Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pesticide ban will mean weed takeover: Pallister

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Beware of a detonation of dandelions, Opposition Leader Brian Pallister warned the governing NDP Tuesday.

The Progressive Conservative leader said that's what will happen if Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh pushes ahead with his "radical agenda" to ban cosmetic lawn pesticides.

He said since Ontario brought in its ban in April 2009, lawns, parks and sports playing fields have exploded in dandelions and have been abandoned by parents and children.

"Young people, athletes of various ages, shapes and sizes aren't engaging in physical activity because (fields) have been infested by weeds," he said.

The result is more than 100 weed-infested fields in Ontario have been ripped up and replaced with costly artificial turf, he said.

"Once they're taken over by weeds, they're not attractive," Pallister said. "But that's not the point; they're not safe playing surfaces. They're not friendly to the user. I'm concerned as a parent that we make sure that there's some balance here and that we don't do something in our province that would make it harder for our families and our young people to enjoy the facilities that we have."

Mackintosh called Pallister's allegation pure fear-mongering.

"Restrictions on exposure to lawn pesticides are in place in almost all the rest of Canada," Mackintosh said, adding even the Harper government phased out "weed-and-feed" products -- herbicide and fertilizer combinations -- late last year.

Mackintosh said whatever the province does --he downplayed an outright ban -- property owners will still be able to use already available, lower-risk replacement products or organic treatments to keep their lawns weed-free. Legislation is expected to be introduced this spring.

The lawn-care industry is opposed to the restrictions, saying the products they use to control weeds are all approved by Health Canada.

But the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment says children are most prone to the potential health risks of the cosmetic lawn chemicals, including cancer, learning disabilities, asthma and chronic lung diseases. Pesticides can also be toxic to birds, fish and beneficial insects.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 16, 2013 B2

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