Manitoba will soon join most other Canadian provinces and ban cosmetic pesticides -- sprays such as WeedEx and Roundup that keep lawns perfect by killing weeds and bugs.
Newly minted Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh said he plans to release a discussion paper this spring exploring how a ban might work. Then, he'll seek input from the public and lawn-care companies over the summer before introducing legislation this fall or, more likely, early next year.
"I want to see a modern regulation of non-essential cosmetic lawn pesticides to help protect people's health and the environment," said Mackintosh, who emphasized any ban would only apply to lawns and parks, not farms. "Manitobans are entitled to the same protections most other Canadians enjoy."
Manitoba is one of only four provinces left that hasn't created some kind of ban on cosmetic pesticides. Nova Scotia and Ontario have relatively new bans that are considered the toughest, and Mackintosh said he's leaning toward those.
Local environmental groups have been needling the province to crack down on cosmetic herbicides and pesticides for several years and were pleased Mackintosh plans to act.
"Lots of other provinces have moved in the last couple of years to make a ban happen and many of us were saying Manitoba has got to catch up," said Anne Lindsey of the volunteer advocacy group Campaign for Pesticide Reduction.
But local lawn-care companies say a cosmetic-pesticide ban is little more than politics.
"They make these decisions for political reasons, not for health and safety reasons," said David Hinton, owner of Weed Man and president of Landscape Manitoba.
Hinton said there has been a backlash against the bans in many provinces, especially Ontario.
Organic pesticides are available, but they tend to cost more and aren't as effective, said Hinton. And, he said he's not convinced they are necessarily any safer than the chemicals Health Canada approves, used properly.
"We hope the government tries to look at the facts and stays away from the rhetoric," he said.
Last year, when former conservation minister Bill Blaikie hinted a ban may be coming, CropLife Canada, the pesticide industry trade association, launched a significant lobbying effort, warning the province a cosmetic-pesticide ban could stigmatize pesticides used to boost agricultural production. CropLife also argued Health Canada carefully regulates the chemicals and has deemed them safe.
More recently, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities passed a resolution last fall opposing the ban on the grounds it would increase municipal weed-control costs and allow weeds from urban lawns to blow into nearby farm fields.
Cities can ban the use of pesticides but only the province can ban the sale -- a much more effective method of reducing pesticide use. Brandon has a bylaw restricting cosmetic-pesticide use near schools, daycares and parks. Winnipeg's bylaw only requires lawn-care companies to post warning signs when they apply chemicals.
Here's what a cosmetic pesticide ban might look like:
Wouldn't apply to farms, only lawns and other public green space. Probably wouldn't apply to golf courses, either, but that will be up for debate.
Would likely list dozens of banned chemicals that can't be used or sold, including 2,4-D mecoprop, dicamba, glyphosate, diazinon and carbaryl and weed-and-feed.
Wouldn't apply to pesticides used for health issues such as mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus or dangerous plants such as poison ivy.