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The Editor, The Calgary Herald:
Calgary city officials are being deliberately misled by those who would have them believe that Ottawa's ban on pesticides since 1988 has been lifted (Club's Pesticide Plan, Calgary Herald, Nov.30, 2000).
In actual fact, the protocol is very much intact, with no cosmetic-use spraying allowed whatsoever. A proposed new formal Ottawa Integrated Pest Management policy is also very clear that pesticide spraying for cosmetic purposes will not be considered.
Calgarians should also know that Ottawans are amazed when they hear that dandelions are actually considered to be noxious weeds in your city! The greens are sold in our City Market as a vitamin-rich delicacy, and cheerful expanses of their yellow blossoms have become a welcome part of the landscape, especially along bus routes through parkways. As for spraying on trees, City officials were caught lying when confronted on this, telling residents that they were only spraying with soap and water. Toxic pesticides were indeed used, in an effort to kill pests on trees.
Banning of "cosmetic" use was not lifted to include trees, but spraying was done covertly as an ill-advised emergency measure to try to save their lives. This was because we do have trees weakened by the effects of the severe ice storm two years ago, and some other trees also vulnerable to pests because they are not native, and not hardy. The residents who feared they would lose these trees unless they were sprayed, later agreed however with Council that they would approve of replacement with hardier species by the City, a more realistic solution than repeated ineffective pesticide applications risking public health.
Ottawans understand that public health must come first, and that is why they see that chemical-free playing fields and parks are safer than those that are poisoned with pesticides. No legal suits have been laid from the injuries that the pesticide manufacturers keep warning could occur from sliding on any broad-leafed weeds they would have us be terrified of, and our children do not have to be exposured to poisoned turf.
If 20 million dollars is needed to "rehabilitate" fields, then it is because they were not managed properly and this does not mean with pesticides. The City of Waterloo manages more acereage with less money, and Manager Brian Detzler says the turf is in better shape than when the fields chemically -dependent. Waterloo did not need to use any pesticides at all last year, and Calgary could learn a great deal from it.
Citizens of Ottawa are a well- educated lot, and environmentally conscious. We will not tolerate reversion to chemical dependence; Calgarians are right to want a healthier environment too.
Peggy Land, (soon -to- be- amalgamated) City of Ottawa