Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Strategy
for Responsible Pest Management

By Peter Fischer, an Associate of the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention (C2P2)

The recent Supreme Court decision on municipal control of pesticide use has confirmed the wind of change blowing across the Canadian lawn care landscape. To help municipal governments respond to the increasing public pressure for action on pesticide use, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) recently developed a National Strategy for Responsible Pest Management and a new web site (www.pestinfo.ca) to access information. It is an approach that will assist all stakeholders – not just municipal governments – in addressing the issue of municipal pesticide reduction.

What did the Supreme Court say?
The case involved a municipal bylaw passed in 1991 by the Town of Hudson, Quebec, which restricted the use of pesticides for nonessential (or cosmetic) uses within the town’s boundaries. Two lawn care companies challenged the by-law and argued that municipal governments did not have the power to control local pesticide use.

     “It is reasonable to conclude that the Town bylaw’s purpose is to minimize the use of allegedly harmful pesticides in order to promote the health of its inhabitants. This purpose falls squarely within the ‘health’ component of s410(1) Cities and Towns Act (Quebec),” wrote Justice L’HeureuxDubé.

     The Court also ruled that Hudson’s Bylaw 270 was not in conflict with either federal or provincial legislation.

     “This is a groundbreaking decision that will have impacts across Canada,” said FCM president Jack Layton, councillor for the City of Toronto.

     The Court decision was unanimous in supporting the right of municipal governments to create legislation under the general provision of most provincial Municipal Acts (except Newfoundland, PEI and Saskatchewan). Equally precedent setting was the discussion of the precautionary principle and the empowering and respectful recognition that governments closest to the people are best positioned to meet their needs.

     Concern over pesticide use and public pressure for municipal action is not new, and in the wake of the decision, is almost certain to increase. FCM has acted to assist municipal governments and others deal with the pressure for action on pesticide use by developing a National Strategy for Responsible Pest Management.

FCM strategy
FCM agreed to a Strategy in June 2000 to encourage responsible use of pesticides and alternative pest management practices, and to make people aware of the effects pesticide use might have. It is a flexible strategy, consisting of policy options and implementation tools that a municipal government can tailor and use in light of its situation.

     FCM surveyed representatives from 30 municipalities of various sizes in different regions across Canada on existing practices and pesticide use attitudes. Research on traditional and alternative pest management practices supplemented the survey.

     The survey revealed that while the range of pest management practices is diverse, most municipalities are trying to reduce pesticide use and would like help with program change. Challenges to changing pest management approaches include: lack of good information on alternatives; citizen expectations; private practices as they affect municipal property; lack of technical knowledge; and resource constraints.

     In light of the survey results, FCM is developing a model resolution that promotes pollution prevention and avoidance of unnecessary exposure to toxic substances. Elements that are being considered in the resolution include:

“Development of policies, programs and by-laws to minimize the use of pesticides within its territories through responsible pest management approaches and principles of integrated pest management (IPM), including:
  • Pest resistant and alternative landscape design;
  • Building codes to deter pests, e.g. amount and type of soil around new buildings;
  • A hierarchal use of preventive practices through least environmentally harmful control solutions;
  • Public education on prevention, alternatives, and benefits and risks; and
  • Reward/recognition of good practices.”
To move the Strategy into the implementation phase, the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention in consultation with the FCM Pesticide Steering Committee, developed the Responsible Pest Management web site.

Responsible Pest Management web site
“Municipal governments across Canada have recognized the growing public concern about possible sideeffects on human health and the environment,” says Elisabeth Arnold, the chair of the FCM Pest Management Committee and councillor in the City of Ottawa. “While many are trying to reduce pesticide use, getting good information on what to do is not easy. The web site helps communities find reliable information.”

     The Responsible Pest Management web site (www.pestinfo.ca) delivers a unique collection of Canadianbased information, including: Municipal Pesticide Reduction Case Studies; Best Practices and Alternatives; and Management Tools.

     The web site also has a listserve or online forum. Participants are connected electronically and share successes, available resources, key contacts and opportunities for cooperation on pest management issues within the municipal sector. Provision of an email address to info@c2p2online.com is all that is needed to subscribe.

     FCM has been the national voice of municipal governments since 1901. It is dedicated to improving the quality of life in all communities by promoting strong, effective and accountable municipal government.

A recognized leader in pollution prevention, the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention (C2P2) encourages actions that avoid or minimize the creation of pollution and waste. The C2P2 has worked closely with municipal governments in the delivery of pollution prevention programs and policies. For more information visit: www.c2p2online.com.