Pesticides and the Environment

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): – I am proud of the fact that the NDP has introduced this motion today. It reminds me of a similar significant initiative that we undertook a couple of years ago, and that was our motion on trans fats that was approved by the House. We did that, as we do this today, on the basis of responding to the significant concerns in Canada about public health, and about the impact on people’s personal health with the use of pesticides.

I am proud of the fact that the NDP has taken a very strong approach here and is in effect calling for a ban of non-essential cosmetic pesticides.

We all want a good quality of life. We all share this planet. Therefore, in this federal jurisdiction, surely, the most significant thing we can do is to bring forward something like this, to build on what has taken place in Quebec, who legislated the first province wide ban on pesticides. I would expect to see these members opposite supporting an initiative that would ensure that what has happened in Quebec would take place in other jurisdictions across the country. In the future we will have another debate about what we need to do there in terms of looking at alternatives and organic farming and looking at the agricultural sector, but today we are focused on the cosmetic use of pesticides.

I think the motion establishes two very important principles that have been mentioned today. One is reversing the burden of proof. That is very important in terms of public policy. It has been up to individuals and organizations to challenge what is going on and to show that something is unsafe. Now the burden of proof would be on the manufacturers to show that if they want a product to come into use they have to be able to demonstrate that it is safe.

The second important principle is that of reducing exposure. We know there is a huge amount of evidence to say that exposure to all of these chemicals and pesticides is dangerous. It is ironic that we send kids out to play and to the playground to get fresh air and get them outside, yet we are sending them into a risk zone.

We know that over 100 municipalities have adopted pesticide bylaws including, I’m pleased to say, the City of Vancouver. We know that the province of Quebec has done that as well. Let us see this right across Canada. What is wrong with that, for heaven’s sake?