Back in June the Alberta Government passed an updated Weed Control Act. This is only now coming to light in Calgary, thanks to some media exposure. The Calgary Sun has an article, and CBC Radio has been talking about it. The point everyone is focusing on is that the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has been removed from the noxious weed list. This means that it will no longer be the target of bylaw officers throughout Alberta.
I agree: dandelions are annoying. However they are far from noxious. Still, Calgary’s bylaw boss, Bill Bruce, has issued a warning: “Dandelions are off the list as of the end of this summer. It means there’s very little we can do about them.”
The interesting (though not surprising) thing is that Calgary City Council failed to pass a pesticide ban in December 2009. This means that Calgarians remain free to poison their lawns, children, pets, and wildlife with herbicides.
Ward 6 Alderman Joe Connelly appears to take a rather complacent and simplictic view of pesticides and their regulation. He seems to subscribe to the idea that the federal and provincial government(s) always have the peoples’ best interest at heart, no matter the issue. According to Mr. Connelly, pesticide regulation is outside the jurisdiction of municipal government – it is best left to the scientists at Health Canada and our beloved elected officials. I believe that Mr. Connelly is simply running from a problem he doesn’t want to understand.
Putting pesticide regulation outside municipal jurisdiction is simply irresponsible. Indeed, it was a Canadian municipality, Hudson, Québec, that took the lead against cosmetic pesticide use in 1991. The town went to court with two manufacturers, and won, effectively setting the stage for future municipal challenges.
There is absolutely no reason for municipalities should avoid pesticide regulation. It is impractical to rely on federal and/or provincial bureaucrats to decide on policies affecting citizens in towns and cities. Only councillors and the mayor, who work for and represent the citizens, can effectively make such decisions. I believe such regulation is the responsibility of municipal governments everywhere.