May 28, 2002
Threat or Opportunity?

Industry perspectives from Jeff Morton, Darcy Olds, Jim Nix and Jane Stock

June 28, Ottawa: The Supreme Court of Canada ruled a Quebec municipality may ban ‘cosmetically used’ pesticides. Today, across Canada: The industry faces repercussions of unknown magnitude, and works to develop strategies to build a better future — for all.

Dateline: Nova Scotia


By Jeff Morton

Controversy over the pesticide issue has added heat to an already hot summer. Yes, it is a scorcher here in Halifax this summer, with lots of heat and little water. Further, the Halifax Regional Municipality by-law restricting the use of pesticides has been in effect for three months now and the situation has intensified somewhat over this period.

     Initially, there were very few complaints on applications but increasingly, as insect pressure and heat stresses mount, so do the difficulties of working through the by-law. As predicted by the industry, the permit approval process can take up to 10 days. The city signage rules require one day pre-posting on residential properties rather than posting at the time of application as required by the Department of Environment for commercial property applications. Coupled with the permit process, this requires an additional visit to the property to place the sign.

     It is becoming increasingly difficult to prevent chinch bugs from progressing to damaging levels, and the industry’s frustration lies in the difficulty of ensuring customers that properties can be protected from serious damage. Indeed, the process may actually encourage more pesticide applications, as the problem becomes more widespread in the permit waiting process. Inevitably, this also results in applications of higher rates and an increase in the areas being treated. In addition, there are concerns the enforcement officers may require more training to recognize the problems at an early stage. A gap still exists between the industry and inspectors over application threshold guidelines.

     Through the early part of the season, Landscape Nova Scotia (LNS) has been dealing with the city on these and other issues, and is hopeful that eventually some compromises can be reached. Industry is advocating the use of a process, which allows applicators to be certified to conduct their own inspections under the supervision of an independent agency. To obtain the city’s approval, however, they will have to work hard to gain public respect and confidence that applications are being made only when necessary.

     LNS believes the by-law can lead to a workable, mandatory pest management approach without legislative changes. While the by-law is certainly creating hardship for many companies, in the long run, these painful changes will result in professionalism within and respect for the industry as it moves to more Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches.

     Under the by-law some pest control products are permitted, notwithstanding the other conditions of the legislation. LNS has been working hard to address ways of adding to this list. Currently, guidelines for this process are in limbo, waiting for staff recommendations. At this time, it is very unclear how this issue will develop.

     Some operators are looking more closely at the by-law and working directly towards the letter of it. The by-law defines a “Pesticide Application” as using pest control products for the maintenance of ornamental plants. Therefore, if you are not making the application for the maintenance of the ornamental, you are not making a pesticide application under the by-law. As well, residents seem to be making some of their own by-law interpretations to the dismay of many applicators.

     The pesticide issue has and will continue to make it an interesting and “hot” summer in the Regional Municipality of Halifax.

Dateline: Ontario


By Darcy Olds, Chipco Professional Products

The recent announcement of the Supreme Court decision has caused considerable concern for many people working in the professional turfgrass industry in Ontario. The threat of municipalities obtaining pesticide regulatory authority has now become a reality, or so it seems. Lawn care operators and other turfgrass ma­nagers are very concerned about the possibility of some municipalities electing to pass by-laws that would restrict the use of pesticides on private property. The majority of turfgrass professionals see pesticides as valuable tools that aid in the protection of healthy lawns. If municipal regulations are imposed and access to these tools denied the quality of lawns, golf course turf and sports fields, as well as trees and ornamentals will decline. The role healthy and sustainable landscapes play in improving our lives could be significantly altered, and many businesses will undoubtedly be negatively impacted.

     The professional lawn care industry is reacting to the news of the Supreme Court Case in a positive manner. The Landscape Ontario (LO) Lawn Care Commodity Group held two meetings in the month of July and August to discuss an action plan on this issue. LO also waits patiently to receive word from the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) for their official legal interpretation of the Supreme Court Ruling. There is still a very small chance the ruling has different implications in Ontario, since our current provincial pesticide legislation is very strong in comparison to the legislation that exists in Quebec.

     The action plan put forth by the commodity group essentially focuses on a grassroots lobby campaign that involves members of industry lobbying their local government officials in an effort to prevent the threat of municipal legislation. An important part of this effort is for municipalities to recognize that industry currently uses pesticides responsibly, as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Furthermore, it is important we demonstrate that we are professionals who invest a lot of time into educating ourselves on the safe and proper use of pesticides.

     Some useful tools have been created by the Lawn Care Commodity Group for industry to utilize when lobbying local politicians. These tools include a pesticide information package that contains a host of articles and a Q & A section on the level of safety associated with pesticides. Some presentations have also been developed and are available for lawn care operators (LCOs) to use when meeting with local politicians. A web site called is also now up and running, which includes useful information on pesticides and the role they play in protecting healthy lawns.

     Some of the municipalities of particular concern with respect to expressing interest in passing municipal pesticide regulations are Toronto, Ottawa and London. City officials have already conducted preliminary discussions on pesticide by-laws, in which some industry members participated. Local LCOs have started to lobby city council members in these locations. It is essential that additional lobbying take place before further meetings occur in the fall.

     A further industry lobby effort, which has been in progress since May is a customer card campaign, initiated by LO’s Lawn Care Commodity Group. The card itself lists a brief explanation about pesticides and the strength of the current regulatory systems. It then provides an opportunity for the customer to sign his or her name in support of the right to use a pesticide on their own property if they choose to do so. LCOs distribute these cards to their customers. They are then signed by the clients and mailed directly to LO where they are compiled by region. Once compiled, these cards will be submitted to local MPs in an effort to support the lobby campaign.

     L.O.’s Healthy Lawns coordinator Ken Pavely, executive director Tony DiGiovanni and Urban Pest Management Council’s executive director Kimberley Bates have assisted industry with many of the lobby efforts. They have actively lobbied on behalf of industry at city council meetings and have provided advice when needed. However, it is almost impossible for designated industry spokespeople such as these to attend every municipal council meeting across Ontario. It is therefore very important that all of us take an active role in lobbying our local politicians. Work with local competitors and suppliers, and seek the advice and help provided by associations when lobbying local officials.

Dateline: Alberta


By Jim Nix, Nutrilawn Calgary

The City of Calgary has been working hard to reduce its pesticide usage since 1996. As reported in the April 2001 issue of Landscape Trades, the Calgary Parks and Recreation Department voluntarily implemented an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program several years ago and was able to demonstrate reduced pesticide usage of 80 per cent. As a result of this program and its outcome, industry took the wind out of the sails of many activists looking for an all out ban of pesticides for cosmetic purposes.

     At this time, we have not seen any after effects of the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Hudson, Quebec case, perhaps because City Council recently voted down the idea of a ban in November 2000. However, we do expect this issue will be brought back to the table at some point in the future. Until then, we will continue to deal with pesticide reduction proactively.

     The City of Calgary is moving ahead with plans to educate homeowners in the principles of IPM and at press time, an introductory brochure is being distributed to all homes in the city. A web site is planned to provide further resources for homeowners. In addition, I sit on a committee that meets with City Council regularly to monitor pesticide usage.

     The IPM program used by our Parks and Recreation Department has been highly successful and the City continues to demonstrate their support for the program. Brian Hall, an IPM specialist from the University of British Columbia has just finished the first of a two-part seminar on IPM for City staff and area managers. Continuing to train and educate city staff helps to guarantee the use of pesticides as one of the tools in the IPM process.

     Landscape Alberta Nursery Trades Association plans to bring Mr. Hall back to speak to the horticulture industry on the practical applications of IPM.

     By working creatively and proactively, Parks and Recreation staff and the horticulture industry in Calgary were able to create a workable solution and beat the activists to the punch. However, after attending national meetings with other Nutrilawn owners from across the country, I know this is not the case in other cities. Municipal politicians continue to face increased pressure from environmental activists who see the Hudson decision as a coup de grâce and are taking advantage of the opportunity to demand that other municipalities adopt bans on the cosmetic use of pesticides as well.

     As the owner of a lawn care company who is involved in the pesticide issue at a local, provincial and national level, I feel pesticide bans are inevitable. At the moment, the best we can hope is to work collectively to delay bans around the country while alternative methods and organic pest control products are found. As a Nutrilawn dealer, we are on the leading edge of technology and already use some products that are 100 per cent organic, so I know this is a realistic and achievable outcome.

Dateline: British Columbia


By Jane Stock, executive director, BC Landscape and Nursery Association

The BC Landscape and Nursery Association (BCLNA) woke up in May 2000, immediately following the federal Standing Committee on the Environment’s recommendation that Canada should introduce a five-year phased in ban of pesticides. We realized that, as an industry, we had to work toward solutions for promoting environmentally responsible pest management.

     Throughout the past year, the BCLNA, along with the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA), other provincial landscape associations, government, manufacturers and public groups have developed the concept of a national organization, My Home – Our Environment.

     The objective of My Home – Our Environment is to have stakeholders work cooperatively to share resources and information across the country, facilitating development and implementation of education and awareness based on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles.

     We believe that no one group in Canada is big enough to take on the monumental challenge of educating industry and the public in IPM. IPM is a complex practice, and for it to succeed there needs to be a change in the level of learning about total plant health and a change in the vision of an acceptable landscape.

     The Hudson Supreme Court decision to permit Quebec municipalities to restrict pesticide usage has resulted in pesticide usage becoming a high profile issue in municipalities across the country. We recognized this profile provided a perfect opportunity to introduce to municipalities the My Home – Our Environment concept.

     The proposed national organization was dis­cussed at the CNLA meeting in July, and an action plan for promoting a buy-in to My Home – Our Environment was developed. Every province agreed to implement the action plan in its own province.

     The communications strategy includes sending a special letter and outline of the proposed national organization to nearly every municipality, provincial MLA and federal MP across Canada.

     The municipal letter introduced My Home – Our Environment and included a survey that allowed municipalities to indicate whether or not they thought My Home – Our Environment to be a good idea. They were also asked to evaluate six different actions that would provide them with educational information and resources for IPM implementation as being very helpful, somewhat helpful or not helpful at all.

     I am pleased to report that the response to My Home – Our Environment from municipalities in BC has been overwhelmingly positive. One municipal employee called four days after the survey was mailed out and said we had come up with an excellent idea that was right in line with what the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association advocated. They support us wholeheartedly. A mayor told us our letter helped them understand the complexity of plant health management, and that they don’t have to stand alone in facing this controversial issue. The return of the cross-Canada surveys will allow us to create a clear priority action plan list that will help municipalities to effectively implement IPM programs and reduce pesticide usage. While we wait for the return of the surveys we recognize that for My Home – Our Environment to succeed it needs to have more visible acceptance from high-profile elected leaders. We have met with the provincial government in B.C. and have their approval for this endeavour. Currently, I am trying to arrange a meeting between Alan Rock, Federal Minister of Health, Chris Andrews, executive director of CNLA, Michael Murray, CNLA Environment chair, and myself. I am confident Mr. Rock will pay attention to this important issue.

     Finally, in order to be successful, we must keep My Home – Our Environment as a politically neutral vehicle for achieving a high level of industry and public awareness and education. The concept belongs to many stakeholders, including some that would ultimately like a full ban on pesticides. If our provincial associations are lobbying municipalities to not restrict pesticide use, we can appropriately endorse My Home – Our Environment, however, we must be very careful not to present mixed messages through this educational campaign.