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Pesticide use is political hot potato on P.E.I.


September 13, 2011
By The Canadian Press

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pesticidewarningNEWS HIGHLIGHT

Pesticide use is political hot potato on P.E.I.

The use of pesticides on Prince Edward Island is
an issue that probably won’t be spoken about too often by politicians during
the province’s election campaign, except for members of the Green party as they
push for tougher regulations.

September
12, 2011, Charlottetown, PEI – The use of pesticides on Prince Edward Island is
an issue that probably won’t be spoken about too often by politicians during
the province’s election campaign, except for members of the Green party as they
push for tougher regulations.

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Political
scientist Peter McKenna of the University of Prince Edward Island says the
Liberals and Conservatives want to steer clear of a fight with farmers before
the Oct. 3 election, particularly Premier Robert Ghiz’s Liberal party.

 

pesticidewarning 
  

“A
soft underbelly of Robert Ghiz’s administration has always been the claim,
rightly or wrongly, that he’s not in touch with rural P.E.I.,” McKenna said.

“The
last thing that Robert Ghiz wants to do is to be seen as coming down against
the farming community by putting into place something that they would probably
perceive as hurting their interests and hurting their ability to maintain the
family farm.”

Questions
about pesticide use surface a few times each year after heavy rains. Thousands
of fish in rivers in western P.E.I. were killed after heavy rains in July. Two
farmers were charged after traces of pesticides were found in nearby rivers.

The
province’s Environmental Protection Act mandates a 15-metre buffer zone between
row crops – such as potatoes – and rivers or streams.

But
Green Leader Sharon Labchuk argues that’s not enough and she’s convinced the
government won’t enact stricter rules.

“To
tell the truth, I think they honestly believe that there’s nothing wrong with
an industry that kills fish and poisons people,” she said in an interview.

Environment
Minister Richard Brown defends what the Liberals have done to protect rivers
and streams in the past four years.

“We
increased the buffer zones next to rivers and streams, we’ve made agriculture
put in headlands in order to avoid run-off and we also have a substantial
budget going towards alternative farming methods,” Brown said.

The
province also banned the use of certain chemicals on lawns.

Labchuk
has been pushing for the release of figures on pesticide use for the last two
years. Brown said those figures are coming, but the department has been busy
implementing the lawn chemical ban and ensuring the testing of wells and
waterways across the Island.

“We
have a number of wells throughout Prince Edward Island that we test each and
every year,” Brown said. “There have been over a thousand tests done in our
water systems for pesticides and traces of pesticides.”

The
results are posted on the department’s website.

McKenna
said the issue isn’t getting any traction for the Green party, whose showing in
popularity polls has languished in the single digits along with the New
Democrats
.

“I
don’t think Islanders for the most part go to bed and wake up in the morning
thinking about pesticide use,” he said.

Still,
Labchuk said she will continue to raise the issue every chance she gets.

“We
don’t have a right to pollute the water and government has no right to tell us
the levels of pollution are safe,” she said.

The
Conservative party declined comment on the issue.