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2012
The committee met at 10:08 a.m.
[B. Bennett in the chair.]
B. Bennett (Chair): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Bill Bennett. I'm the chair of the Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides. Thank you all for coming this morning.
This is a public meeting. We have, actually, a few hours. I'm thinking that we won't take all of the time that we have set aside for the committee meeting today. We have from ten until two, but we'll take whatever time we need to discuss with you the information you brought that will inform us.
I'd like first of all to have my committee members introduce themselves, and then I'm going to ask you folks to introduce yourselves next, starting with the Deputy Chair.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Good morning. I'm Rob Fleming. I'm the MLA for Victoria–Swan Lake and the Deputy Chair of the committee.
M. Sather: Good morning. Michael Sather, MLA for Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows.
M. Coell: Good morning. Murray Coell, MLA, Saanich North and the Islands.
J. Slater: Good morning. John Slater, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen.
A Voice: Boundary?
J. Slater: Yes — Similkameen. But I live in the Okanagan, so that's why it gets a little confusing.
J. Yap: Good morning. I'm John Yap, the MLA for Richmond-Steveston.
B. Bennett (Chair): Thank you, Members. Our able assistants at the front here — Kate Ryan-Lloyd is the Clerk of our committee. We have Josie and Morgan here, who are doing the lion's share of our research and collating all the materials that we have. I think we've got over 8,000 submissions in, so they've been wrestling that to the ground for us over the past couple of months. Susan, sitting back against the wall, is also with the Clerk's office.
Can I ask you to introduce yourselves and just tell us which ministry you're with and perhaps what your speciality is, if you have one?
M. Waring: Sure. I'm Madeline Waring. I'm with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, in the Abbotsford office. I work in the plant health unit, and I'm the ministry's pesticide specialist.
L. Wilson: I'm Linda Wilson. I'm manager of the plant health unit with the Ministry of Agriculture, located in Abbotsford.
G. Thompson: Good morning. My name is Grant Thompson. I'm the director of policy and industry competitiveness for the Ministry of Agriculture, located here in Victoria.
J. Standen: Good morning. Jim Standen, assistant deputy minister for the Ministry of Environment's environmental protection division, the division responsible for the IPM Act.
J. Hofweber: I'm Jim Hofweber. I'm the director of the environmental management branch, which has that portfolio under it.
D. Dolhaine: Daphne Dolhaine from Ministry of Environment. I'm the administrator of the Integrated Pest Management Act and manager of the program.
J. Burleigh: I'm Jennifer Burleigh with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. I'm the provincial entomologist and deal with a lot of our control programs around forest insects.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. We don't really have a formal approach to these kinds of meetings. We typically have…. In the case of Health Canada, we send them a list of questions, and we get together, either in person or with a video conference, and discuss the answers to those questions.
We have provided you folks with questions. I think this morning we just got a document from the Ministry of Agriculture. Did we also get a document from the Ministry of Environment?
A Voice: Yeah. Just one.
B. Bennett (Chair): That's the one on the golf course?
D. Dolhaine: Just one sheet that summarizes the golf courses. It's just lots of information that I thought you might want to have.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Then do you have copies of the questions that the committee sent to you? Does everyone have that? Okay.
We can start right off with the questions and start to talk about the responses to the questions, or if anyone from any of the three ministries wants to provide kind
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of an opening statement of some sort, that would be fine too. If you've been monitoring our process here with the committee and you think that there's something — a ministry perspective — that you'd like to share with us in a more general way, that would be fine.
Would anybody like to do that?
Supplementary Briefing and Questions
with Ministry Officials
J. Hofweber: Yeah. Thanks, Bill.
Just a few words to say that this is a file that we've been working on for years, actually, on how to handle it. I just want to let everybody know that we see our responsibility as regulators to come up with a system that meets all the needs of the people of British Columbia.
What I'd like to impress upon everybody, and I'm sure you've come to this conclusion already, is that it's a complex issue. On the face of it, it seems simple in terms of what the different groups want. They want something very simple. But when you put it all together, there are a lot of interactions with ancillary programs and with other industries — forestry and agriculture, landscape and the golf courses. It all ties together in a very complex way.
We'd just like to let you know that we're ready, willing and able to come up with a regime that meets all the requirements. I just want to impress upon everybody that it's complicated, so it's going to require some work. But once we get the direction, we'll be all over it.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Thanks for that, Jim. Well, just for clarification purposes, we're a legislative committee. We're not a government committee. We don't report to cabinet. We report back to the Legislature.
The committee will no doubt come up with some recommendations and report those recommendations to the House. Then, obviously, it's up to the cabinet, government, to decide what they want to do with those recommendations. They may or may not follow them. We don't really know. That's not really our role. We certainly hope they read the report and respect the work that this committee has done, because it's been a really interesting learning process for all of us, I think.
I think we appreciate how complex the topic is. If there's anything that any of the three ministries can do here today to provide us with information that will help us understand the implications that perhaps go well beyond somebody's front yard and dandelions and that sort of thing….
We've had some discussion about that. John Slater lives in the Okanagan, as he said, and is a greenhouse operator and has warned us about the fruit trees in the backyard that aren't that far away from an orchard. There have to be all kinds of those implications for invasive plant species. So the more you can tell us about that, the better informed we'll be.
Any of the other two ministries want to say anything before we go into the questions?
G. Thompson: Thank you for the opportunity to come and address you this morning. I don't envy your task. Picking up on Jim's comments earlier, it is complicated. But I'm glad you're having the opportunity to hear from the different…. I had no idea it was going to be 8,000-plus submissions. I don't think you probably did either.
That being said, I've been following along on Hansard in terms of the complications or the varying degrees of complexity here. As Jim has mentioned, it's something you need to wrap your heads around in terms of the final report, and we will help you in terms of working with whatever recommendations you have, going forward. We will give you some, we think, pretty candid observations on how that might help or hurt agriculture as we go through. So thank you for the opportunity.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Thank you very much.
J. Burleigh: From the forestry side, again, we're very thankful for the opportunity to present. It's great to see that you're going out to other agencies like Health Canada and PMRA so that you'll understand the full context when we carry out programs. These are all the different pieces of legislation that we act under. These are the different regulations that apply. So you have that full context under which some of these operational programs operate.
We have a phenomenal group of people within the province, with the different agencies even, that we collaborate and work with to ensure that we're adhering to the standards and carrying out proper protocols.
So it's really encouraging to see that you're trying to gain a full understanding of all those pieces that are in play when making those recommendations. Again, we're grateful for the opportunity to come and present some of the forestry aspects.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Thank you very much.
Just before we get started, let me encourage all of you to blue-sky a little bit here today with us. I know you have a process. I know there's legislation that you operate in accordance with. We, as a committee, are shortly going to start a process where we discuss possible recommendations.
They don't all have to have some element of banning or restricting the use of chemical pesticides. We'll have that discussion absolutely for sure. But there may be some recommendations that are more practical in nature that you could suggest to us that might close some gaps, if you will, or just improve the process. They don't have to be life-changing. They can be just small, practical changes that would make things better. So I encourage you to think that way.
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The first question on the list is a very simple one. It's just: can you provide an overview of the IPM and the provincial regulations? We could be here for the next three or four hours, I guess, and you did present to us already on that. But I think it's worth…. We've heard a lot since you were here. I think you were the first group we talked to. So if you could try to go through that as quickly as you could, I think that would really set the stage here.
D. Dolhaine: Okay. I will try to be brief. The first question is the overview of IPM. IPM, integrated pest management, is a decision-making process used to manage pests. It aims to prevent and to predict pest problems, thus enabling a considered, rather than a reactive, approach to control of pests.
It includes six elements. Those are: prevention — preventing a pest from being a problem in the first place; identification — knowing what kind of pest you're potentially dealing with; monitoring to ensure that the pest is actually present; thresholds — setting some limit to when control may be necessary. As an example, can we deal with just a couple of weeds or more than that? What's the limit that we set in order to determine if pesticides or any control method may be necessary?
Control. That includes a variety of control methods, not only pesticides. These could be mechanical control, physical, cultural control — a whole number of things. And evaluation — going back and determining whether or not that control option actually worked. So it's cyclical, and it's a management regime.
The second part of the question is to just give an overview of the provincial regulation. Again, I could go on, but I'll try to keep it brief here.
Pesticide applied to public land, private forest land and applied as a service must be applied under the supervision of a certified applicator and part of an integrated pest management program. The pesticide applicators must adhere to regulatory standards aimed at preventing the movement into water, onto sensitive areas and into neighbouring properties.
The larger-scale pesticide uses must operate under a pest management plan, and those are developed with input from the public.
Notification signs must be posted when pesticides are applied in areas to which the public has legal access. Most pesticide uses on private land that are done by the land manager are not regulated beyond the requirement to follow the label directions.
Then, finally, people selling pesticides must be certified. They must speak to each pesticide purchaser to tell them that they are to follow the label directions and offer to provide advice on pesticide use and pest management.
I'll stop there and fill in if they are any additional questions.
B. Bennett (Chair): That's excellent. I don't know how you did that. It was very good.
Does anyone have a question at this stage before we go to the next one?
Why don't we go to the next one because it's an interesting one, and it's asking you for a personal or a professional point of view. I'd like anybody to respond to this.
The question is: are the ministry pesticide and dispensing certification guidelines and testing robust enough?
D. Dolhaine: The certification testing, all the training material and the exams are based on a standard for pesticide education, training and certification in Canada. So there's a national standard that all the B.C. materials adhere to.
B. Bennett (Chair): Is there actually any testing that takes place at the provincial level?
D. Dolhaine: Yeah. In order to receive your applicator or dispenser certificate, a test must be written and passed.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay.
D. Dolhaine: So for applicators, there's a core manual that applies to all applicators that has just recently been updated. That's gone through quite a significant change from our previous manual. It was produced with input from other provinces, and it's being adopted as a national manual for use by all provinces.
I actually brought the core manual with me so you can see what we're dealing with. This is the core manual that every applicator is tested on.
Then, with respect to landscape application, these are the other materials necessary and used for testing.
B. Bennett (Chair): Did you say that that first manual was produced here, provincially?
D. Dolhaine: B.C. was the lead in developing it, but it had input from all provinces, and it will be used nationally. So it's a national manual. I can't say it's the B.C. manual.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Thank you.
D. Dolhaine: So, is it good enough? Applicator certification provides a good basis for further learning. I'd say its major shortcoming is that there's no actual hands-on training. Most applicators receive that as part of the on-the-job training. So some employers provide excellent training and others provide minimal.
Certified applicators can enrol in a recertification program whereby they obtain at least 20 hours of training over a five-year period, in addition to the stuff here. So it's meant to improve and accentuate the materials here — add more
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value. And they can do that instead of actually rewriting the certification exam.
Pesticide dispensers receive training beyond the requirements of the national standard in British Columbia because we expect dispensers to be knowledgable about pest problems. Again, the major shortcoming there is that there is no actual hands-on training.
It is possible and common for applicators and dispensers to pass a certification exam without a really good grasp of the subject matter, but in-depth understanding and the safe use and handling of pesticides usually requires that practical, hands-on experience.
B. Bennett (Chair): I didn't quite get your last point. You said that there isn't…. You called it a major shortcoming that there doesn't appear to be much sort of on-the-ground learning. It's all out of a book or a booklet. You write a test, and you either pass it or you don't, and that's the standard for across the country.
D. Dolhaine: That's the standard, yeah.
B. Bennett (Chair): And we're talking about licensed applicators who would work for lawn care companies and that sort of thing?
D. Dolhaine: That's correct. Their training comes from being on the job, from the practical perspective.
B. Bennett (Chair): I'm sorry. What was your last point, just before you stopped?
D. Dolhaine: The question is: can someone actually pass the exam without being an absolute expert? Yes, it's possible. It can happen.
B. Bennett (Chair): Why is it a major shortcoming that they don't get this hands-on training? Is there an assumption that they're getting it sort of on the job but that that's not really predictable, that it depends on the business situation or…?
D. Dolhaine: Yeah. I mean, it'd be a difficult program to administer, you know. In an ideal world there would be a practical element. We currently don't have that, but no province currently has that.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay.
L. Wilson: One thing I might add to Daphne's comment is that the lack of the practical training or the applied aspect of applicator training is that the students don't learn how to work with pesticides, mix pesticides, safely apply, calibrate a sprayer — those sorts of in-the-field aspects of dealing with and using and managing the use of pesticides. So Daphne's comment of…. You yourself could walk in and take the certification test, without even any hours in the classroom, and pass it.
B. Bennett (Chair): And they don't teach you how to calibrate a sprayer? That's not part of the…?
D. Dolhaine: Not in these materials. Quite frankly, it's just quite difficult to maintain that kind of information with the changes in technology. I mean, if you really want to know what I do, you need to touch the tools, you know.
The training materials here focus on things like the pesticide names, the pesticide groups, their formulations, a lot of talk about IPM. So it tries to get people thinking. It provides examples of IPM; it gets that thought process working. It focuses on pesticide labelling — how to read a label, what the label means — all the legislation, the protection of human health, impacts on the environment, personal protective equipment, clothing and that kind of thing, working with pesticides safely, emergency response, application technology and professionalism. But it doesn't give you that tactile piece of it.
J. Hofweber: I think the answer is: we're depending on the employers of these folks to provide that training. That's the system we have now. They have responsibility, of course, for worker safety, and we're just counting on them to show them how to mix the pesticides. They have to demonstrate the ability to understand everything that's going on in the certification program. But in terms of the hands-on part, right now, the system is such that we depend on the employers to train the technicians. If they walk up, they're brand-new, they have their certificate and they've never done this before, we're counting on the company that has hired them or is employing them to show them that hands-on element of this.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): One of the submissions, of the many that we received, was from the landscape nursery industry. It's an organization that I think representatives of at least two of the three ministries here today are familiar with. The organization is called CropHealth, which is a Kelowna-based company. I believe they have had contracts with public agencies to develop Plant Health B.C. They've sort of touched upon some of the shortcomings in applicator education and training that may put some of the people applying these chemicals at risk to their own health.
What's interesting, too, is that in their own opinion they did speak to the purpose of this committee, which was the discussion of cosmetic pesticides as opposed to industrial settings. They recommended that the committee consider legislation like Ontario and other provinces, but they also touched upon the industry applications and commercial categories of pesticide use and, as I men-
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tioned, the deficiencies in training.
I'm just wondering if anyone could comment, and I think Jim just did, on how the ministry might increase demonstrated proficiency or completion of the certificate to include actual handling of products and training — as opposed to, I think, what happens right now, which is just instruction to pass and complete the test, which sounds like is what most people undergo.
Their recommendation, by the way, is to have such intensified education or an enhanced demonstration that you have put in various hours to complete the certification — that that be an industry-led process at no cost to government, but there'd be some delegated authority to be able to certify that.
J. Hofweber: That's a possibility for sure. An apprenticeship-type program could be implemented as a requirement, like some of the other trades are. I guess what we don't have right now is a good feel or a quantification for: is there a problem that's serious enough that needs fixing in that arena? Sounds like you have some submissions that maybe suggest there is, if the industry folks themselves are saying this.
It's certainly a model that we could do. We wouldn't recommend that the government run something like that — as opposed to, as you suggested, Rob, just making it a requirement that the industry itself set up a program that guaranteed some on-the-ground training and experience before folks are allowed to make more or less their own decisions about applying pesticides.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): I think there was a suggestion, too, that while the course materials and the applicator certificate is based on an IPM approach, that's really as far as the IPM regulations go. In other words, there's not an ongoing education requirement as well, which this company felt was a deficiency that was resulting in a lot of companies and certified applicators in fact not following the various steps and principles of the IPM regime. That really means that they're not complying with the legislation in B.C. So I think that's something worth considering by our committee but also by the ministry in charge of existing legislation.
The other comment from this group that I thought was interesting and would put before you is an urging that commercial classes of pesticides not find their way into the hands of homeowners. It was suggested that gardeners can relatively easily buy and obtain ten-litre containers of commercial concentrate pesticides in British Columbia today. Do you have any comment on that?
I know the last time ministry officials appeared before this committee, we asked about random audits and compliance around existing regulations for cosmetic pesticides at the point of sale — that vendors of pesticides tell the customer what "safe use" means and give some instruction before the purchase is made. The ministry admitted that they really have no idea whether that is occurring at all and haven't done a random audit process to see whether that's happening in stores.
This is something new that hadn't come to my attention before — that gardeners may be purchasing large quantities of commercial concentrate–strength pesticide — and I'm just wondering if you've had complaints or you've had investigations undertaken to look at that situation.
D. Dolhaine: Two things. Regarding the random audits of retailers and investigating whether or not dispensers are in fact doing their job, we do that. It's not that we have absolutely no idea. We do that, and we have found deficiencies, and we are working to try to correct those deficiencies.
With respect to commercial products, it's true. There are some commercial products that a non-certified person could get access to. Most commercial products are sold by commercial vendors who deal with ongoing customers and generally don't take folks in off the street who just walk in and take something off the shelf.
So I don't know how big a problem that is, but we have considered that, in the event of a ban on a particular suite of domestic pesticides, that is a gap we would likely suggest filling in. The access to commercial pesticides by any person other than a certified person or licensed person or a farmer would likely need to be closed.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Right now to use this category of commercial pesticides, you have to be a certified applicator. No, you do not. There are certain settings where you do not.
D. Dolhaine: To purchase it. No, to purchase the product, you do not necessarily need a certification or some ticket.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Right. But to apply it, to sell the services of using it, you do have to have that certification. But to go into the store and actually buy it, you don't have to present that same certificate.
D. Dolhaine: That's correct.
J. Slater: That's not entirely true. I know some farmers that need certification; some don't. Greenhouse guys, because we're so IPM, don't need certification. I had certification a long time ago. I don't need it anymore because the chemical strengths are so much lower now. But I can go in and pretty well buy anything I want, as a farmer — right? — in those stores.
D. Dolhaine: That's correct. Not every farmer…. You don't currently require a certificate to purchase a com-
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mercial product. There are definitely some products that you need a certificate to purchase. Those are the restricted-class products.
I think I'm just addressing the idea of a person with a hobby farm who might go into a particular store. Again, like you say, most of the commercial vendors using highly toxic chemicals or toxic products are in the business of dealing with other businesses. You don't see that in a high frequency when we talk to them. But it's true. That is a gap that could be closed.
B. Bennett (Chair): So if government decided that they wanted uncertified consumers to only be able to purchase the Killex and the Roundup off the shelf, which has been already diluted, that would place us in a situation — us being government, let's say — where farmers who weren't certified wouldn't be able to buy it either.
D. Dolhaine: That's correct. But there may be some regime we can come up with — and I turn to my colleagues at the Ministry of Agriculture to suggest if there is some way to distinguish whether a farmer is a farmer — to ensure that those products would remain available.
L. Wilson: One of the ways we might be able to do that is for farmers to demonstrate that they do in fact have farm status. I think that we do encourage our producers to have certification training for all the pesticides that they use, whether they're in a restricted class or not. To make that a requirement, I think we could come up with a way that farmers would be distinguished as farmers and would be able to demonstrate the purposes that they intend to use the pesticide for.
B. Bennett (Chair): Anybody have any thoughts on what would be gained by that kind of a change, in terms of public safety? We're blue-skying here, ladies and gentlemen.
J. Hofweber: It would seem that what we're worried about is people, reacting in anticipation of further regulation, stockpiling materials. I mean, I don't know another reason why a homeowner would want ten litres of concentrate that would make 50 barrels of product. It's expensive too. But what I would worry about is someone, in anticipation of that, stockpiling pesticides and creating a hazard because of that.
I think Daphne may have some anecdotal information from Ontario in terms of what went on there when they did what they did. The farm-status idea is perfect in terms of restricting it but not so perfect in terms of: "I have my friend who's a farmer, John down there, who will go buy me that ten litres and give it to me."
It would seem to be a minimum additional requirement or imposition on the farmers just to show their status when they buy the materials. It would probably take care of some of the problem. But I don't anticipate it being a huge problem to have to solve.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay, thank you.
M. Waring: Added information or knowledge on the farmers is always an advantage.
There is one segment of the community that I don't believe we're thinking of right now. There's sort of the urbanite homeowner, and then there's the commercial farmer who sells produce, but there's a fairly large segment of people in between who may have five acres or ten acres. They may grow all their own produce. They may have not, like, your backyard garden but an acre of produce that they're growing for themselves, or they may have ten acres of horse pasture.
We will need to consider how we would manage this type of product for those people who are not earning money from selling produce but who have a large area of land and may need to kill creeping buttercup that's toxic to horses. You can't go around using a one-litre bottle squirting ten acres of pasture.
There's just a segment of people in between the small urbanites and the larger agriculture producers that would need to be able to manage their pests of significance and that we'd have to take into consideration with these regulations or any changes. They could attain certification. It would be an option too.
J. Slater: On that point, I agree with you 100 percent. But how do we make sure we protect the neighbours of that place that has the buttercup coming in? How do we certify the person that's going to buy those chemicals to make sure that he or she is not going to influence the ball field next door or the…?
I think that's the whole issue. A lot of these chemicals are deemed to be pretty toxic, and we need to make sure that we protect the public next door if the wind is blowing and chemicals are going next door. How we do that? How do we certify these people to make sure that they have the knowledge to be able to apply that product?
M. Waring: That particular group of people may not currently require certification.
J. Slater: I know.
M. Waring: So there would have to be some method or approach to say that an additional group of people or a use of other chemicals…. Right now federally they divide chemicals — and provincially — into restricted, commercial and domestic. Provincially they have an exempted type of category for a person who is applying pesticides to their private property. They do not need to have an applicator certificate if they're using commercial products.
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If you wanted to make sure everybody who uses commercial products has a certificate or is trained, there would always be the option to suggest that they require a certificate in order to purchase or use a commercial product as well as a restricted product.
M. Sather: You folks were saying that, you know, if you're a lawn care company…. We're depending on them to train folks in the practical application of pesticides.
Then for a farmer — say, an owner-operator — there's no one there to train them. They're kind of on their own — right? They have to learn how to do it appropriately and correctly themselves. It's a different situation, where there's no on-the-ground training for them, then.
M. Waring: A lot of the farmers have pesticide applicator certificates. Sometimes it's based on Ministry of Environment requirements; sometimes it's based on WorkSafe B.C.'s requirements for certification and training. The certification and training contains the theory of calibration, application, how you calculate the right amounts.
Generally, on the farms there's often a person certified. They use a lot of integrated pest management, and they are very conscious of the rates and how much pesticide they would use, because if they have too high a residue, then they would not be able to market their crops. Usually someone on the farm takes leadership and ownership of the pest management decisions as to what would be used and what would not be used and how it would be used.
As for the Ministry of Agriculture, we do put together and provide information for the agriculture community on operation and on use of pesticides, whether it's safety or equipment. We do contribute to demonstrations or displays when we're able to. We help encourage additional education on the farm or with the farm associations. So there are some ways for people to obtain more practical information.
Those farmers that need to be certified often don't like writing exams, so they're really enthused about participating in the credit program that Daphne mentioned, where they have to do, I believe, 20 hours in five years of continuing education in order to be recertified. Often, I believe — you might perhaps correct me — there's a requirement for so many hours on your equipment; there's so many hours with pest management. They need to cover all these different areas. Those certification credits could be by attending seminars or could be by attending workshops. There's a whole wide range of options for them that way.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. I think I'll move on to the third question, which reads as follows: "Does the ministry plan to update schedule 2 of the IPM regulation to incorporate low-toxicity products?" Who'd like to take that one?
D. Dolhaine: We do intend to update schedule 2 to reflect some of the changes that have taken place in the marketplace since 2005, which was the last time the schedule was looked at, with the introduction of the act. But it's not the intention of the ministry to add pesticides to the schedule simply because they're of low toxicity.
While there are some low-toxicity products on schedule 2, the schedule isn't intended to be a list of low-toxicity products. It's intended to be a list of products which do not require a certificate or a licence to use. There are actually some products on that list that may be highly toxic. It's just that in the manner in which they're used currently, the requirement for licensing or certification doesn't actually add any additional benefit.
For example, things like swimming pool chemicals. There are some chemicals — pesticides, I should say — used in manufacturing processes where there are a number of other risks. Those workers are dealing with a number of substances other than pesticides, so that additional certification doesn't really add benefit.
We are looking at it right now but not with the lens of adding low-toxicity products just for that exclusive purpose.
B. Bennett (Chair): I'm not sure where that question came from, whether it's a member that's here today. We've got a couple of members away from the committee today.
Anybody want to follow up on this? This is your opportunity if you do. If you don't, that's fine.
Okay. Thanks, Daphne.
The next question is: how frequently are retailers audited for compliance with IPMA regulations? We got into this a little bit when you were here before, but we should probably go through it again.
D. Dolhaine: In the ministry we follow a compliance management framework that focuses our activities on the areas of higher risk, primarily. But we need to balance that with ensuring that we have a compliance presence across all the sectors.
Our overall objective is also to see compliance, and we do that in a number of ways. We promote compliance sometimes just through communications, phone calls. We do records reviews. We do random spot checks, or we'll do focused verification projects that target a specific sector or a specific requirement.
With respect to retailer compliance, we looked at the numbers. We did audit retailer compliance in the 2005, 2006, 2008, '10 and '11 projects, and those were more than just occasional random spot checks. Those involved at least 30 to 40 retailers — up to 1,200. The audits focus
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on a whole variety of the requirements — anything from the certification, the licence, the storage requirements and the dispenser interaction piece as well.
B. Bennett (Chair): Daphne, what is required by a retailer when John Q. Public walks into the Canadian Tire store or whatever store — a landscape store — and asks to buy some pesticides for his or her lawn? What takes place at that point?
D. Dolhaine: Well, retailers must follow certain storage and display requirements. But every retailer is to have a certified dispenser on site to inform purchasers that the label direction must be followed and to offer to provide advice on pest management.
B. Bennett (Chair): I take it there's nothing that encourages retailers to provide anything in writing to the consumer.
D. Dolhaine: Not at this point. There's no encouragement to do that. No.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay.
J. Hofweber: Maybe I could add something to that.
About a year ago — well, eight months ago — the folks from Scotts Canada in Toronto came out to visit us, and they were concerned, of course, with further regulation of their products across the whole country. One of the things I mentioned to them was the anecdotal information about folks, particularly our former minister, walking into a Canadian Tire and picking up a bottle of Killex. No one said anything to him, and he made that point. I think he might have made that at caucus or elsewhere.
I mentioned to them that if they want to do anything to keep the regulations to an appropriate level, they could encourage some compliance from their retail customers. So what Scotts Canada did was they rounded up all their retailers from across Canada. Canadian Tire, in particular, was highlighted. They gave them a talking-to. They also provided them with materials that you should see in the stores this spring, and they let them know that compliance promotion with this particular type of legislation is in their own best interest.
That is another way that we promote compliance, other than doing spot checks. It's a particularly powerful one, in the sense that it gets wide coverage across all retailers, and it comes from someone whom they're in business with. We're hoping that will make a difference, in terms of our current regime, in Canadian Tire. So we can all go and check that out in a month or two when we walk into a Canadian Tire store.
B. Bennett (Chair): It seems to be a pattern for B.C. Liberal government Environment Ministers. They've all, I think, tried this at least once, from what I understand.
What sort of enforcement measures do you have? Let's say Canadian Tire said, "Well, thank you very much for that information and advice," and they just kept doing the same. I'm not picking on Canadian Tire. I'm using them as a hypothetical. They just carried on with their bad practices, let's say.
So what then?
D. Dolhaine: It is ticketable.
B. Bennett (Chair): Ticketable.
D. Dolhaine: Yes.
B. Bennett (Chair): Explain that to me. How much money would they likely have to pay?
D. Dolhaine: I don't want to guess. I believe it's a $575 ticket.
J. Hofweber: Yeah, I can cover that. In the ministry what we use is a compliance and enforcement policy and a framework that goes along with it. What it does is show an escalating response from our part, depending on several factors — the history of the client, whether they've been warned or not, whether they've been ticketed or not. The ultimate penalties are that they can be fined in court, taken to court. But we go through this progressively.
In your scenario if you walked into any store that was not doing this, the first thing they would get would be a written letter that tells them or explains to them what the rules are, lets them know they were out of compliance and lets them know that we have an escalating enforcement procedure as well. The next time would probably be the ticket. These things are all decisions based on the history of the client and the attitude that they've shown.
B. Bennett (Chair): Is the ticket administrative in nature, in that you don't have to go to court or anything like that? You just write the ticket, and they have to pay?
J. Hofweber: Yes, the conservation officer would write the ticket. If the perpetrator disputes it, it ends up in court.
B. Bennett (Chair): Right.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Do you have any statistics, Jim, on the number of fines issued and whether any retailer has been taken to court, going back however many years — say, five years?
J. Hofweber: We'd have to go look that up. I don't have a recollection of anyone going to court over this.
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R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Would it be reported in the Ministry of Environment enforcement quarterly?
J. Hofweber: Yeah.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): I periodically look at those, and I don't remember any fines being issued for that. But it might be a good statistic for us to have for the committee.
J. Hofweber: Yeah.
B. Bennett (Chair): Clarify for me, Jim, that the ministry doesn't have the power to order the retail store or chain to stop selling the product.
J. Hofweber: That's right.
B. Bennett (Chair): So it's a matter of fines. That's your enforcement tool?
J. Hofweber: The administrator here will maybe answer that question about the act. Is that in the act?
D. Dolhaine: Yeah. We do have the authority to rescind licences.
B. Bennett (Chair): Can you follow up with the committee and just provide us with a brief summary of what your enforcement tools are?
Our focus is on what we're referring to as cosmetic pesticides. We're going outside of that to the extent that if we make recommendations dealing with the use of so-called cosmetic pesticides, there are probably going to be some implications for forestry, agriculture, invasive plants, etc., that we need to understand. But our primary focus is on the consumer that goes into the store and buys some pesticides and applies them at home without having any training. So this might be an area where there might be a potential recommendation or two.
J. Hofweber: Yes. We will do that.
Also, maybe to clarify. It helps us in our conversations to talk about cosmetic use of pesticides, as opposed to considering that there is a class of pesticides called cosmetic, the problem being that the same chemicals that are in the domestic products are in some of the commercial formulations. So it gets confusing if we use that term "cosmetic pesticide," as opposed to cosmetic use of pesticide or domestic products.
I think Health Canada, the PMRA, uses a domestic classification which covers most of what we're talking about in terms of home use.
B. Bennett (Chair): Yeah. Thank you for that correction. I've been corrected a number of times over the course of our deliberations. You're absolutely right, and I appreciate that you pointed that out. We are aware of that.
Members, do you want to follow up on anything more on this one? Is there anything more from that end of the table on this topic — retailers and enforcement, that sort of thing?
The next question is: how does the province track the sales of pesticides, particularly domestic pesticides?
D. Dolhaine: The vendors of commercial and restricted-class products are required to submit an annual summary of pesticide sales. The province does not currently track the sale of domestic pesticides.
I should say that the federal government is implementing a system to track the regional sale of pesticides by focusing on the distributors. They have encountered some problems with their data collection. We're hoping that regional data will be available starting for the 2010 year. Again, it's unlikely we'll be able to break it down province by province, but we should be able to see a regional distribution. That's the hope.
B. Bennett (Chair): I don't know what the percentage is, but I've read somewhere in the materials we have that the use of pesticides by the homeowner is a very small proportion of the total pesticide use in any jurisdiction. Again, I don't remember what the percentage is. I don't know if any of the committee members do — or our research staff.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Three to 5 percent.
B. Bennett (Chair): About 5 percent. Okay.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): If I could just ask you a question about this. I think the phrasing was that domestic pesticide sales are not currently tracked. Is it the case that the Ministry of Environment has, in the past, tracked sales?
D. Dolhaine: To my knowledge, no. Domestic pesticide sales have never been tracked as a requirement for domestic vendors to submit information.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): My understanding is that other provinces where cosmetic pesticides continue to be allowed do track sales, and it's also been suggested to me that this is not difficult to do. You know, retailers have SKUs and sales databases and those sorts of things. Without very much difficulty or cost, this could be done. It might be of interest to the public just to see what retail trends there are, if nothing else, in the sales.
One of the reasons why cosmetic pesticide bans, as it's been suggested, were quite popular in jurisdictions like Quebec and in the Maritimes is that they were re-
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sponding to a public interest in restricting and banning their use, which had been developing amongst the population for a long time, where government in fact was falling behind public consciousness on the issue. So retail sales had been falling for many, many years.
That was the suggestion I heard in Quebec, where at one time maybe one in four homeowners used cosmetic pesticides. It had declined to less than one in ten by the time a legislative ban was put in place.
Is this something that the ministry could implement reasonably quickly and easily to track those sales? I mean, I suppose if we haven't done it before, we would have to establish a new baseline year.
J. Hofweber: I don't see why not. We'd have to build that system with the retailers, of course. I mean, I'm not a retailer and never have been, but I know that they know exactly what they sell and even to which postal code they sell it on every product that goes through a till. So I'm sure it's just a matter of organizing the information that already exists.
D. Dolhaine: Yeah. I think it should be known, though, that our current tracking system is a paper tracking system. We do not currently have a system in which all vendors submit their data into a database electronically. So it would be a bit of work to process it. But again, yeah, it could be done.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Just one last question on this section. Is there an environmental handling fee that's built into the purchase price of cosmetic pesticides? I know that it's one of the first products that fell under industry stewardship guidelines in the 1990s, along with paint, to be able to be turned in by homeowners. I just can't remember if there's a fee in place that covers the cost of its disposal.
M. Waring: I believe there is a fee, and it's associated with a disposal program that industry or a private group runs for the disposal of domestic products. It doesn't relate to commercial.
There was once a proposal, I believe, to put a fee on everything, and I do not believe that went through, due to input that the government received related to it. But as far as domestic, I think it's the Product Care Association. I could get you the name of the association that runs the household hazardous waste programs and disposal sites that includes pesticides for the domestic market.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): It might be one way to get sales figures quite easily, because if it's a fee of 40 cents a bottle, for example, then we would know what the revenues are.
D. Dolhaine: The idea is something we've been discussing with those stewardship people. If it's here, it was very, very recently. We'd have to confirm that for you — whether it's here or on the books or on a plan.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay.
The next question. Are towns, cities and school boards subject to IPM regulations? Are they required to produce PMPs?
D. Dolhaine: Yes. The IPM regulations apply to all pesticide uses on public land, as long as they are not using pesticides on schedule 2. Schedule 2 doesn't apply. So most pesticide uses by towns, cities and school boards are the landscape uses, the structural uses. Sometimes there are small-case vegetation management programs.
Pesticides must be used as part of an IPM program, but generally, no formal PMPs are required — only where there's large vegetation management or maybe a mosquito management program that covers a wide area. But for the discrete schools or boulevards, the requirements for IPM are there, but the requirement to develop a plan is not there.
B. Bennett (Chair): So just to clarify, they would be obligated to and encouraged to consider not using pesticides if there was another way to manage the pest, and they would use pesticides only if it were the best available means to deal with that pest. That's one of the principles, as I understand it.
D. Dolhaine: They are required to follow the steps and demonstrate all the steps of IPM as a requirement.
B. Bennett (Chair): So the fact that they don't file a plan doesn't mean that they aren't familiar with the principles.
D. Dolhaine: They need to keep the records, and we do go and check those records.
J. Slater: So that includes invasive species control, weed control, bugs — all the rest of it?
D. Dolhaine: Usually, when you're talking about invasive species programs or noxious weed programs, those are part of larger…. They cross quite a large area and do include plans. Like, there are some regional pest management plans that would cover a city as well as outlying areas. But when you're talking about pest management on a specific park or a specific school, they are required to have a licence.
So a plan and the consultation on the plan are not required. However, all the steps of IPM are required. That includes consideration of alternatives to pesticides and demonstrating that the pesticide use was necessary, if
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J. Slater: I'll use the South Okanagan–Similkameen weed management committee. They wouldn't be registered under this. They would just go and do all the public accesses. How does that work?
J. Burleigh: I'll just ask for a bit of clarification. The Ministry of Forests, along with other organizations, does have pest management plans for the management of invasive species. It all depends on the tract of land that they're responsible for.
The ministry does have pest management plans in place for invasive species management on Crown land. Our pest management plans cannot be applied to private land or municipal lands. So it depends on the context of the land that is being covered. Plans for invasive weeds do exist, but they apply to one sort of land ownership. They apply to Crown lands.
J. Slater: Yeah, but I guess the point is…. You know, a lot of the Rails to Trails in communities are right adjacent to farmlands that have ranches or whatever. They're controlling the weeds in the public area, but they also help the farmers and the ranchers to take care of the weeds in their specific private lands. I'm just wondering how that's correlated.
D. Dolhaine: On private land, if the pesticide application is done by the landowner or the land manager themselves, the Integrated Pest Management Act does not apply. However, there are weed management committees that will then discuss how to manage weeds on the mixture of private and public spaces.
Those committees don't actually hold the authorization. Usually it's a regional district or a municipality, or in some cases a ministry will hold that plan. Then all those players work together to implement it on the ground. They'll often use service providers to deliver that, so in that case, the licensee, the service provider–applicator must follow the rules of IPM, but they also must adhere to the plan.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Thank you.
The next question reads: "Who is responsible for, and what regulations apply to, pesticide use on public forest lands and tree farm licences?"
D. Dolhaine: This again is kind of a similar idea to the invasive plant or noxious weed plan idea. There are two levels of responsibility for forest pesticide uses. For herbicide use, the forest management company is responsible for developing a pest management plan, obtaining the public input and putting the whole plan together. In the case of insect control, FLNRO — the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources — would be responsible for that.
That's developing the plan. To actually implement the plan, often a service provider does the actual pesticide application work. Again, they're jointly responsible with the forest management company to implement the plan, but they're also responsible to do IPM under the regulation. Ultimately, they jointly together implement the plan.
B. Bennett (Chair): Any follow-up on that, Members?
J. Slater: How do rights-of-way for B.C. Hydro or gas companies, etc., fit into that?
D. Dolhaine: It's a similar model again. The utility company develops and holds that authorization. They develop a plan. They must implement the plan, and often they will hire contractors to implement that. But they're responsible to follow the plan.
B. Bennett (Chair): That's our next question.
M. Sather: How much pesticide is applied on a yearly basis, an average year, to public forest lands?
D. Dolhaine: I don't have that number in front of me, but I can get it for you. Anyone holding an authorization to use pesticides needs to keep records, and they submit those records to us, so we do have them. We're actually doing the data crunching right now for 2010, I think, so I should be able to provide those numbers shortly. I just don't have them in front of me right now.
J. Burleigh: I can provide some numbers that'll be from a ministry perspective. They're not going to cover absolutely everything but will give you a context piece while Daphne is getting those.
In terms of insecticide use relative to the ministry, it would include things like our budworm control; various defoliator program controls as well as any gypsy moth programs that we've undertaken. For the last three years we're averaging anywhere between 63,000 to 58,000 hectares — basically, 50,000 to 70,000. I think our highest year ever was about 70,000 hectares. It varies in any given year. That's strictly for the insecticide use. The ministry is the only one that applies insecticides to forest land. The forest industry has never taken that on. That's always been a ministry role.
Relative to herbicide use, in the last couple of years it's been dropping quite a bit. For the last three years it's been anywhere between, basically, 28,000 to 35,000 hectares for herbicide use on Crown land.
M. Sather: Apparently, what I understand, anyway, just reading in the popular press…. Not too long ago there was an article — well, a little while ago — about this.
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They were talking the amount of non-target species that are hit during these applications, such as herbs and shrubs that would provide forage for wildlife. Does either ministry have any data on the effects on wildlife in that regard from the forestry spraying or the degree of damage, I guess you could call it, on non-target species that are hit?
J. Burleigh: Off the top of my head, I'm sure there's information out there that's looked at that. I'm not familiar with it, so I can go and look. It probably would have been done through our wildlife branch or through other branches, per se, than from ours.
I think the piece that we put in context when we look at this is that you're saying 30,000 hectares are treated in a year, distributed over a 28-million-hectare land base. So you're talking about small…. Especially for the herbicide, you're talking about individual block applications — application on an area that's 35 hectares, and that may be the only block treated within a 100- to 200-hectare parcel of land. While the impacts on a small scale may be there, it's in the context of the greater forest landscape.
I'll see if I can find some additional information for the group. I think it's important to keep it in the context and scale of where it's being applied versus the larger forest area that's available for that. But I will follow up.
M. Coell: Just to follow up on John's question and something Jennifer mentioned — the gypsy moth. We know it well in the capital regional area. It would have, I guess, a effect and an economic effect. The reason I ask is that John's question was where pesticide control, whether it be on Crown land, municipal land or private land…. In the case of the gypsy moth, it's all three because they spray the entire area. Who puts those plans together, and is there a lens and an economic lens on the decision to spray a certain area?
J. Burleigh: That would be me. I guess I'll provide some context pieces. The gypsy moth program is obviously one that garners a lot of public interest and has a very high profile. I actually sit as the chair of a gypsy moth technical advisory committee that's part of a group called the B.C. Plant Protection Advisory Council. Our members are made up of people from Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, scientists from Natural Resources Canada, as well as Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
As a group each year we go through and evaluate trap catches — look at what are the gypsy moths that we've caught. We do have thresholds in terms of we don't treat every time we find a gypsy moth. We have to meet a certain threshold through the IPM in terms of finding an alternate life stage, a continuously increasing population, whether we find egg masses. So we go through a whole series of decision criteria before we actually reach a treatment decision in an area to treat. We go through that process. Once we define a treatment block — that we have an increasing population that we are going to treat — it's the Ministry of Forests that has taken on the eradication role.
We've taken on that program, so we then apply for a pesticide-use permit. Gypsy moth, because it primarily occurs on private land, municipal lands, is something that cannot be covered out through a pest management plan. It is something that we have to apply on a one-off pesticide-use permit. So we apply for that permit with the Ministry of Environment. We do all the consultation with First Nations, public consultations with municipal governments and things like that. If the permit is issued, the permit actually contains very specific terms and conditions that we must adhere to, which are specific to each spray program and that can account for any local concerns.
When we do the gypsy moth decision tree, cosmetic does not come into our evaluation process. We would not treat gypsy moth for cosmetic reasons. We treat gypsy moth because of the potential in trade implications from an economic perspective, on Vancouver Island from a concern regarding protecting the Garry oak ecosystem and to a certain extent around human health. The gypsy moth is an allergen to many people, and some people do have anaphylactic reactions to it.
We definitely do not treat it for a cosmetic reason. It is purely economic, human health and environmental considerations that go into that treatment decision. It's a very rigorous process that we go through and a very collaborative process that involves anyone that would potentially be impacted by the program.
J. Slater: Jennifer, just to clarify. I know in the Boundary area they've had a lot of spruce budworm issues. I was at a meeting with forestry staff last week in Midway, where we identified all the areas that are affected. I think those areas themselves in the Boundary area are more than 38,000 hectares. So when we do our flyovers to spray those forest lands…. Are you saying that we only flew over 38,000 hectares last year?
J. Burleigh: No, you probably flew over a great deal more. This comes back into the IPM context. Western spruce budworm defoliation in the province last year…. I don't know the number exactly. It was about 160,000 or 170,000 hectares.
J. Slater: Oh, okay.
J. Burleigh: So it's a very, very large area that gets defoliated. But again, we go through a decision process to determine what we actually treat. Defoliation in itself is cosmetic damage, however there's no undue harm. So we
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don't actually intervene into a treatment until we're looking at specific values that are at risk, whether it's consecutive years of defoliation where the tree is now weak, and then we're looking at mortality — more so right now as we're targeting stand structures where we're really trying to protect the midterm timber supply in a bunch of communities. The understorey trees, often the smaller trees, are the ones that are the most heavily impacted.
We're very targeted, and we're actually looking to implement those treatment programs. I don't think we ever treat more than, usually, about 10 percent of the actual outbreak area, because the majority of it is not a problem from a forestry perspective. Again, it's really targeting those areas from an integrated pest management perspective on the ones that we're looking at mortality or specific values that are at risk. We are looking at some programs where it's wildlife habitat — to maintain certain tree species and the timber. So they're very, very targeted programs, and we don't treat simply because we have bugs.
B. Bennett (Chair): We sort of segued into the next question, which was dealing with the responsibility for managing and monitoring pesticide application in utility corridors. We've talked about that a little bit. I have one last question on it, and it deals with pipelines and railways, which I believe are federal jurisdiction.
How do we deal with that through our provincial management system? How do we deal with railroads and pipelines and the spread of invasive plants and that sort of thing?
D. Dolhaine: Railways and rights-of-way for utilities are currently captured under the Integrated Pest Management Act. So yes, rail lines are required to develop and implement pest management plans.
B. Bennett (Chair): So the province has the same authority to enforce compliance against the railway companies and the pipeline companies that you would have if it were a transmission line owned by B.C. Hydro?
D. Dolhaine: That's correct.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. The next question is: who is responsible for monitoring the use of pesticides for fumigation purposes, and what is the certification process?
D. Dolhaine: Again, fumigation is primarily done as a service, if you're talking about fumigation of ships and commodities and containers — those kinds of things. Licence holders there must file fumigation management plans with the Ministry of Environment. They are responsible for following those plans. The Ministry of Environment makes spot checks to those applications.
Certification currently involves a person studying printed materials and passing an exam based on those study materials. We soon will be consulting with fumigators about a proposal to require proof of additional training before a certificate is issued.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Members, can I get you to look at the next question. Does anyone recognize that as a question that they put forward to the Clerk's office? The question reads: "What environmental and health testing is the Ministry of Environment responsible for?" We could be here the rest of the day. Is there a specific focus on that?
Is there anything that the Ministry of Environment wants to say in addition to what you've already said about this area in terms of environmental and health testing? It may be that whoever submitted this question was thinking of the impact of pesticides on public health — cancer, that sort of thing, I guess.
D. Dolhaine: I agree. We could be here for a long time. I think a good message is that we work with ministry partners and across other agencies to ensure that our resources are used as efficiently as possible to prevent duplication and that we work collaboratively with other jurisdictions — other provinces, the federal government — to look at a variety of health and environmental kinds of information.
B. Bennett (Chair): I guess it's fair to say that the Ministry of Environment isn't responsible for the kinds of toxicity testing and epidemiology and that sort of thing that Health Canada's responsible for. Is it fair to say that?
D. Dolhaine: That's correct.
B. Bennett (Chair): I don't know if there are any follow-ups to this one.
Okay. I think we'll move on, then, to the next question, which is: who is responsible for monitoring and testing for the cumulative effects of pesticides on land and water environments?
That's a very topical question these days. I know that the government is developing policy around cumulative impact generally. What can you tell us as that relates to pesticide use?
D. Dolhaine: First, I have to say I'm not a toxicologist. If you're asking which agency is responsible for the human health and safety testing with respect to pesticides, that would be Health Canada, and they look at the environmental impact of pesticides as well. But if you're asking about the overall effect of a combination of pesticides on any particular organism, there's no agency responsible for or conducting that type of work.
Again, I'm not a toxicologist. I've been talking to the
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one in my office, and what I can say, in layman's terms, is that it is well known scientifically that it's difficult to predict the effect of a combination of more than two substances, just because it's incredibly complex. That's true for all regulated substances, not just pesticides.
Again, I'd encourage you to speak to an expert about this, but to address this, regulatory agencies establish an extremely conservative environmental standard for each discrete pesticide.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): I'm going to try not to go too far astray from cosmetic use of pesticides.
The Ministry of Environment's water quality monitoring and the testing that it does. For example, if you were responding to an algae bloom that may or may not be connected to runoff from a farm — fertilizer, pesticides, those sorts of things…. That is the Ministry of Environment's responsibility, is it not?
Or if you were to respond, for example, to a reported fish kill in a riparian area somewhere, it would be the Ministry of Environment that would conduct that and may look, in its testing, for any linkages to pesticides and hydrocarbons or anything like that?
D. Dolhaine: I think that's fair to say, yeah. Water quality, water quantity sampling in response to spills — when you see impacts, effects like that, to support any of compliance-type activities, yes, we do that kind of monitoring.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): I didn't write the question, but part of your answer, I thought, was interesting. You were talking about the difficulty to separate and assess various chemical compounds, several of them, that are in any area or incident. Could you elaborate on that?
J. Hofweber: Maybe I can take a shot at that. What's generally done when the question is: what do all these things that you might encounter...? How do they act together? Daphne alluded to the complexity of that, and the toxicologists will tell you it's extraordinarily complex, especially if you're trying to cover all the combinations that might be possible.
What the standards-setting folks do is apply safety factors. A typical thing that the PMRA, in this case, might do for a pesticide that's used for cosmetic purposes is look at the toxicity data, down to the detail of: what is a safe level; where is the threshold? Then they will apply a safety factor to take into account the unknown impacts of compounds that could act synergistically with that.
They would apply a safety factor anywhere from ten to a thousand — in other words, reduce the concentration that's allowable by that amount to take that into account. It's sort of the corner that the scientists get backed into, having to make a decision without all of the information that's available to make the exact, precise answer available on different combinations that are unpredictable in terms of what they will be and what their concentrations will be. So they use safety factors to get around that.
B. Bennett (Chair): Rob, do you have any more on that?
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): No, I think I'm fine.
B. Bennett (Chair): Going into an interesting area, the experiences in other provinces, the first question is: what is the Ontario process for implementing an invasive plant species exemption?
D. Dolhaine: Ontario requires that for the management of invasive species — so this is plants and could be any other organism — an authorization must be granted from their Ministry of Natural Resources. They need an approval and an assessment done by a person from the other ministry.
That ministry grants authorizations directly to the person who is going to apply the pesticide. Right now Ontario still allows glyphosate — that's Roundup — behind the counter. It's accessible to members of the public as long as they're managing, I believe, just plants that may be poisonous to humans. I do not believe invasive species are currently captured there.
J. Hofweber: Roundup.
D. Dolhaine: Yeah, Roundup. Something like Roundup. There are other products also, but yeah, glyphosate, Roundup.
That means the product is available. That means an individual could get an authorization from their Ministry of Natural Resources to go and purchase the product and get it from behind the shelf. That's allowed.
If that invasive species cannot be managed by glyphosate or any of the other available products, a licensed person who does have access to all the commercial products would need to be granted a permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources in order to do that. So there is some administration there, not only in issuing those authorizations from the one ministry but the need, then, to hire a licensed person. But that's how they get around it. That's how they accomplish that.
J. Slater: Is this on private land, public land — anywhere they want?
D. Dolhaine: Yes. They've banned the sale of a wide variety of products, so anywhere, on any landscape where…. Yeah, the more the cosmetic ban is in effect, this would be necessary.
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B. Bennett (Chair): So does that mean that the…? I don't know if they have regional invasive plant species councils like we do, but whatever their structure is there, would the folks that are in charge of controlling invasive plant species have to get some sort of special permission from the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources to buy this stuff?
D. Dolhaine: Yes, if they're operating in areas on the landscapes where the cosmetic ban applies. I guess there are some Crown lands where the ban doesn't apply, so likely there are licensed people doing that work, and that would be allowed. But the difficulty, the challenge, arises when you're dealing in the landscapes where the ban applies, so on the lawns within the municipalities, on the private lands.
B. Bennett (Chair): Anybody that knows about what's happening in Ontario can help us out here, please. What have they banned? Have they banned the sale and use of certain chemical pesticides for everyone, including the agriculture industry, the forest industry and the golf industry? Is it just consumers?
D. Dolhaine: Let me grab my notes here.
B. Bennett (Chair): Do any of the members know?
J. Burleigh: I know that forestry was provided an exception. They're not exempted, but they were provided an exception. Apparently the differential to those two was quite substantial. I do know it's causing some administrative work for the Natural Resources in dealing with this one-off and these permits to get around that.
One of the areas where they're finding this grey area is in urban forests, where foresters consider trees within those landscapes forestry. The Ministry of the Environment does not consider those forestry, so they're having those discussions in terms of where some of those overlaps are.
D. Dolhaine: Ontario. Yes, they've removed a whole suite of products from the shelf, domestic products, so they're not accessible to the average resident or the average member of the public. The pesticides that have been removed are those pesticides used on the outdoor residential area, landscaped areas — those kinds of things.
They haven't banned everything. They're just looking at the label and determining whether that product applies to lawns or landscapes. Those are the ones that have been taken off the shelf, with some exceptions.
So we're talking about how you deal with an invasive species for the resident or for a member of the public if it's landing on a lawn or a landscaped area. That's where this authorization would apply. If we're not talking about lawns and landscaped areas, they likely need a different type of authorization similar to what you need in B.C. to manage weeds and use pesticides in public spaces that are not the lawns and the landscapes.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): I think the information we have is totally correct. Another way to look at it or to understand the Ontario legislation is that there are now three lists. There are substances banned because of their cosmetic use — so banned based on use. There are products that are banned based on ingredient because that ingredient is only used in cosmetic applications. And then there is a restricted list, which our witnesses have told us includes glyphosate — Roundup.
That can be still purchased in Ontario by a consumer at a retail outlet as it is in British Columbia, but the retailer must provide an additional information sheet. I think there's a phase-in period where it will become a behind-the-counter product. That may have already been phased in. I'm not sure.
There's a fourth category, I think, that deals with the…. And the reason glyphosate is not included in the ban is because of giant hogweed and invasive species concerns in residential settings — poisonous-to-touch plants, for example, that can't be treated with other things. That's why they made that distinction.
The other thing that exists in Ontario is that some of the products in the banned list or category can still be used, but there's a ministerial permit. I think that's the question I have that I have not been able to track down information. What is the process to obtain one of those for a homeowner or for a municipal government? How onerous is it? How rigorous is it? I'm wondering if anyone has any idea there.
D. Dolhaine: I think we're saying the same thing. There's a permit that's issued by a different ministry. It's not their Ministry of the Environment; it's by the Ministry of Natural Resources operations or something like this. I am in the process of trying to get in touch with the person who actually administers those pieces and determine how much additional administration is involved in that.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): So if, for example, there was an infestation attacking trees in a neighbourhood setting, and both the municipal government and the homeowners affected wanted to obtain one of these, they would have to go to Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources?
D. Dolhaine: That's correct.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Okay.
J. Burleigh: I'll just sort of add one clarifying point, if
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I could, in that the products where forestry is exempted from the ban…. They're using the same products that are appearing on the banned list, and this causes them quite a bit of public relations concerns around this: "The product is banned and not safe for us to apply on our lawns, so why are you spraying it all over our forests and our wildlife?"
I think that, back to the terminology that we use, it's very, very important in communicating. While they're able to use these banned products, it is creating quite a bit of concern with the public in trying to actually implement some of these programs when it comes up.
That terminology that we use, I think, is very, very important, and the public really cues in on that. It creates some of those sort of unforeseen situations when you go to implement programs.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): I think that's a fair comment, and that's why it is important to hold to the definition of cosmetic use of pesticides. We've had some confusion here at this committee where various industries — golf, agriculture, others — have misunderstood. Most have understood that cosmetic or unnecessary use does not apply to their commercial situation, but a few have wondered if the ban included them. Undoubtedly, that was the case in Ontario too. My understanding is, and certainly our survey results indicate, that most people understand the distinction quite well.
J. Slater: Just to clarify, Jennifer, you said earlier that there were two designations in the forestry district. Are we talking kind of the interface area where they are adjacent to public lands, houses, etc., and then the deep forest, where they have kind of carte blanche to do what they want?
J. Burleigh: I don't remember saying the two distinct areas.
J. Slater: Well, you said there were two different types of licences in the forestry — right?
J. Burleigh: No.
D. Dolhaine: No, I mentioned that there were different plans…
J. Slater: Yeah, different plans for different areas.
D. Dolhaine: …for insect management versus vegetation management.
J. Slater: Okay, so the two plans are nothing to do with interface area.
J. Burleigh: No, the rules that we operate in…. If it's Crown land, it is Crown land. We operate the same way whether it's adjacent to private land…. The rules are all the same. We don't operate differently in the middle of the forests than we do at the interface. The same rules apply. We may go under more public meetings and things like that if it's closer to more people, but the process and everything else that we follow is exactly the same.
M. Sather: On the invasive species. I see there is quite a list of invasive species that we have here in B.C. — both plants and animal, I guess. If we're looking at the typical urban home, do we have any ballpark ideas about invasive species on those kinds of properties? Do we have a lot of them? Are there some that are of a particular concern to the ministries?
M. Waring: With the Ministry of Agriculture, we have a general understanding of some of the invasive species and pests on urban lands from our plant health laboratory, which diagnoses plant health problems that the local garden centres can't identify. So if an unknown pest appears, or an invasive species, we usually have a fairly good understanding of when they appear. Yes, there are invasive species that first arrive in urban settings that threaten agriculture, which are not in agriculture at the moment.
M. Sather: I'm just kind of wondering about some of them. I looked at the list, and I didn't see any dandelions on there. I know there are a number of species of dandelions in the province, but none of them are considered invasive species. Is that right?
L. Wilson: That is correct.
J. Burleigh: I'll just add something. The invasive species is an absolutely huge topic and one that's of great concern to a lot of different ministries. Unfortunately, in Ontario both emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle were identified by private citizens on private property.
Especially with our port nature and around Vancouver, Delta, a lot of our invasive species are going to come in though port environment. An urban environment is often very conducive to invasive species because you have a wide range of host species, and you have trees that are already stressed and not really able to defend themselves. It's often a very ideal environment, and we're not necessarily going to find out about them until they become a problem.
The Canadian Forest Service has done a lot of work — a really interesting study they did at the Surrey landfill site that's converted to a park. They actually did some trapping studies there to look at some small bark- and wood-boring beetles. I won't get the numbers exactly right, but when they went through and looked, it was
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somewhere around 87 percent of the species they found were non-native, and about 95 percent of the individual insects were non-native.
So these invasives were actually in the process of completely replacing our native species. If you didn't go and look, you would have no idea because they're currently forming the same ecological role as our native species, and they're not out killing trees.
Invasive species are a huge problem. We, in a lot of cases, don't know the number that we have. The same fellow who's very overzealous and will come and tell you about all the evil things that are out there continues to do work, and every year he comes up with: "Well, we found this species and this species." It's almost always in the urban environment, and then they work out towards the native forest.
The urban environment is a huge area of invasive species, especially with forests, where we really don't have a good handle on what's out there unless we can actually go out and spend the money looking and trying to find people that know how to identify these. It's a huge concern.
L. Wilson: I would just like to qualify my comment about dandelion and whether it is an invasive species. The designation "invasive species," I think, requires consideration in that many people in the urban landscape certainly would consider dandelion an invasive of their lawns. So from their perspective, it is an invasive species. My comment was really that dandelion is not a noxious weed currently in B.C.
M. Sather: So it's not listed on any invasive species list — right?
L. Wilson: It's not listed on any regulated species, as well, but I don't know if it's not listed on a particular municipality's list.
M. Sather: To be an invasive species, it has to be non-native to our area, doesn't it?
L. Wilson: Not necessarily. One would argue that the mountain pine beetle is very native to British Columbia and also became very invasive. So "invasive species" is not necessarily a designation based on biology or regulation, but it is a judgment kind of evaluation of that species. It can be invasive in one particular set of circumstances and not in another.
M. Sather: Well, maybe we don't have all the lists, but the ones I saw, I made note of that — that the mountain pine beetle wasn't on it. Maybe I missed it. I don't think it's on the list.
L. Wilson: I'm not sure which list you're referring to.
M. Sather: I'll look it up.
B. Bennett (Chair): Michael, if you can tell us which list you're referring to, I'm sure we can clarify it.
Ladies and gentlemen, we do have a document that I think the Ministry of Environment provided to us early in our process. The document I have in front of me here lists all of the provinces that have banned or restricted the use of chemical pesticides in some way or another. The document is last updated July 15, 2011. I think the Ministry of Environment provided that to us when you came and saw us early on in our process.
We as a committee really, I think, need to understand in more detail what the other provinces have actually done. The little discussion that we had about Ontario certainly led me to believe that I need to understand better exactly how they have designed their ban. Otherwise, we're going to be operating in the dark here.
We really need to understand what each of the provinces has done. Frankly, I think it would useful for the government to understand what the other provinces have done, not just for this legislative committee, although that's just an opinion.
I hate to do this to you, but I'm going to ask that you collectively provide us with a brief summary for each province of what their restrictions are so that our committee can be well informed on this as we develop our own recommendations.
Just before you go — before you ask your question, Michael, or make your statement — have I provided you with enough information? Do you understand what it is that we need?
D. Dolhaine: I understand your question, but I have to tell you that I generally do a lot of studying before any presentation I make here because there are so many different approaches and there are so many different nuances. You know, is this allowed here? Is it not allowed there? Are these included or excluded? This land type, that land type and that general model. So I could maybe comment now on, generally, how the models work, but I'm not prepared right now to go through the complexity. I have done it before, but I just can't do it right now.
B. Bennett (Chair): I'm not asking for you to do it here, right on the spot. I'm actually thinking that it…. We need it in writing anyways. We need to understand how these bans are working, if they call them bans. Does each of the provinces refer to their initiatives as bans? Or do you know, offhand?
D. Dolhaine: Not all of them do, I don't think.
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B. Bennett (Chair): But there are however many provinces…. There are six, it looks like — six provinces in Canada that have implemented some sort of restriction on the use of chemical pesticides, probably around the notion of cosmetic use of those pesticides. So we need to understand exactly how they're designed and implemented. Is that possible?
D. Dolhaine: It's possible, yes.
B. Bennett (Chair): Am I ruining your life or anything?
D. Dolhaine: I'm here to serve.
B. Bennett (Chair): Well, thank you. We need a little more detail than what we were provided originally. Don't write a book or anything. Just try and help us understand how each of these initiatives has come down in the provinces, how they're designed and how they're implemented.
Michael, you had something. Anybody else have anything to suggest that would help focus this down a bit?
M. Sather: No, I was just going to refer to the documents regarding….
B. Bennett (Chair): Just hang on a second.
Is there anybody else who has a burning curiosity about what's happening in the other provinces that would like to suggest anything? No. Okay.
M. Sather: So the document that I referred to was the Community Charter Environment and Wildlife Regulation. That one is on plants, referring to alien invasive species. The other one is the Forest and Range Practices Act invasive plants regulation, which has weed species. Yeah, that one's just plants.
They're fairly long. I don't see those on there, but I guess the representative was distinguishing between "invasive," as I would think it's more usually understood, and what might be common parlance with regard to "invasive."
So if we're going to talk about dandelion native species as being invasive, that certainly moves the goalposts quite a bit, I think, in this discussion because we've had a fairly broad agreement that there be exceptions for invasive species. But if we start calling dandelions invasive species, I think that agreement might evaporate.
L. Wilson: I think the definition of an invasive species is one species that causes economic, environmental or social harm regardless of its origin. Most working definitions of "invasive species" include the caveat that those species have been moved into the area by human activity and then, by definition, would generally exclude an invasive species.
B. Bennett (Chair): I suppose they could be invasive if they were some place where they normally wouldn't be, even though they might be native to the region.
L. Wilson: Exactly. So the Canadian moose, for example, is not native to Newfoundland but was introduced to Newfoundland and is quite considered an invasive species in Newfoundland, as is the beaver in Haida Gwaii.
B. Bennett (Chair): They're doing their best in Newfoundland to exterminate that pest. I think on the highways they kill several hundred every year.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Chair, just on your point about the July 15 document that you were referring to — interprovincial comparison. I'm not clear what we were asking our presenters to expound upon.
There was one error or omission in the box about how a resident manages invasive plants, where it references Quebec legislation that glyphosate is available. It doesn't do the same for Ontario, which I think is in fact the case. Other than that error, I'm not sure that anything has changed in the document since July 15.
I understand that Manitoba has committed to complete a review of cosmetic pesticides, which may include legislation before their parliament, and that was to be concluded by the end of 2011. That might be the only new detail that we don't have in this document, as well as, I guess, federal regulations banning feeder fertilizer–pesticide combination products, which is imminent.
But I wouldn’t want to — lest I run into some of these civil servants in the grocery store or something like that — have them go and do a lot of unnecessary work and hear about it later. That wouldn't be particularly useful to the committee. But I think most of the facts are here, and I'm just wondering, for my own sense of clarity, which details you felt were missing. I'm not sure which direction we just gave to our presenters today.
B. Bennett (Chair): Good point, Rob. Why don't we do this? We're coming up to a lunch break, and I need to discuss with you what your timing is for staying a bit longer. But why don't I take a look at this document over lunch? I'll get back to you, maybe through one of the Jims, in terms of whether we need anything more or not, and if we do, I'll be a little more specific.
J. Hofweber: Yeah, that would be helpful. I mean, what I envisioned from the first way the question was posed is that we would put a binder together with each province's legislation appendices that have all the regulations associated with that and all the public information associated with it as well, so that it's completely explained and all
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the details are there.
If that's what you'd like, we can absolutely do that. My Spidey sense told me that you wanted follow-up questions like: "So how is it working, and what's the result, and what's the reduction of pesticides?" It becomes bigger and bigger.
We will do whatever you want, but we just need to know what, precisely, that is.
B. Bennett (Chair): Well, on that last question — how's it working? — I was hoping that we would have time to get into that here a little bit. You can tell us what you know from….
J. Hofweber: We are prepared to discuss that for Ontario for sure, because that was the list of questions.
B. Bennett (Chair): Yeah, so we can get into that here at this hearing. Over just a bit of a lunch break, let me have a look at this and see whether there is more of a focus that I can provide to you. I'm not sure. I'll look to my committee members for some sense of whether the kind of binder you've described would actually be that useful to us.
J. Yap: This actually relates to virtually the same question we asked of Health Canada, about the jurisdictions that have introduced some restrictions. What research is there that shows the effects, the impact, of the restrictions since they were introduced?
The answer we got, I believe, was that they were not aware, other than in Ontario, with respect to watercourses — right? So if our ministry has additional information showing what information, if any, has been done showing the impact of these restrictions in the other provinces that have brought in these restrictions, I think that would be helpful — on human health, on environment, etc.
B. Bennett (Chair): You could probably widen that discussion out and include interface issues, which is one of the questions that we've got here on the list. What impacts have they seen in other provinces with regard to agricultural issues and invasive plant issues and forestry issues — if you know of any impacts? Some of those bans are pretty recent, I know.
J. Hofweber: Yeah, that's the problem. A lot of these haven't been out there enough to have enough data to talk about impacts. But Daphne has been in touch with her colleagues in the other jurisdictions, and we can certainly give you what we have.
I understand that the object of the exercise is to look at the other models that are out there and decide if any of these things fit for B.C. and what's the most efficient way to go about it. We understand that question, and we'll help you with that.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. How's your time today? Can you stay longer, or does anyone have to leave?
J. Hofweber: Well, Daphne was originally scheduled to be on a flight to Kelowna at three. I've just discussed with her the fact she might need to cancel that because we're only halfway through the questions, and this is important. I know the deadline you folks are under. So we're okay for as long as it takes.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Well, if Daphne has to leave, we understand that. We've got the two Jims.
J. Hofweber: Yeah. Good luck with that.
B. Bennett (Chair): I believe there's enough lunch for everyone, if you'd like to grab some lunch.
Deputy Chair, what do you think we should do about lunch? Should we take a break for a half-hour, 20 minutes?
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): I know my BlackBerry has been buzzing a lot. I have to check a few things. Maybe a 20-minute recess.
B. Bennett (Chair): Is that okay with everyone — 20 minutes?
So we are back here at 25 after 12, if that's okay. Feel free to get your lunch and have it here.
Can I have a motion to recess?
The committee recessed from 12:02 p.m. to 12:34 p.m.
[B. Bennett in the chair.]
B. Bennett (Chair): Members, ladies and gentlemen, I did have an opportunity to review the document that the Ministry of Environment provided to us in the summer describing — at least briefly, in point form — the policies of the various provinces who have implemented some sort of restriction on the use of pesticides.
I think the Deputy Chair is right. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There's good information here.
However, I understand that there have already been some changes to some of the provincial implementations. So it would be great if the Ministry of Environment could update this document and provide us with the updated version.
I thought that since all of us, I think, have a copy of this document in front of us…. I just throw it open to members to focus on any particular province or any particular aspect of their policy at this point — just in case there is
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something in addition that members would like you to focus on when you update it.
Members, just take a quick look at what's there. I'll just get started myself. The piece that gave me the most challenge in understanding it was the criteria for each of the provinces — what they are, how they were determined. For example, with Ontario and Quebec, you say that the criteria basically consists of hazard ranking. So I take it that's hazard ranking that comes from Health Canada.
D. Dolhaine: Yeah, that's correct. A lot of the information can be found in documents that Health Canada publishes for every pesticide. These are things like acute or chronic toxicity — oral, dermal — those kinds of things. Normally, I believe that's the way Ontario's model works. They look at that readily available information.
M. Coell: I asked the Health Canada staff whether these other provinces had asked their professional advice during the changes that they made. The answer was that no, they were not consulted on the changes that the provinces were making. I just wondered whether it would be possible to look at whether the staff initiated these responses in the different provinces or whether they were political in nature, and whether the professional staff and scientists were asked for their opinions before the changes were made.
That can go on this — when it comes back. I don't need an answer right now.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): I think that might be difficult to do, with all due respect to the member. It would be incredibly subjective to ask such a question. Health Canada did not say they weren't consulted. They say they have ongoing discussions with the provinces about their different jurisdictional roles and, where they overlap, about the administration of existing legislation. I think what they said was that they were not asked to play the role of lawmakers and give an opinion, which they probably shouldn't give, about what legislative changes might be contemplated.
I think it would be equally difficult for us to ask Ministry of Environment staff to create a document about what advice may or may not have been given by Health Canada to other provincial jurisdictions that have implemented cosmetic pesticide bans, about how they advise the legislative drafting process.
M. Coell: It might be worthwhile reading the Hansard for what they actually said. What I'm looking for is when the politicians decided to make a decision whether they actually asked their professional staff or whether it was a political decision.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Well, that might interesting to ask, for example, the Minister of the Environment in Ontario. Of course, that could be privileged conversation. In fact, we did discuss at one stage — the Chair and I — about having witnesses who were elected officials, either past or present, that had some role in provinces that have introduced bans. We couldn't come to an agreement on whether that would be useful or not. So the decision was to exclude that kind of testimony from the committee.
That decision having been made to exclude politicians from testifying at this committee, I think it would be difficult, again, to ask civil servants to try and understand what conversations or processes may have been in place by political lawmakers in different jurisdictions. I think the questions would be best posed to those who perform our role as MLAs in other provinces, if we wish to ask those kinds of questions.
B. Bennett (Chair): Can I maybe suggest another approach to getting at, I think, what the member is after? That would be to take a look at whether any of the provinces have formally stated that they don't fully trust the judgment and the process of Health Canada and that therefore they have decided to implement a ban. I think that would be an interesting thing to know.
I know that in Quebec, or at least my understanding is, the government there did, in fact, say that their ban was based on a belief that the use of pesticides in that cosmetic situation was a definite, real risk to human health. I think they had to eat those words as a result of the NAFTA challenge by Dow Chemical. They actually had to issue a statement publicly saying that in fact, 2,4-D did not pose a risk to human health.
That was the purpose of the challenge under NAFTA, as I understand it. It wasn't a lawsuit. They weren't looking for damages and things like that. Because of the rules within NAFTA, no signatory to NAFTA, as I understand it, can make a policy decision that is not based on the best available science if there's an impact to the two participating countries — so on that basis. I probably haven't articulated it perfectly, but that's the gist of it, I think.
So Dow brought this action, I guess, under NAFTA and demanded that Quebec publicly admit that their policy was not based on the best available science. So that's what they had to say, essentially.
That's what you're getting at, Murray, I think — isn't it?
M. Coell: I think what I said at our last meeting was that I was very pleased when this committee was set up — I wasn't on it at that time — that it was an all-party committee that sought advice from citizens, stakeholders and scientists. I just wondered whether the other provinces actually did that or whether it was basically a political decision. That's what I would like to know.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Again, I think it's very
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difficult to ask members of the provincial ministry to assess whether a legislative action was motivated by political decision-making or the advice of science, stakeholders and internal ministry staff. I mean, you're really putting somebody on the spot.
To interview people from other provinces, to obtain that information, which is going to be very subjective and probably third- or fourth-hand, I think has no value to this committee. I think if you want to ask those questions, you should ask our counterparts — MLAs, members of the assembly — who had the chance to debate legislation that was introduced before their respective legislatures and ministers.
This is the second go-round we've had in the province of B.C. regarding looking at cosmetic pesticides. The first was an internal and exhaustive ministry survey, which, again, found that 80 percent of British Columbians favour a cosmetic pesticide use ban. The advice and conclusions of that study given to government, which weren't acted upon, remained as that, as a study.
We've taken a different route this time. We have a legislative committee. It is up to MLAs to advise the other members of the assembly what our recommendations are at the end of this process. I don't think it's appropriate for us to try and obtain information from those who work for the ministry on how we should arrive at that conclusion. We should base it on the information. We shouldn't try and read the tea leaves in other provinces about how they arrived at their decisions.
M. Coell: With that in mind, it would be easy to know whether any of the other provinces used a committee like this. That would be very easy for the staff to find out.
J. Schofield: Sorry to interrupt. We do have some information that indicates that B.C. is quite unusual in having a public consultation — which I'm just sharing with the Chair. Perhaps we could circulate it to the members.
M. Coell: What I'm interested in is what procedure the other provinces used to make their decision, and whether they used a committee structure like this would satisfy me.
J. Schofield: I think we can get you that information.
B. Bennett (Chair): Yeah, I'm sure, within the committee's resources, we can obtain that information. I won't be asking the ministry to go out and try and obtain the specific information that MLA Coell asked for, but there are bits and pieces of factual evidence that we could ask you to confirm for us, as well as our research staff.
At this end we'll take care of determining whether the provinces struck a legislative committee or what kind of process they went through. Maybe it was an internal ministry review, such as the one that was done by our Ministry of Environment, that led them to their policy. We'll make that determination.
In this same vein, I would still like to know whether any of the ministries in the other provinces have statements on their websites basically stating that they don't have faith in the Health Canada process and that's why they've implemented a ban. Does anyone actually say that?
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Well, I think this document that we've been looking at today, under the objectives section, has probably lifted these — in the format of, represented to us as bullets. The objectives are probably lifted from the intent and description of the legislation, of the bills. I could be wrong.
To go back to the discussion we were just having, I have no problem with Murray Coell's request for us to ascertain whether the legislative committees were used in the development of cosmetic pesticide bans in those six provinces that now have them. But I want to underscore that I think it would be entirely inappropriate for us to have ministry staff go after what would undoubtedly be privileged information between ministry staff in other provinces and either the executive or Legislative Assembly in those provinces.
That would be just wrong, and it probably wouldn't be fruitful either.
B. Bennett (Chair): I agree with what the Deputy Chair is saying. I'm not a hundred percent sure that's what Murray was asking for. I think he wants to get at the question of whether these bans were done for mainly political reasons in response to public opinion or whether in fact there was an exhaustive committee process that led up to it. I think we can figure that out without laying that on our witnesses.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): I think that would be an interesting fact for us to include in the report alongside the jurisprudence on cosmetic pesticide bans. Of course, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on this, saying that it's entirely appropriate for provincial governments and local governments to have cosmetic pesticide bans. I think all of that information should be in one place.
B. Bennett (Chair): I can't help harkening back to Dr. Ritter from the University of Guelph in his presentation to us at one of our committee meetings in Vancouver. He ended his presentation by saying, "If you want to ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes, that obviously is within your mandate as elected officials, but please be honest enough to admit that you're doing it for political reasons and not for scientific reasons," which has kind of stuck with me.
I think that's what Murray Coell's trying to get at, and
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that's something we're going to have to talk about in camera and decide how we're going to deal with it in the report. But I do agree. I don't want to lay that on the officials to dig that out.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Mr. Chair, I can anticipate a fulsome debate that will be about the debate within science — not between science and politics but within science and the precautionary principle versus other approaches that underpin legislation.
B. Bennett (Chair): Well said.
After listening to that…. It's like you've got a glass to the wall and you're listening to somebody on the other side of it, for you folks. Do you have anything that would illuminate our understanding of what we just discussed? Or would you like to stay completely out of that?
J. Hofweber: Yeah — that.
B. Bennett (Chair): The latter. Okay. Take the glass down, then.
All right. Well, I think what we can discuss…. I know I'm skipping over the question of educational resources just for a minute because I think this is a very good segue into the longer question. I'm just going to read it out to get it on the record: "What have other provinces done in regard to the interface between agriculture settings and residential properties, and the interface between golf courses and residential properties?" Also: "Can you supply information on how many B.C. golf courses are enrolled in the IPM accreditation program?"
Let's leave that latter sentence as a separate question. Let's deal with the interface, and in addition to golf courses and agriculture settings, let's also include forests, and let's include the issue of invasive species. What are the implications for a ban on the use of pesticides in your neighbourhood and maybe on school grounds, playgrounds, fields — that sort of thing? What are the implications of that for agriculture, forestry, invasive plant species and golf courses?
Do the Agriculture folks want to start?
M. Waring: Restrictions on pesticides regarding the management of pests that are of economic importance to agriculture would have an effect on agriculture, whether the pest is in an urban setting or in an agriculture or rural setting. It's immaterial in many ways as to whether the pest is actually in the agriculture crop or in an urban setting.
Pests are mobile. If it's found in an urban area and it causes major economic threats…. Some examples of economic threats with respect to agriculture are probably easily understood — things such as crop yield and quality. It also goes into trade issues. Some areas that may not have the pests that we have will look at British Columbia and say: "We're not allowing you to export any of your products into our country without a lot of further requirements, or not at all, because we don't want that problem in our area."
B. Bennett (Chair): Is that an issue in Ontario at the present time or any of the other provinces that have bans?
M. Waring: That can be an issue nationally.
B. Bennett (Chair): But has it surfaced, manifested itself as a real problem for the agriculture industry in any of the other provinces yet? I know the bans are quite new.
M. Waring: The bans are quite new, but that is an actual situation with a lot of pests that come into agriculture with regard to restrictions on them or requirements for intense certification programs in the province. P. ramorum is a disease where B.C. has had to put a lot of certification programs in place so that nursery crops can now be shipped. As far as whether the bans have caused it, I think that's premature or too early to say in some instances.
B. Bennett (Chair): Well, let's turn it around and look at British Columbia, then, and consider a hypothetical ban here. We've got produce. We've got agricultural products being exported offshore and elsewhere in Canada and down to the States and so forth. Have you taken a look at whether we would risk those exports by putting on any sort of a pesticide ban here in B.C.?
M. Waring: It would depend on the specific pest that comes in and the crop that it's on.
B. Bennett (Chair): I'm guessing, but I think we're talking about plants — right? We're not talking about mice and….
M. Waring: No, we're talking insects, diseases and plants.
B. Bennett (Chair): But I don't think we're talking about insects. We are to some extent, but what we're mainly talking about here is…. Correct me if I'm wrong, Members, but we're talking about plants — I think weeds in people's lawns and on school yards and playing fields and things like that. So if you limit it to….
Let's say that the province of British Columbia decided they were going to ban the use of some types of herbicides for certain situations — people's homes, the school grounds, public places. Can you see that leading to any issues with regard to the export of agricultural products?
M. Waring: I'm more familiar with the insect and disease end. I'd like to provide a real-life example of an insect that will have a….
Did you want to do a weed issue first?
L. Wilson: The answer is, hypothetically, yes. That, again, would depend on the type of weed and its ability to spread from the urban environment into the agricultural fields.
Generally, the weeds that we consider in the home and garden situation now, for the most part, are not a large threat to agriculture, but there are examples with creeping buttercups and species like that which do have and potentially have direct impact to production, quality and quantity.
B. Bennett (Chair): When the Ministry of Environment was doing its comprehensive look at the issue of pesticides and whether they should recommend a ban to their minister, was there broader work done with the Ministry of Agriculture on this particular question? Okay, if our colleagues in Environment recommend that there be some sort of ban on the use of pesticides in certain situations, that's going to put at risk some of our agricultural exports. Was that considered at the time? Do you know?
D. Dolhaine: Yes. We had conversations with our colleagues in other ministries to see what the feedback, if this should happen…. What I heard was that urban areas, residential areas could potentially be a reservoir for pests. We didn't explore it beyond that, but that's the message that I heard, that we heard.
L. Wilson: Many of the weeds in urban and in rural residential confines do have the potential to spread out onto pastures and rangelands, for example. And there you can see — and we have seen over the history of rangeland management in B.C. — those impacts of range weeds that have really reduced the amount of available forage for the livestock industry.
B. Bennett (Chair): Yeah. There's absolutely no question about that. John Slater and I both live in rural B.C. I live on an acreage. We have yellow toadflax, and it is incredible, from year to year, how it spreads.
L. Wilson: Exactly so. Right. And it's an escaped ornamental plant from the urban garden.
J. Burleigh: Possibly just one other context piece for the discussions. We say the domestic use of pesticides is very small relative to everything else. So if you think of that in the context of controlling a weed in the urban environment, you're talking about a relatively small amount of pesticide, herbicide to control it.
If that weed then comes out into an agriculture or forestry setting, you're talking about very large volumes of chemical being required to treat, annually, that same pest. So I think it's also the context piece of using it in a small amount and controlling it when it's still not established and keeping it in a very small area versus looking at widespread, large-scale applications of pesticides.
M. Waring: A current example that I would like to provide is the European chafer. It first came into New Westminster in around 2001. It has not been in British Columbia before. It is now moving towards the agricultural areas. Some municipalities have had bylaws where you cannot use certain products. Thus, they're not able to…. It's one of the reasons it's not being held back.
That pest has jumped the Fraser River and is proceeding towards a lot of agricultural areas. It is a key agricultural pest in eastern North America. It's a pest of pastures. It's a pest of wheat. It's a pest of…. Well, blueberries are a big one.
Ontario and Quebec have had to apply for a pesticide registration for the use on several crops, including their blueberries. Although agriculture uses sort of an integrated approach, that particular pesticide or insecticide is one of the primary control measures.
This pest in British Columbia is still in the urban area. If we look at blueberries as an example, we have 8,000 hectares of blueberries in British Columbia. We do not need to use an insecticide for this pest on those crops.
The registration that Ontario and Quebec got was for, I believe, 1.2 litres per hectare for one application a year. If it got throughout our blueberries, we're looking at potentially a lot more pesticide having to be used in agriculture because an invasive pest that first appeared in urban areas has now gotten into an agricultural crop. In order to market it, to have a good-quality crop of one of these superberries that's considered full of antioxidants, they will have to be using more pesticides on it.
That was, to me, a real-life example of what is happening or what can happen with a new pest that enters into the urban area that cannot be contained or managed within that urban area. It's really imperative, not in every pest situation but in key economic pests, to keep them out of the agricultural area so that less pesticide ultimately needs to be used on the food.
B. Bennett (Chair): You said that there are some municipalities who have bans in place that affect this pest?
M. Waring: Yes. I couldn't give you the names right now, but there are some municipalities with pesticide bylaws, and there is a commercial product available where you could hire someone to come and treat for that pest to control it. But those companies aren't using that product because of the municipal bylaws. So the pest is moving
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more than we would like to see.
That is a possibility that could happen with any pest, whether it's a forestry pest or an agricultural pest. That is why we try to express the importance of…. If it is a pest of economic importance to agriculture, there needs to be the capability of managing those pests in urban areas so they do not get into the agricultural crops. That's one aspect that can have a big impact on agriculture.
The other area is not a new pest but an existing pest, whereby it can be a source of infestation or reinfestation. You mentioned about the codling moths. I'm sure you heard of it. Under the Community Charter, municipalities can have bylaws that mandate that you must control a particular pest, whether it's in an urban area or a rural area, to protect the agricultural crop.
The codling moth is an excellent example in B.C., because there is what's known as a sterile insect release program. In order to minimize and reduce the amount of pesticides used in agriculture, moths are sterilized and released and breed. The homeowners in the Okanagan districts, if they do not control the codling moths, have to either strip their trees of apples or remove the apple trees. People have been….
B. Bennett (Chair): Let me ask you something. Michael has a question, but this is relevant to what you're saying. When I was Minister of Community Services, all the bylaws — I guess it was from only regional districts, not municipalities — came forward to the minister for sign-off. So we don't really get a crack at the bylaws that are passed by municipalities — do we? We don't have any opportunity to refer things to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment or Forests.
M. Waring: There are certain bylaws related to agriculture that must go before the Minister of Agriculture. I believe they're more related to planning. I'd have to clarify that.
B. Bennett (Chair): Thank you. We'll maybe dig into that a little bit on our own here, if I can just maybe put an asterisk beside that one for staff.
M. Waring: Those are two areas where, whether it's an existing pest or a new pest…. There's also a large urban movement for urban agriculture — trying to increase sustainability, trying to have local food production.
Some of the municipal agriculture advisory committees are trying to encourage more agriculture — urban agriculture, they call it — within the municipalities. This often is not product for sale, so there may be no dollar value associated with it. It could be products for individual use or for sharing or for community gardens.
Those people would have to be able to manage their pests as well, and there may be certain situations where pesticide could be needed to manage them. So there needs to be careful thought as to whether any actions you may propose could deter the movement to increase local food production, agriculture production, within the urban setting.
We have a very unique province. It's the most urbanized province. There is no definitive line between agriculture in general…. About 80 percent of B.C.'s population is in the two triangular regions — one in the Okanagan area, one in the Fraser Valley–Vancouver Island area. Approximately 80 percent of the province's population is there, and approximately 80 percent of the farm cash receipts come out of those exact same areas, so it's all intermingled. There is agriculture; there is urban; there is rural — which makes this even more of a challenge for you, as to how to balance that so that all of those activities can be carried on.
We do have an agricultural land reserve, which provides a bit of a defined line between some of the designated agricultural lands, but in the agricultural land reserve there are approximately 80 percent of the residents who are actually non-farmers, who will be impacted as well. That's another concept that needs to be taken into consideration when you go forward and make your recommendations.
So that I don't take any longer, I guess the main point is that if there was a pest of economic importance to agriculture, there needs to be the ability to manage it, whether it's in urban or rural areas. If no domestic products were available at all, the people in urban areas would have a great difficulty, perhaps, in managing some of those specific pests — again, a difficult balancing and decisions for you to think of.
At that — anything from my colleagues? — I'd open it up to any questions.
B. Bennett (Chair): Thank you very much. I think there may be some other comments from down at the end of the table, but Michael, you go ahead first.
M. Sather: I think you referred to the chafer beetle. Is that the right name?
M. Waring: European chafer.
M. Sather: The European chafer. It showed up in New Westminster first in….
M. Waring: In 2001.
M. Sather: In private homes.
M. Waring: Yes, and in an urban area in New Westminster.
M. Sather: How did it get there?
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M. Waring: I'd have to check with our entomologist to see how. A lot of new pests come in with the urban public. They do more travelling. There's more transportation. Things can be brought in from other places unintentionally. But that specific pest…. I could find out for you.
M. Sather: You're saying that this is a serious pest. So what has the Ministry of Agriculture done to control that pest in urban areas?
M. Waring: What have we done to control it?
M. Sather: Right.
M. Waring: We have talked to some municipalities. Often the response is: "Well, we're an urban area. We're not farming."
Linda has something to add to that.
L. Wilson: We have worked and continue to work with municipalities that are impacted by the European chafer, to develop information materials, extension materials for them to share with their residents, in terms of how to manage this insect using integrated pest management — the various approaches that they can use.
M. Sather: As I said before, the intention of this committee is surely not to impede dealing with invasive species. I'd be curious to know if there are municipalities, which you alluded to, that actually are doing this. First of all, I didn't know if that would be legal, but if they have a bylaw that says that you can't deal with an invasive species like that, that would be of some concern to all of us, I think. It would be good to know if that were the case.
L. Wilson: And we could certainly get that information for you. The Inter-Ministry Invasive Species Working Group has in fact done a preliminary analysis of the municipal bylaws that are currently in place with respect to the cosmetic use of pesticides.
B. Bennett (Chair): Good. We'd like to hear about that. Does anybody…?
J. Burleigh: Well, I have one piece, and it relates a little bit to what Madeline and Linda have been saying regarding…. I don't think there are any bylaws out there that say…. Most of them say: "This does not cover pests of agriculture or industry." So the bylaws that are normally there that I'm familiar with do say that they do not apply.
However, the biggest thing in forestry with gypsy moth and other programs that we deal with is public perception. So in dealing with these bans in place, these bans being spoken about.... "Pesticides are bad. They're harmful. They're toxic. We want to limit their use." Then, when something comes in and you're trying to get people to use these products, it's that value judgment that they're making. They're not putting the same value on the potential impact of agriculture as the fact that this is tearing up and destroying their lawn.
That perception around the safety of these products is where it comes into play and trying to compel people within that urban setting to control them.
So the bylaw's almost always exempt for those purposes, but then it's trying to get the people to understand the value of it with respect to regarding the messaging that's coming out around the lack of safety or lack of perceived safety around the products that are being used. And that's where public perception….
With our gypsy moth programs, we use a biological, fairly low-risk pesticide relative to what's available. I mean, we've got old ladies that are hitting our guys with their umbrellas to keep them off their properties. People become very emotional when it comes to pesticides. So the messaging is incredibly important, and the public is really getting several different messages. That's where, I think, we run into some real problems in that public messaging around the safety of the pesticides versus the importance of controlling some of these pests for our different economic sectors.
G. Thompson: Just to summarize this quite quickly. Whatever the committee comes up with in terms of a recommendation, I think what we're saying, and what Madeline has alluded to, is that the economic impact to some of the commercial sectors needs to be considered before recommendations are made.
If such a pest, virus, insect or whatever does…. If we do lose control, if you will, it can have significant impact on the agricultural sector, I think, as you well know. The last thing this industry needs would be any more border closures or anything for that very reason. It's a big sector; it's an important sector. Whatever your recommendation is, you need to consider the economic impact of such.
J. Slater: Just to that point, I agree. But it's not just the codling moth kind of scenario. I was very involved in the SIR program at its inception 22 years ago now.
What about the blights and the funguses and the moulds and those kinds of things that are in backyards? It's purely cosmetic. I mean, it's not trying to kill an insect or anything like that. That's cosmetic, and that can affect greenhouses and trees and all the rest of it. If we're banning fungicides per se, that will have a huge economic impact on the greenhouse industry and orchards.
G. Thompson: It certainly could.
B. Bennett (Chair): Hansard doesn't record nodding heads, so if you would like to say something about that, Linda.
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L. Wilson: Sorry for the interruption. I would add that likely an even more immediate threat with a fungus or a bacterium just because they can spread so much faster in the landscape than an invasive plant, for example.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): I would just ask our colleagues from the Ministry of Agriculture, because something like 22 million Canadians now live in provinces where there is a cosmetic residential pesticide ban, to really look at…. I'm sure all of them contemplated and are monitoring any potential economic impacts, which we're discussing here.
I think it would be useful for this committee to obtain any information that you can get from those jurisdictions. I have heard nothing in the rather exhaustive process around pesticides and the literature we've received here to suggest that the dairy industry in Quebec has suffered because towns have primarily banned…. Let's face it. We're talking about lawn care products here in 95 percent of the instances. Those are banned to protect kids and for environmental health reasons.
I have heard nothing, for example, from southern Ontario or the Niagara region about an adverse economic impact because in the towns that are surrounded by an agricultural setting there is a ban on, primarily, lawn care products. I haven't seen it, but if you can check with your government colleagues in those jurisdictions and find anything that is worth reporting to this committee, I'd be pleased to receive it.
I would suggest to you that from the quite thorough survey of literature, submissions and information that this committee has received, we have heard nothing to suggest an economic impact of that sort.
The only debate we have had, or conflicting information we have received, is from the lawn care sector in Ontario, where some lawn care companies have claimed that it has been bad for business. Some jurisdictions have said they have more lawn care companies than they've ever had before and that employment, sales volume and business have never been stronger.
M. Waring: For clarification, was that just lawn care products or any products?
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): That was applicators like landscape companies, which are no longer allowed to apply products that are on the banned list.
M. Waring: Sure, we can look into that.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): The Ontario government has suggested that there have been some economic benefits from increased research and development of alternative natural products that control weeds and pests. That includes production facilities that have employed workers and capital investments in that province. This is coming into its fifth year of a ban in Ontario, and I've not heard of any adverse effects that you might have contemplated in your remarks earlier about agricultural infestations from residential properties.
L. Wilson: I would likely tend to agree with you, from what I know from my colleagues across the country and, in fact, across the U.S. as well. I guess the type of response that I was providing you was across the whole spectrum of pesticides and across the whole spectrum of pesticide uses. Depending on how narrow the goalposts are that you're speaking of, there could potentially be zero to very acute impacts to agriculture, forestry, other resources.
R. Fleming (Deputy Chair): Chair, I think the discussion has been very good today. When you're looking at situations like this where you want to avoid adverse impacts, of course, I think it's fair to say, and we're going to get more information about this, that some provinces have not contemplated well in their legislation — situations like what we've been discussing here, of urban and agricultural interface — and some have.
They have enabled homeowners and agriculturalists to respond to infestations and incidents as they arise and to take quick action on them with the various exemptions that exist in the legislation with the ministerial permits that can be obtained, and some haven't. I think that's an interesting feature for us to consider as we make recommendations to government about how, if there is to be a cosmetic pesticide ban, it can be most effective in its implementation and contemplative of situations that do require urgency.
B. Bennett (Chair): Linda, do you have something?
L. Wilson: Just really briefly, to embellish on that. Our environmental sustainability staff within the Ministry of Agriculture, who work with communities on the fringe of the agricultural land reserve…. We do have edge planning, a strategy for the province. So because we do have the agricultural land reserve, which is a hard boundary compared to other provinces which deal with more of the urban sprawl into the agricultural area, we have the benefit of having the ability to work with those communities in dealing with rural-urban interface and edge planning kinds of approaches.
B. Bennett (Chair): We're going to run out of time. We have an in-camera session that we need to get done, I think, before two o'clock.
John, do you have to leave early today?
J. Slater: Yeah, three o'clock flight.
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B. Bennett (Chair): So you have to be out of here pretty soon.
J. Slater: About five to, ten to — something like that.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Well, it's good of you to stay that long, I think, if you're going to the airport.
J. Slater: I'm taking Daphne.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. So the questions that we don't get answered here…. I'll identify those questions to you, and perhaps you can give us something in writing on those ones.
I really need to ask this question. It's been on my mind since ten o'clock this morning. The province did a major review of pesticide use, including public consultation, and I think one of the members — it might have been the Deputy Chair — said that the public response was overwhelmingly: "You should ban this stuff." Yet the province didn't.
I'm not going to ask you about privileged advice that you might have given to the minister of the day, but just from your perspective as having been involved in that deliberation, why was there not a ban? Why did we not do a ban here in B.C. after that study?
J. Hofweber: That's one of those questions that Rob usually says: "They shouldn't answer that." But I understand what you folks mean and what you're trying to do here.
First off, the consultation piece that we did, which coincidentally got about 8,000 responses as well…. I should first say that it wasn't a survey. We don't know if the same person responded 18 times or one time. We don't know whether the people were in B.C. or out of B.C. It wasn't that kind of a consultation. We just wanted opinions and ideas. But I think the characterization is still fair.
There was an overwhelming support for some sort of ban, and the reason that we don't have one so far is because of, I think, what I said in my opening remarks — that it's very complicated. There are lots of collateral issues that get brought in. It's difficult. The science is difficult to discuss because there's science on both sides of the issue. I personally trust Health Canada more than I trust other sources of science, because I know they're professionals. They do that day in and day out. My toxicologist that works for me trusts them.
But setting the science aside, that doesn’t change the drive for something. We have 30-some municipalities that have done something. Every year at the UBCM they ask us to do something. The reason is that it's complicated.
What is the answer? If I could just speak frankly here, in terms of if someone told me: "What would you advise this committee to consider for a recommendation, based on everything you've seen and known on this file?" I'm going to take a chance here and make a recommendation for your consideration.
I think the Premier focused it very well in her remarks when she said the lawns, parks and playgrounds, as a place to start. I think the concern from the people is mostly around those things, where you see little kids rolling around on turf grass and you wonder what's on there. What are they bringing into the house? What's going into their mouths? So if it was up to me, I would focus it on lawns, parks and playgrounds, and that means turf. I would suggest that the vegetable gardens, the flower gardens, the fruit trees — not for consideration the first time around.
In terms of what to ban and what not to ban — very difficult question, because all of these things are pesticides, even the home brews, the acetic acid, the cornmeal gluten, all the home remedies and the alternative products. They are pesticides. They are herbicides and pesticides. Are they chemicals? They're all chemicals.
From a scientific point of view, it's very difficult to draw a line. Quebec spent some time in looking at hazard assessment. They went right to toxicity information from Health Canada, and they drew a line, arbitrarily drew a line, and said: "If it's more toxic than this, it's not on here. If it's less toxic than this, it's okay."
What they didn't do was assess risk. Risk has to do with the hazard as well as the exposure. It's like the can of gasoline that's in your garage to run your chainsaw or your lawnmower. It's very toxic, but what's the risk that you're going to drink it, for instance? It's pretty low.
What I would start with is herbicides on lawns, parks and playgrounds, and I would put in place a system for exceptions. So if there was an invasive plant issue that was associated with, say, a municipality that had a large playground area that they weren't looking after and it had a danger of infesting something around it, they could apply for a permit. Also, we could compel a treatment if that was an issue. I would limit the focus in that manner.
B. Bennett (Chair): What about the application of the pesticide in the vegetable garden, rose bushes, fruit trees? Under the scenario that you're describing hypothetically, would the consumer still be able to go in and buy the product?
J. Hofweber: Yes.
B. Bennett (Chair): So it would be up to the consumer to obey the ban — that you're not to use it on your lawn, but you're allowed to use it on your flowers. I take it that that would be kind of based on the honour system.
J. Hofweber: Yeah, or give new meaning to the term "neighbourhood watch." You're pointing out the prob-
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lems that actually make the case for why we haven't had one so far.
But I think there's another thing at play that sometimes we talk about, and that's that the people and the market are a little in front of us on this. The products are disappearing from shelves, and the 78 percent are not compelled to use these things. They're not using them at all. So they're worried about the few that are.
I think if we are to do anything in the province to sort of move it on down the line without creating a lot of ancillary damage or unforeseen consequences, I would focus it on lawns, parks and playgrounds and focus it on herbicides. There could be a discussion about fungicides as well. I'm not sure. But if there was an exception system put in there for dealing with the issues that Madeline and Linda brought up, I think you'd have it covered.
I don't know if that's what's supposed to go on at one of these committees, but I've been sitting here thinking the same thing you are — that we need to get to the solution part of this at some point.
B. Bennett (Chair): Well actually, in my experience of 11 years of being an MLA, we don't encourage public servants to express their personal point of view on these things as often as we should. So I appreciate the fact that you did, Jim, and I would encourage everyone else to think that way as well. It's very helpful to us.
Is anybody else feeling inspired at the moment, at that end of the table? This is your chance.
J. Burleigh: I have just one comment. Being the only one here without an executive sponsor, maybe I feel a little bit safer because they probably don't have time to read the Hansard.
But in contemplating where it may go, I think there's recognition that a lot of the herbicides that are used domestically for the lawn care are the same products that we're using in a forestry application. So again, it comes back to what I've been speaking to around the messaging. We're saying, "Yeah, it's not safe" or "You don't use it on your lawn," but we're going to go and spray it across the forest and the bunnies and the trees over here.
It's a recognition that often it's the same products being used in the industries that are being used in the urban and domestic environment. Again, it's just that context piece. So when you're going forward, it's really important, the messaging that comes around with where you're going, because then we have to go and operate in the public realm with these same products.
You know, as a ministry we don't want to be going and spraying products that everyone here now thinks are toxic and are going to kill everything and that they can't use. So while we have a mandate to do it and we're exempted from it, our actual ability to carry out those programs with public acceptance could be potentially hampered. That's just sort of the context piece going forward.
We care about what people think about our programs. We like people thinking that we're doing good, and we don't like getting beat up by old ladies with umbrellas because they think we're doing something really bad, or getting death threats from people. It's that context piece that these products are used in a bunch of different places, and the messaging that happens in one place really affects what we can do in other places.
B. Bennett (Chair): I came across a term in an article just a while ago. The term was "chemophobia." I mean, there are so many public policy issues that require a basic level of scientific literacy to sort through them, so many issues that we as legislators deal with. One would think that with the higher education levels of today and the unlimited volumes of information at our disposal, our society would have that higher level of scientific literacy, but we don't seem to.
J. Burleigh: It's the emotional tie. You can sit there and have a debate about science. You can't sit and debate people's emotions. Chemicals and pesticides become a very emotional….
B. Bennett (Chair): We do it every four years.
J. Burleigh: Yeah. It's a very emotional topic with people, and it's one that you're stuck with.
B. Bennett (Chair): All right. Thank you.
I think one of the things that I'll propose to the committee in our discussions is that at some point in our deliberations, as we start to flesh out our recommendations, we get back to the three pods — an individual from each.
I don't know, Rob, what you think about this. But just to make sure we don't make recommendations that are going to unleash some serious unforeseen circumstances at Agriculture or Forests. That would include laying on significant costs to government. I think the committee would like to know whether or not recommendations we're thinking about are going to require a minister to go to Treasury Board and get a few more million dollars to implement something.
We'll probably do that with you on a very confidential basis, if that's okay.
I want some help here from members. What I have left on my list, essentially, of questions that we haven't discussed…. We haven't really discussed anything around educational resources. There's another question in here that relates to how well the efforts in Ontario have done in terms of educating people about the use of pesticides. If you have any thoughts on
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what we might be able to do better as a province in terms of educating people on the use of pesticides, that would be useful.
I also would suggest that if you have any thoughts on what we might be able to do to educate people on the fact that Health Canada thinks these chemicals are safe if used as directed…. Getting back to your comment, we hope that we're going to be able to use this report as a bit of an educational tool for the public. We obviously can't write a book, but we hope that we're going to be able to explain what the process is at Health Canada, provincially, and give the public some comfort that there is actually quite a rigorous process in place. So if you have any thoughts on that, please provide us with those.
There's a question here that reads: "Besides the Ontario report on watercourses, are there other studies measuring the impact of provincial bans?" We very much would like to know whether you can find anything like that.
If you know about any sort of implementation challenges that other jurisdictions have had…. Again, I know a lot of these bans are quite new, but if you're aware of any successes or problems….
J. Burleigh: One that's come up from Ontario is around the definitions and a very lack of clarity around the definitions of cosmetic and of forestry and is leaving the Ministry of Natural Resources to provide these interpretations. So wherever you go, have very clear definitions of what is cosmetic.
My definition of what is cosmetic damage versus someone else's definition of what is cosmetic damage might be very different. If I own a $5 million home, cosmetic damage might be a dandelion in the lawn. If I own a condo that's $30,000, those dandelions…. I might think: "Wow, those are really pretty. They add some colour."
I think there has to be some real clarity around the actual definition and what the intent of it is. For the people that have to carry it out, have a very clear understanding of those goalposts and how to carry it out.
I know that's creating a lot of confusion with some colleagues in Ontario — that lack of clarity. When they say forestry is exempted, what is forestry? Is it commercial forestry out on Crown land? Is it urban forestry, taking care of trees within parks, within that area?
There is a lot of grey area in what we think is fairly clear, so that would be the one piece — very clear articulation of the goals and of the terms that are being used.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Thank you.
How have other provinces addressed increasing enforcement, especially enforcement of new requirements in retail settings? I suppose if you ban the sale of something, then that's pretty straightforward, but there must be some other rules in some provinces where you can buy it for some purposes. I don't know if you have that information.
Actually, I'm trying to deal with these questions in terms of just giving you the heads-up that we'd like to get a written response. We're just about out of time here. Some of our members are going to have to go, and we need a couple of minutes in camera here.
This is at the top of page 2. You can answer this one. Just confirm for the committee that you can currently in B.C. purchase concentrated products as well as the already-diluted, ready-to-use products. We talked about that earlier.
D. Dolhaine: Yes, that's correct. As long as the product is labelled by Health Canada as domestic, it is available for purchase from a domestic vendor. Those do include concentrates in some cases.
B. Bennett (Chair): There must have been a discussion at some point, somewhere in this country, about only offering the consumer diluted, ready-to-use products so that nobody has to mix, and nobody has to adjust the sprinkler for their lawn. Are you familiar with any discussions like that?
D. Dolhaine: I may have to ask some of my colleagues, who may have had a bit more experience with this, to chime in here. I am aware that the federal-provincial-territorial committee on pesticides and pest management — which is a committee of all provinces, territories and the PMRA — was exploring a splitting of that domestic class that they currently have and creating a self-select category, which would be the ready-to-use products. Then a controlled purchase, I believe they called that category, would require some kind of different interface, be it with a dispenser or have it behind lock and key.
B. Bennett (Chair): Can you get that for us? Can you get whatever is written down about that discussion?
D. Dolhaine: I wonder: is that still available?
M. Waring: In my archives.
B. Bennett (Chair): But this was a federal-provincial-territorial committee that discusses these things?
M. Waring: There is a federal-provincial-territorial committee on pest management and pesticides that discusses all pesticides, regulatory issues and pesticide use issues. There was a working group that looked at the classification of pesticides and was making some advice or recommendations regarding splitting the domestic category, as Daphne had mentioned.
It has been quite a while since I've looked in that file. I don't believe any work has happened recently, because all these provincial regulations on pesticides for cosmetic use…. I think we're jumping the gun on decisions. I can take a look and see what I can find and the status of the division. That may provide some insights or direction.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay, that would appreciated.
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One of the arguments that we've heard consistently is that these products are safe if used as directed.
Now, Health Canada expounded on that and kind of clarified the safety margins and the multiples of ten to a thousand, and use of the precautionary principle and precautionary process, and all that discussion that some of you are aware of. But for the critics of pesticide use for cosmetic purposes, they often say: "Well, yes, but it's not used as directed." So if there was a way to put in the hands of consumers only those products that are premixed…. If there's a practical, realistic way to do that, then we'd be interested in knowing about that.
D. Dolhaine: That is actually what New Brunswick has done, essentially. So it is already in practice in one of the provinces.
B. Bennett (Chair): Okay. Yeah, if you could get us a little more on what they're doing in New Brunswick, we'd sure appreciate that.
I think, just for clarity purposes, I'm going to ask the staff to send you an e-mail, the three pods, after the meeting today just clarifying which of the questions we'd like you to answer in writing, just to make it easier for you. I know I haven't been that clear.
Anything else from the committee before we release our hostages?
Okay. Listen, thank you very much. We're more confused than ever, but that's the way it's supposed to be.
M. Waring: Thank you for the opportunity, and please feel free to come back to us if you have any other questions or need some clarification. We're most happy to work with you on this. It is a large challenge that you have ahead of you as to what decisions you're going to make.
B. Bennett (Chair): Thank you for cancelling your trip to Kelowna. Or did you?
D. Dolhaine: Just delayed it. I'm going still.
B. Bennett (Chair): Excellent.
I need a motion to go in camera.
A Voice: So moved.
The committee continued in camera from 1:41 p.m. to 1:44 p.m.
[B. Bennett in the chair.]
B. Bennett (Chair): We're back on the record. Thanks again, everyone. We'll be in touch. We don't have a meeting now until session starts, but there definitely will be reason for us to send you materials. There may well be reasons for us to get hold of you and get your opinion on something, and we'll do that.
John, I'll send you what I have. You're going to have to wing it, to some extent.
J. Slater: Yeah, no sweat. I'm taking this home with me.
B. Bennett (Chair): Thanks, everybody. A motion to adjourn?
The committee adjourned at 1:45 p.m.
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