Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who Mowed Down the Premier? Christy Clark's promised ban on cosmetic pesticides killed by big business and lobbyists

Cosmetic pesticide issue pits Cancer Society versus BC government in no-win situation for Christy Clark.

Premiers' pesticide promises pulled
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday  May 22, 2012

By Bill Tieleman  

"The Canadian Cancer Society is very disappointed... I think it does have the potential to put the health of British Columbians at risk."
Big business and lobbyists have publicly defeated the plans of not one but two successive BC Liberal premiers, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Lung Association to ban cosmetic pesticides.
Last week a special legislative committee led by renegade BC Liberal MLA Bill Bennett and dominated by her MLAs handed Premier Christy Clark and Environment Minister Terry Lake a stunning rebuke -- rejecting Clark and Lake's stated goal of banning pesticides and herbicides believed to cause cancer.
Bennett's majority ruling also rejected the pro-ban submissions of roughly 80 per cent of the over 8,600 individuals and organizations that participated -- a record number for a B.C. committee.
Now Clark faces a lose-lose proposition.
She can either kowtow to the cosmetic pesticide industry in a humiliating surrender that will cost votes among urban environmentalists and conservationists -- or override her own MLAs' lengthy study and embarrass them in public 11 months before an election while also aggravating some rural voters.
New Democrat MLAs on the committee support the ban, ironically having accepted Clark's invitation to work together, while her own MLAs went rogue.
Promises made
Clark just can't win on this one but she should have at least known better when she proposed the ban during her BC Liberal leadership campaign.
That's because former Premier Gordon Campbell -- you know, the guy whose name she never says in public (kind of like Lord Valdemort's in the Harry Potter books) promised similar action in the 2009 B.C. Throne Speech.
"British Columbians will be consulted on new statutory protections to further safeguard our environment from cosmetic chemical pesticides," it said.
But that 2009 promise was broken after well-organized cosmetic and agricultural pesticide users mounted a powerful petition campaign to enlist the opposition of golf club members, sports field users, nearby homeowners and others to kill the ban dead.
And Clark's own promise was even more threatening to the industry.
"To put families first, we must ensure that our families are raised in safe environments," Clark said during her leadership run.
"That is why I want to see a ban on cosmetic pesticides on lawns, parks and playgrounds. These dangerous pesticides are proven to increase the likelihood of childhood cancer and other illnesses, and have no place near our homes. I don't want to see my son playing on a lawn with toxic pesticides. I don't want to see anyone's child playing on a lawn with toxic pesticides."
Pesticide makers' backlash
As premier, Clark set up a special legislative committee to investigate a ban, chaired by MLA Margaret MacDiarmid, a family physician and former president of the B.C. Medical Association.
But when MacDiarmid was promoted to cabinet, the chair went to Bennett -- an outspoken right-wing rural MLA who has previously been suspended from the BC Liberal caucus for public criticism of Campbell before the premier was forced to resign.
And the ban proposal also brought a well-funded effort from the multinational makers of agricultural, lawn and garden chemicals like Round-Up and Killex under the umbrella group CropLife Canada, which also includes agricultural producers.
Killex is produced by Scotts Canada and Round-Up is manufactured by Monsanto, both CropLife members, for example.
Other CropLife members include Dupont, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., which donated $2,650 to the BC Liberal Party since 2010 Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, whose Canadian arm donated $2,500 in 2005 and Univar Canada, which donated $925 in 2009.
CropLife wasted no time trying to kill the second attempt at a cosmetic pesticide ban, hiring prominent senior lobbyist Bruce Young of the Earnscliffe Strategy Group to represent their interests starting in March 2010 and ending March 31, 2012.
Young's "targets" according to the B.C. Lobbyists Registry, included Clark and just about every other BC Liberal MLA, as well as New Democrats and independents.
(Young also lobbies on behalf of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, among other groups and businesses.)
Earnscliffe's Michael Drummond also worked for CropLife until April 30, 2012 and four in-house CropLife executives also registered to contact MLAs.
Premier Clark's divided house
The anti-cosmetic pesticide ban forces also have a very powerful ally in Gwyn Morgan -- a key transition team advisor to Clark during her leadership campaign and the former CEO of Encana, the giant natural gas firm.
Morgan has publicly attacked municipal bans on carcinogenic insecticides and weed killers, saying the Canadian Cancer Society was supporting "junk science," as were any "scientifically illiterate municipal councilors" who agreed with it.
Claimed Morgan: "The medical evidence is scant."
After all, what do the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Lung Association, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the Public Health Association of B.C. know about medicine anyway and how dare they call for a ban?
Morgan no doubt disagrees with the more than 70 per cent of British Columbians who favoured legislation restricting pesticide use in a 2010 Canadian Cancer Society commissioned poll and has made clear his views on the over 35 B.C. municipalities that already restrict cosmetic use of pesticides.
The Canadian Cancer Society isn’t impressed with the Bennett committee's decision.
"If these recommendations become law, they will not protect all British Columbian children from being exposed to unnecessary chemicals and possible carcinogens," said Barbara Kaminsky, CEO for the B.C. and Yukon branch of the Society.
"We waited years for the B.C. government to follow the lead of other provinces and B.C. municipalities, and this is the result? The report was slow in coming and is weak in content. It is disappointing overall," Kaminsky said.  
Fraser Institute's green (lawn) argument
Legislative committee vice-chair, NDP MLA Rob Fleming, agrees.
"New Democrats are profoundly disappointed in the outcome of this process," said Fleming. "The associated health risks of cosmetic pesticides warrants government action to reduce everyday exposure to toxins that are potentially harmful and easily misused."
But joining Bennett and Morgan in opposing the Cancer Society's call for a ban on pesticides -- the right-wing Fraser Institute think-tank.
"Prohibiting the cosmetic use of synthetic pesticides ignores the benefits enjoyed by Canadians in maintaining aesthetically pleasing green landscapes," states an article in its Fraser Forum magazine. "Either a blanket ban or an environmental tax will encourage individuals to substitute natural alternatives that can be potentially more harmful."
Yes, what could be more harmful than pesticides except "natural alternatives"?
Morgan, not surprisingly, is a big fan of the Fraser Institute, sitting on its board of directors and donating $1 million to it together with his wife Pat Trottier. And he is a public defender of genetically modified foods too.
Morgan also sits on the board of the Manning Centre for Democracy, the group formed by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. The Manning Centre hosted longtime federal Liberal Clark earlier this year for a breakfast speech at a gathering titled "a conservative family reunion" in an effort to bolster her Tory credentials.
But Clark's right-wing pals like Bennett, Morgan and the Fraser Institute may seem more like pests to her now as she faces a no-win decision on cosmetic pesticides that can only alienate one group of voters or another when she needs far more support, not less.



kootcoot said...

Although this is extremely disgusting, it is hardly surprising. I would suggest that the pro-chem group Croplife be a little more honest in labelling and switch two letters and just call themselves "Corplife."

As to this from the always on the wrong side of science and history Fraser Stinkstitute:

"Prohibiting the cosmetic use of synthetic pesticides ignores the benefits enjoyed by Canadians in maintaining aesthetically pleasing green landscapes," states an article in its Fraser Forum magazine

I find it comforting to think that the lawns of the graveyards these toxic products help populate will be especially aesthetically pleasing to comfort the families of the victims who visit the graves made necessary so assholes like Gwyn Morgan and the corporate thugs of Monsanto and other toxin producers can have even more money they don't really need.

Frankly in a rational world artificially "green" lawns would be considered abhorrent and a waste of valuable water resources, especially in semi-desert environments like the Okanagan and the US southwest! Add in the fossil fuel based fertilizers and the toxic weed and bug control potions and the whole idea becomes pretty well IMMORAL!

Anonymous said...

The extremist group Fraser Instute is not qualified to make these judgement calls. The bias in favour of making boatloads of cash disqualifies them from making proper scientific judgments on this issue.
Although I am not a scientist either, I can easily go back to the 60's and remember the danger and banning of 2-4D and 2-4-5T. Does anyone here remember the "Killer Cane"? Place a tablet in the green (sic) 3 foot tube along with tap water and press on the weed. While it was true that the weed vanished quickly, so did the birds and all the creatures in the soil. These chemicals are still in our environment today.
I trust the F.I just as much as I would trust their judgement and bias in their recent reporting of schools.
On the same topic, did anyone read the story about the no eyed shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico? Not only do they no longer have eyes, they no longer have eye sockets. But this is just pure coincidence that the oil spill clean up occurred just before the shrimp started to deform.
Sorry FI, but this is a major fail. This citizens of this province will not tolerate tampering with the environment. The government of the day will be given the heave ho for this alone!

e.a.f. said...

So people should die of cancer so others can have an asthetically pleasing lawn? How dumb & selfish is this guy?

It is obvious to me that some MLAs are simply not strong enough to be in the job if they cave to multi national corporations which are only interested in their profit line.

Even with weeds, a lawn will look just fine. Just keep them mowed to an even level. Prior to all these pesticides we removed weeds from lawns with a hand tool or knife. A little more time consuming but it works.

Canadians don't get enough exercise anyhow. We can consider the removal of weeds as an alternative to a workout in the gym.

There are all sorts of things we do not do because we might become ill or killed. So why would we continue to use something which might make us ill or get us killed.

Clark needs to do at least one thing right while she is in the premier's chair. Maybe this should be it. At least she will have made an attempt to do something useful.

Anonymous said...

Well. I look silly, stooping over with a marg container filled with vinegar and, a stick paint sponge, painting the weeds with the vinegar.

Just think of the water polluted by fracking. When you can light the water on fire, coming out of your faucets....you would think that would be enough of a warning. Pesticides are used on all kinds of food crops, lawns and grains. All pesticides have the potential, to poison our clean underground drinking water.

Oil pipeline bursts into rivers, streams and lands, are also taking their toll. There are contaminated areas all across Canada. Harper has not cleaned up the contamination.

The insanity of bringing massive oil tankers into Kitimat, doesn't even penetrate the greed of our blind governments.

Wealthy corporations and big businesses, call all the shots in Canada. Harper even gives them billions of our tax dollars and, gives them huge tax reductions.

Dave McPherson said...

Some MLAs expect to get relected as long as they continue to enjoy support from the largest corporations. They dont expect to form government, so the usual backing of their leader does not apply any more.

And perhaps...the Liberals as a whole have given up on the hope of winning the election, so expect more bad things to happen as we get closer to May 2012. The lame duck use of power on the way out can be desperate and very dangerous for us all.

Anonymous said...

Don't tell Shmoozy!

kootcoot said...

Wow Bill, I'm amazed you haven't been yelled at by the Force of Nature Creeps that apparently inhale far too many pesticides and herbicides and consider anyone opposed to carcinogens to be TERRORISTS!

Then again maybe you have, I forgot you moderate............

North Van Grumps allows them to let their idiocy shine MOSTLY CAPS!

Adrian B. said...

Excellent piece Bill.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have anything to say about which "cosmetics pesticides" are scientifically proven to be harmful? Putting it another way, is political dogma on both sides being used as a substitute for science?