THE City of Winnipeg could increase its use of pesticides to rid green spaces of dandelions and other noxious weeds, though some question whether that’s safe.

THE City of Winnipeg could increase its use of pesticides to rid green spaces of dandelions and other noxious weeds, though some question whether that’s safe.

Coun. Jeff Browaty wants the city to phase in the use of cosmetic pesticides, beginning in 2023, since the province recently introduced legislation to allow that treatment in more areas.

<p>KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Coun. Jeff Browaty wants the city to be a “good neighbour” to those with homes adjacent to city parks by better eliminating weeds, since dandelion seeds spread easily between properties.</p>

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Coun. Jeff Browaty wants the city to be a “good neighbour” to those with homes adjacent to city parks by better eliminating weeds, since dandelion seeds spread easily between properties.

"A lot of residents (have) complained that they find a sea of dandelions unsightly… and there are certain residents that find they can’t even attend the parks because of hay fever and (other) allergies (when weeds are most common)," said Browaty.

He said the city needs to be a "good neighbour" to those with homes adjacent to city parks by better eliminating the weeds, since dandelion seeds spread easily between properties.

"Normally, it’s a highly desirable feature to be next to a city park but in recent times, with dandelions out of control, that’s sometimes not the case," he said.

If the provincial legislation passes, a ban would be removed to allow the use of pesticides on many more private lawns and green spaces.

Browaty says a phased-in approach to add municipal use of pesticides to combat weeds should give priority to "image route boulevards and parks."

The North Kildonan councillor said the city didn’t use much of the more environmentally friendly weed-control products that remained available during the pesticide ban.

The Association of Manitoba Municipalities said weed control costs soared by up to 10 times due to the ban, since more natural chemicals were far more expensive and required more applications.

"For municipalities like Winnipeg, it’s just not practical or financially feasible to be doing that, with the large amounts of green space inventory we have," said Browaty.

The provincial legislation proposes to keep the cosmetic pesticide ban for "sensitive areas," such as municipal playgrounds, picnic areas, dog parks and provincial parks. A spokesperson confirmed cosmetic pesticides would be allowed at any municipal park space that falls outside of those parameters.

Browaty said that indicates pesticides could be used at many athletic fields and other green spaces.

The initial pesticide ban was introduced in 2014, with a goal to reduce public exposure to synthetic chemicals and better prevent them from entering Manitoba’s land, air and water. The NDP government of the time argued a review of 140 Ontario medical studies in 2012 offered plenty of evidence a ban was needed, linking pesticides to several health risks, including asthma and lung disease.

A member of the group Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Manitoba, which advocates in favour of the original ban, called the proposed changes "a major disappointment."

"This is going to pose unnecessary risks to human health, to the environment, especially to the health of children, whose growing bodies are most at risk from pesticide exposure," said Josh Brandon. "This new legislation takes us in the wrong direction by weakening the legislation in a number of ways, making it easier for homeowners and municipalities to use unnecessary toxic chemicals for weed control."

Browaty said he expects the switch back to more chemical products would be safe because Health Canada has approved the allowable pesticides.

Coun. Brian Mayes, the head of council’s water, waste and environment committee, said he’ll seek more information on the potential effects of switching to greater pesticide use before deciding if he would support the motion.

"Nobody likes weeds but we’ve got to do something here (at city hall) that isn’t just lip service for the environment," said Mayes.

Council’s protection and community services committee is expected to vote on Browaty’s motion on April 11.

joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.