Organic Consumers Association

Industry Fights Toronto Law Banning Lawn Pesticides

Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News

July 7, 2003

Trade groups appeal Toronto pesticide restrictions; International; CropLife Canada and the Urban Pest Management Council appeal against the ban on cosmetic pesticide use in Toronto

By: Phil Zahodiakin

A pair of Canadian industry groups have filed an appeal against a newly enacted ban on cosmetic pesticide use in Toronto.

The challenge to Toronto Bylaw 456-2003 was filed June 23 by CropLife Canada and the Urban Pest Management Council. The bylaw, which won't be fully implemented until 2006, was enacted May 22 by a 26-16 vote of the Toronto City Council (see PTCN, May 26, page 16).

Under the bylaw, the city must start encouraging residents to use organic alternatives to chemical weed-killers next year. In 2005, the city will issue warnings for non-compliance with the restrictions. In 2006, the city will fine violators $ 250 for ignoring the ban.

CropLife Canada President Lorne Hepworth said "the Toronto City Council made an ill-informed decision, and has now created a system that criminalizes gardening, and requires that neighbors police their neighbors."

Although similar bylaws have been adopted by other Canadian municipalities--most notably the Montreal suburb of Hudson --Hepworth argues that the Toronto legislation is preempted by other laws.

"We do not believe that the Toronto Council has the authority under the [Ontario] Municipal Act to pass this bylaw," he said. "Legislation governing pest control products already exists at the federal and provincial levels. The city has overstepped its jurisdiction with its new bylaw."

Preemption argument

The bylaw appeal was filed as a Notice of Application with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The appeal hinges on an amendment to the Ontario Municipal Act, which grants municipalities the authority to enact bylaws and other regulations.

"The Municipal Act says municipalities can't be off-sides with any provincial laws," Hepworth told PTCN, "but that language has been amended to include 'any other act.' We believe that the phrase, 'any other act' would apply to the Pest Control Products Act."

Under the PCPA, provincial governments may impose additional regulations "to add an additional layer of safety to pesticide use," Hepworth said. "Health Canada and the provincial governments work in tandem to enforce and implement this law."

Consequently, the Toronto bylaw restrictions could conflict with provincial implementation of the PCPA. Late last year, the law was substantially revised to harmonize it with FQPA (see PTCN, Jan. 6, Page 1). The revisions included numerous protections for sensitive populations, but those enhancements were lost on the Toronto City Council members, Hepworth said.

"If you polled the council members, I doubt you'd find many who have read the revised PCPA or who know about its children's health protections," Hepworth said. "I was recently on a radio program where I asked a councilwoman if she had read the [newly added] PCPA section on the precautionary principle, and she said, 'No.'"

Other bylaws

Other Canadian cities have already enacted bans against cosmetic pesticide use. The Montreal suburb of Hudson, for example, was the first Canadian municipality to enact one, but "the Quebec Municipal Act differs from the Ontario Municipal Act" in its preemption language, Hepworth said. He added that the Nova Scotia Municipal Act was amended to allow Halifax to enact a cosmetic-pesticide ban, as well.

Currently, Hepworth said, there are no pesticide bans pending in any municipality as large as Toronto, whose metropolitan-area population is about four million.

Arguments in the groups' appeal are scheduled for a Nov. 10 hearing.

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