New State Study Supports Concerns About Aerial Pesticide Spray; More
by Isabelle Jenniches ( ij [at] stopthespray.org )
Friday Feb 27th, 2009 1:34 PM
Santa Cruz, CA. February 27, 2009. A report, released last week
and authored by a group of researchers from various organizations
supports concerns Californians have had about the aerial spraying of
pesticides in the Monterey Bay area in 2007. The study clearly shows
the correlation of the unprecedented bird die off and red tide with
the timing of the spraying of the pesticide Checkmate. Other questions
New State Study Supports Californians' Concerns About Aerial Pesticide
Spray; More Questions Unanswered
Santa Cruz, CA. February 27, 2009. A report, released last week and
authored by a group of researchers from various organizations
including the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), California
Department of Fish and Game, and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research
Institute, Moss Landing, supports concerns Californians have had about
the aerial spraying of pesticides in the Monterey Bay area in 2007.
The study clearly shows the correlation of the unprecedented bird die
off with the timing of the spraying of the pesticide Checkmate.
The authors of the study reported the birds had a "slimy yellow-green
material on their feathers" and that the cause of death was due to
"surfactant-like proteins, derived from organic matter of the red
tide, [that] coated their feathers and neutralized natural water
repellency and insulation." The birds were unable to maintain buoyancy
While the researches commented on the foam as being attributed to red
tide, the foam was in fact also seen in rivers after the pesticide
spraying, and found by a San Jose State University researcher to be
filled with microcapsules associated with the spray. Many residents
within the spray zone remember the yellowish foamy substance on their
windows, decks, and planter boxes left by the spray.
Former Santa Cruz city council member Ed Porter recalls thick yellow
foam covering the San Lorenzo River: "I went to the trestle bridge and
found a great deal of foam over about 3/4 of the width of the river.
It was about 5 inches thick in some places. This is a spot on the
river I visit often and I have never in 40 years seen foam like this
there or anywhere else on the river. I saw the foam also all along the
cliff at Cowells Beach which is the Northern reach of Monterey Bay."
According to Capitola resident Jacquie Rainwater, who together with
her teenage daughter helped in the rescue of the sea birds: "We found
the birds washing up in droves, soaking wet, shivering and frightened.
There were grebes, loons, and scooters, literally drowning in front of
our eyes. They were unable to make it all the way to shore, so they
just sank. It was awful to watch."
Not studied by the investigators was the potential synergism between
the highly toxic surfactant agent tricaprly methylamonnium chloride
(TMAC), present in Checkmate, and the surfactant protein found to be
the cause of the bird deaths.
The authors note in their study that this was the first documented
severe red tide capable of producing such a foam. The red tide
coincided with the first time Checkmate was aerially sprayed in the
vicinity of a national marine sanctuary. After the spraying, pesticide
drift was measured over a distance of more than three miles, violating
buffer zones around the sanctuary.
The pesticide label clearly states that the compound should not be
used or come in contact with water.
The study also did not mention that Checkmate contains several
compounds that can feed the microplankton that gives rise to red tide,
including several surfactants, phosphates and urea.
Veteran surfers who have been surfing in the Monterey Bay for decades
commented on the unique severity of the red tide that spiked after the
spraying of Checkmate.
The study additionally noted that "some birds showed gross or
microscopic evidence of acute haemorrhage into the lungs [...]" and
adds that "one important possibility that merits investigation is
exposure to an aerosolized component of the surface slime."
The study's findings fit with other research sponsored by the state of
California: results of acute toxicology tests for Checkmate, released
by the state in November 2008, showed that one out of ten lab animals
died after only four hours of dermal exposure. Necropsy results showed
"pale lungs" among other organ abnormalities.
These findings are echoed in the new study, where necropsy of the
birds revealed that "... approximately half of the birds had gross and/
or microscopic evidence of acute haemorrhage into the pulmonary
parabronchi and adjacent pulmonary parenchyma was sometimes pale and
These findings are consistent with the American Lung Association who
reports that exposure to aerosol particulate matter of 10 microns can
cause respiratory distress, emphysema, and even death. This connection
was also not mentioned in the study.
Finally, the authors added: "Of note, some animal care personnel also
reported mild respiratory irritation after contact with heavily soiled
birds during this event."
Respiratory distress, from mild to almost lethal, was the most
reported symptom due to the spraying and the aforementioned toxicology
tests have shown Checkmate to be an irritant.
The sea bird-die off, the most severe ever reported for the Santa Cruz
area, occurred immediately after three days of all-night pesticide
spraying of residential areas by the California Department of Food and
Agriculture (CDFA) in attempts to eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth
(LBAM), a moth that experts say has been in California for decades and
is now known to not pose a threat to agriculture or native plants.
The bird die off dissipated in approximately 30 days which correlates
with the life span of the microcapsules associated with the pesticide
Download the bird study, toxicology tests on Checkmate, and a review
of the temporal association between the bird die-off and the aerial
spray at http://www.stopthespray.org/
EPA again suppress disclosure of chemicals used in aerial spray
Thursday Feb 12th, 2009 10:14 PM
SC & Monterey people were sprayed in 2007 with tricaprylyl methyl
ammonium chloride (TMAC). Harmful if swallowed or inhaled, can cause
burns to mouth, throat, and stomach.
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ASKS COURT TO SUPPRESS
IDENTITY OF HARMFUL CHEMICALS USED IN APPLE MOTH SPRAY
San Francisco – Environmental leaders from throughout the San
Francisco and Monterey Bay areas have asked Federal District Judge
Saundra Armstrong to deny the United States Environmental Protection
Agency’s motion to block disclosure of the chemicals used in the
CheckMate pesticides sprayed on Monterey and Santa Cruz residents as
part of the government’s Apple Moth Eradication Program. EPA has
requested Judge Armstrong to prevent disclosure of the chemicals in
the spray, claiming the manufacturer’s proprietary interest outweighs
the public’s right to know. Previously, EPA approved use of these
chemicals for continued spraying by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in
Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin,
Alameda, Contra Costa, and Sonoma counties. Opposing the spray program
and seeking disclosure of its chemical ingredients are the lead
plaintiff, North Coast Rivers Alliance, Richmond Mayor Gayle
McLaughlin, Albany Mayor Robert Lieber, Santa Cruz City Councilman
Tony Madrigal, and leaders of the anti-spray movement in each of the
affected counties together with victims of the previous apple moth
spray debacle in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.
The basis for the lawsuit is that EPA ignored key public safety
protections of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
(FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) in
granting an exemption from registration for the ingredients of the two
apple moth pesticides sprayed in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties by
USDA and CDFA. As a result, several hundred citizens were injured and
filed reports with CDFA, many documented by physicians. More than 650
seabirds were killed, and hundreds of upland birds, domestic pets, and
other animals were poisoned. USDA and CDFA are threatening to spray
these unsafe pesticides again in the San Francisco Bay Area even
though EPA’s own regulations classify these pesticides as unsafe for
spraying over residential and agricultural areas.
Frank Egger, Board member of the lead plaintiff, North Coast Rivers
Alliance, stated that “After 8 years of stonewalling by the Bush
Administration, we had hoped that under President Obama, the EPA would
choose protection of the public’s health over continued secrecy and
corporate profit. Sadly, once again EPA has adopted industry’s
commercial interests as its own, ignoring its duty to protect the
environment. So we have been forced once again to ask the federal
court to order EPA to do its job. No governmental agency is above the
Stephan Volker, attorney for the plaintiffs, stated that “EPA’s
attempt to suppress disclosure of the pesticide’s inert ingredients is
a betrayal of its duty to prevent environmental harm. EPA’s job is to
protect the public from dangerous pesticides, not protect the
pesticides and their manufacturers’ profits from the public,”
explained Mr. Volker. Mr. Volker pointed out that one of the “inert”
ingredients in these pesticides, tricaprylyl methyl ammonium chloride
(“TMAC”), is a harmful chemical that EPA never approved for aerial
spraying in urban areas. The Material Safety Data Sheet (“MSDS”) for
TMAC warns that it is “harmful if swallowed or inhaled,” and that
ingestion can cause “[b]urns to mouth, throat, and stomach.” The MSDS
also warns that skin and eye contact with TMAC can cause “severe
burns” and “damaged skin.”
“We are asking the Federal Court to hold EPA accountable for its
unlawful exemption of these hazardous pesticides from registration in
direct violation of federal environmental laws,” stated Mr. Volker. A
ruling by Judge Armstrong is expected soon.
Copies of the federal court Complaint, EPA’s motion to place its
Answer partially under seal, EPA’s
supporting testimony, NCRA’s opposition, and NCRA’s supporting
testimony and exhibit, are attached.
----Read all the related documents at
March 01, 2009
The tragedy that is NC's pesticide regulatory system
--how our Board of Commissioners refused to protect our children and
elderly in pandering to powerful special interests
We are running a story on our Home Page that highlights the
inadequacies of the pesticide regulatory system in North Carolina. The
story contains numerous links to other reports of the problems the
State experienced in responding to reports of injuries, including
severe birth defects in children of field workers exposed to
agricultural pesticides, that have been reported to it.
The State's investigation resulted in Ag-Mart, one of the nation's
largest produce growers, being charged with hundreds of violations of
the State's existing pesticide regulations. The case dragged on for
over five years and the N. C. Pesticide Board recently found that
regulators could prove only six violations and reduced the fine to
$3000, only a fraction of what the original fine was and nowhere near
what the legal costs in the case have been. What all that shows is
that it is virtually impossible under the existing regulations to be
able to enforce sanctions on violators of the existing rules.
It should also be noted that the existing rules are not only virtually
impossible to enforce, but if they could be enforced they are
extremely lenient. While that may sound like a subjective, even
biased, statement consider this. Current regulations permit a
pesticide applicator (a.k.a.: crop-duster) to spray your property
without your consent and there is virtually no recourse available to
you. It, of course, gets more complicated, but that is the bottom
In a recent case in which a school in Beaufort County was sprayed by a
crop-duster, the ensuing debate centered not on whether regulations
were adequate to keep a crop duster from spraying the school, but
rather how much pesticide he could pump onto the school before he
violated the regulations. And of all the absurdities that case
illustrated, the fact that the State is not authorized to test for
pesticides inside a school--only on the grounds outside--is but one
more example of the ridiculous inadequacy of the current regulations.
So when the Beaufort County Commissioners were considering the
adoption of an ordinance ostensibly meant to protect farmland from
urban development it was suggested to the Commissioners that they
address this issue of protecting schools, hospitals, nursing homes,
etc. from being sprayed. Led by Robert Cayton, reportedly a member of
the Beaufort Farm Bureau, the Beaufort Commissioners rejected such
protection of our school. Only Hood Richardson and Stan Deatherage
voted to do so.
The regulations developed for the "Voluntary Ag Districts" illustrate
the insidiousness of this issue. The original idea was that Ag
Districts would help preserve farmland from being developed. But deep
inside the fine print was a stipulation that if a famer sprays his
land within the Ag. District and "drift" gets deposited on a
neighbor's land, home or even into a school or nursing home the Ag.
District rules in effect granted immunity because they specifically
"forewarn" neighbors that such activity is acceptable within the
And in testimony before the Pesticide Board an aerial applicator
testified that "it is virtually impossible to spray a field without
'drift' going 'off target'."
What was suggested to the Beaufort Commissioners was a simple
solution. Before anyone can spray their land in such a fashion that
"drift" dumps pesticides on neighbors they would have to get the
neighbor to agree it was ok. Failure to obtain such releases would
make the sprayer (not the farmer) strictly liable for the unacceptable
deposits and they would have to clean it up.
Unbelievably the N. C. and Beaufort County Farm Bureau opposed the
suggestion. Even a member of the Beaufort School Board (Mac Hodges)
joined in with the local Farm Bureau to oppose a provision that if
someone in an Ag. District sprayed near a school that they would have
to notify the principal in advance and the school would have to notify
the parents so they could keep their children from being present when
the spraying took place. The Farm Bureau argued that such notice was
too much trouble and it would be too expensive to clean the school if
it was accidentally sprayed!
But further investigation revealed why the Farm Bureau lobby was so
intent on killing the suggestion for Beaufort. They feared other local
communities would seek to regulated pesticide use.
The Farm Bureau argued that counties should not be able to regulate
pesticide use; that only the State can do that. The reason they want
only the State doing it is that the existing regulatory system is
heavily dominated by the agricultural chemical industry. They control
it. Just look at the membership of the N. C. Pesticide Board. And
consider that the major "study" they used to justify their regulatory
scheme was produced by a scientist who himself received funding from
So here's the game. The agricultural chemical industry has lobbied to
secure lenient pesticide rules that are virtually unenforceable. The
Ag-Mart case proves that. Then they establish the legal precedent that
damages done by spraying people cannot a be assessed against the
perpetrator unless the victim can prove the spraying actually caused
the injury. That, of course, is virtually impossible to do. Many
parents don't even know their children have been exposed to harmful
substances at a school that has been sprayed. And obviously the injury
may not be obvious at the time it takes place. But if you've ever had
an asthmatic child wake up in the middle of the night unable to breath
you know the horrors of respiratory problems, not to mention the birth
defects as seen in the Ag-Mart case.
The alternative to the current ineffective system is something the
lawyers call "strict liability." Strict liability, as opposed to
negligence tort liability, says that: "Here's what you can and cannot
do, and if you do something other than what is permitted, simply
committing the violation makes you liable." For example, strict
liability--as proposed to the Beaufort County Commissioners--would
say: "You can't spray in such a way that it ends up on/in a school and
if you do you have to clean it up." Just that simple. But the Beaufort
County Farm Bureau fought that to the point of bringing its high-
priced lobbyists from Raleigh to argue against it. Their argument:
Existing state regulations are sufficient. Obviously the Ag-Mart
parents of those children born without arms and legs don't agree. And
one might suspect that a $3000 fine against Ag-Mart, or any other huge
corporate producer, is simply seen as a "cost of doing business."
February 27, 2009, The Charleston Gazette
Bayer cited, fined in fatal explosion at plant in August
Poorly planned operating procedures, flawed emergency systems and
faulty employee training at the Bayer CropScience Institute plant led
to a runaway chemical reaction that killed two workers in August,
federal investigators have concluded.
By Ken Ward Jr.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Poorly planned operating procedures, flawed
emergency systems and faulty employee training at the Bayer
CropScience Institute plant led to a runaway chemical reaction that
killed two workers in August, federal investigators have concluded.
Read the OSHA citations
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials cited
Bayer for 13 serious and two repeat violations, following a six-month
probe of the explosion and fire in the plant's methomyl unit.
OSHA proposed $143,000 in fines, about half of which was for the two
repeat violations of rules that require detailed analysis of the
potential hazards of complex chemical manufacturing units.
"Bayer CropScience's failure to conduct the proper hazard analysis of
its methomyl unit and failure to properly prepare for emergencies left
employees exposed to unnecessary risk and contributed to this
unfortunate tragedy," said Jeffrey Funke, area director of OSHA's
In a prepared statement, Bayer plant manager Nick Crosby said the
company would be studying the OSHA citations and "dealing with them
Bayer has 15 business days to contest the citations before the
independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Maya Nye, a leader of the local group People Concerned About MIC,
said, "These citations are on par with what we expected. They indicate
that the company cares about their employees about as much as they do
for the community."
Plant worker Barry Withrow was killed in the Aug. 28, 2008, explosion,
and a second employee, Bill Oxley, died about six weeks later at a
burn center in Pittsburgh. Thousands of residents between South
Charleston and the Putnam County line were advised to take shelter in
The explosion occurred in a unit where Bayer makes methomyl, which it
then uses to produce Larvin, the company's brand name of the
Plant officials had previously said the explosion occurred in a tank
that contained a variety of waste products used to make or created in
the production of Larvin. The tank was used to recycle these products,
with most of them being sent to the plant power house to be burned for
Funke said OSHA investigators found that those chemicals were supposed
to be added to the tank in a certain order and in certain amounts. But
they were added in the wrong order, and too much methomyl was added,
generating more heat and pressure than the tank could withstand, Funke
"They refer to it as a runaway, exothermic reaction," Funke said in a
OSHA investigators found that Bayer had not evaluated what would
happen if too much methomyl were added to the tank, and what to do if
that hazard occurred. Plant managers never wrote procedures to tell
operators what to do "to mitigate a hazardous, uncontrolled
decomposition of methomyl" inside the tank, OSHA investigators
concluded. The company also did not train employees on how to deal
with such an incident.
OSHA also cited Bayer because employees who were assigned after the
explosion to clean out equipment that had contained methyl isocyanate,
or MIC, were not trained to wear respirators during such work. Also,
OSHA cited the company because it did not require air sampling for MIC
during this work.
Federal investigators also issued two repeat violations that were not
related to the cause of the August explosion.
OSHA had cited Bayer in January 2006 for its "failure to consider all
aspects of facility siting" during a safety study of the plant's
carbofuran and carbaryl units. Bayer was also cited at the time for
ignoring its own 2002 study that recommended preventing certain
chemical valves from being open at the same time in the carbaryl unit.
During its investigation of the August explosion, OSHA found
violations of the same safety rules, this time related to the methomyl
Inspectors said that the company had not resolved issues related to
the unit's structure and equipment, and their possible vulnerability
to "heat, pressure waves, overloading, chemical effects, vibration due
to powered equipment, soft subsoil, and climatic effects such as
freezing, earthquakes and wind."
OSHA also alleged that Bayer was two years overdue to complete a study
of whether safety valves on the methomyl reactor "were capable of
handling pressure rise from a methomyl decomposition scenario that
could result in rupturing the reactor." That citation included a long
list of other similar safety studies and improvements that Bayer was
long overdue in completing.
Major Institute plant OSHA cases
Here is a list of significant workplace safety cases involving the
Institute chemical plant and its various owners:
· August 1985 - Union Carbide pays a $4,400 fine to settle
violations cited after a leak that injured at least 135 people. OSHA
originally fined the company $32,100. As part of the settlement OSHA
changed the designation of three of the citations from willful to
· November 1988 - Carbide pays $242,610 in fines to resolve a long
list of violations cited after a "wall-to-wall" inspection launched by
OSHA after the August 1985 leak. Originally, agency officials had
fined the company $1.38 million. The settlement dropped 15 citations.
· August 1993 - After an explosion and fire kills two workers, OSHA
fines Rhone-Poulenc Ag Co. a West Virginia record $1.59 million. In a
settlement reached in August 1996, OSHA accepted fines of $700,000 and
dropped 11 of the original 27 citations, including 10 that had been
listed by inspectors as willful.
· February 1996 - After a leak forces thousands of residents to
take shelter in their homes, Rhone-Poulenc agrees to pay a $450,000
fine for 14 willful violations.
· July 2005 - Bayer CropScience is fined $135,000, but settles the
case in February 2007 for $110,000. OSHA drops eight of its citations,
including two that were listed as willful.
A Collection of Materials on Bayer´s Institute Plant: www.cbgnetwork.de/2627.html
Cause of Gulf War illness remains hotly debated 18 years later
Fernando Del Valle
March 1, 2009 - 6:07PM
SAN BENITO -- When Reynaldo Guajardo left for the Middle East, he
planned a short trip to help him train his troops to defend military
outposts in the Arabian desert.
Two months later the Air Force staff sergeant was fighting Iraqi
troops as part of Operation Desert Storm, he said.
In May 1991, he came home with aches and pains that would leave him
bedridden for days, Guajardo said.
Nearly 18 years later, the cause of his symptoms remains hotly
Now he's asking the federal government for help to treat what's become
known as Gulf War illness.
"I was always hoping I could get over it, but it's getting worse for
me. I'm walking with pain," said Guajardo, 44, who's co-owned a small
pest control company based in San Benito for about eight years. "I'm
not the type of person who likes to take help easily."
Across the country, Guajardo is one of the few veterans of Desert
Storm to file claims for Gulf War illness, officials said.
In the United States, about 1,000 of the 696,842 veterans of Desert
Storm and Desert Shield receive compensation for undiagnosed
illnesses, said Jim Benson, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C.
In the San Benito area, Guajardo is one of about 10 veterans who have
filed claims with the Cameron County Health Department's Veterans
Services Office, said Dan Booker, who runs the local branch.
Since veterans began filing claims for Gulf War illness in the mid
1990s, he knows of only one who's received compensation, Booker said.
"The numbers are very small for those who filed and even smaller for
those who actually received compensation," Booker said.
But a new veterans committee report estimates one in four Desert Storm
veterans suffers from Gulf War illness.
The report by the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans'
Illnesses largely blames symptoms on exposure to pyridostigmine
bromide, a drug given to troops to protect them against nerve gas and
pesticides used in the Gulf War.
The congressional committee of scientists and veterans found a link
between Gulf War illness and exposure to nerve agents, oil well fires
and vaccines, the report said.
Benson declined comment on the report's findings.
Ongoing research has failed to link the anthrax vaccine, oil well
fires and pesticides to causes of Gulf veterans' symptoms, Benson
In November 1990, Guajardo left for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to learn how
to train his men to defend military bases in the Middle East, he said.
Then on Jan. 16, 1991, the United States launched Desert Storm in
response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
Air attacks filled the desert skies for 30 days, with raids pelting
the landscape two to three times a day, Guajardo said.
"You could smell the burn all around you," he said.
Scraps of Iraqi and U.S. missiles littered the desert sand, Guajardo
"You could pick up pieces of everything," he said.
Ever since, he's suffered symptoms that range from respiratory
problems and headaches to joint swelling and muscle pain, Guajardo
"My muscles hurt, they're swollen," he said. "My knee gets about the
size of a grapefruit."
Now, muscle pain and swollen joints leave him bedridden at least twice
a year for as long as four days at a time, Guajardo said.
"When I get it, I'm down for a while," he said. "I've got to use
crutches or a cane. I either have to stay sitting down or laying down.
Sometimes I can't even get out of bed."
Some veterans who said they suffered similar symptoms didn't want
their names used in this story because they feared their complaints
would jeopardize their claims with Veterans Affairs.
A retired Air Force sergeant said he blames symptoms that include
respiratory problems, skin rashes and digestive disorders on exposure
to depleted uranium. The 39-year-old veteran said his unit handled
missiles made of depleted uranium to load A-10 Thunderbolt II
Veterans want the federal government to find a treatment to help heal
their suffering, said Thom Wilborn, a spokesman for the Disabled
American Veterans in Washington, D.C.
"They want to see ... recognition that it is a disease. These guys
have suffered enough," Wilborn said.
"Gulf War illness has never been seen before in the history of our
military and it's never been seen since," Wilborn said. "We would like
to see some action on the part of the Department of Veterans Affairs
(to classify Gulf War illness) as a presumptive or recognized
For many veterans like Guajardo, the suffering gets worse.
Soon his pain may leave him unable to work, Guajardo said.
"I feel I can no longer deal with the problems I have," Guajardo said.
"I don't like to use the military. But sometimes you've got to put
your pride to one side and ask, ‘Can you help me?'"
Fernando Del Valle is a reporter for the Valley Morning Star. He can
be reached at (956) 430-6278.
Warning Industry Propaganda Below
March 2, 2009
Monday's Globe and Mail
Ignatieff comes a-courtin'
by PATRICIA ROBERTSON
When earnest Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told the Canadian
Federation of Agriculture last week that he wanted to "earn back the
trust" of rural Canadians, I had to stifle a giggle.
Mr. Ignatieff, rural Canada - as you may already suspect - currently
belongs to Stephen Harper. There's a reason for that: He's one of us.
When he's not proroguing Parliament or scanning the latest National
Geographic for any positive words on the tar sands, Mr. Harper is
working on a hockey book. You, meanwhile, taught at Harvard and pen
brainy non-fiction tomes.
Mr. Ignatieff, you appeal to urbanites because you're urbane,
educated, articulate, informed and witty - yet just a little bit
condescending. Farmers will get a whiff of city off you and run you
out of town on a rail without so much as a hello or an invitation to
When it comes to bridging the gap between urban and rural Canada,
you're out of your depth. When I moved to a Saskatchewan farm town
from Calgary in 2004, I was in the same predicament. I knew nothing of
rural life and, boy, did I step in cow manure on a regular basis. I've
been shunned, redeemed, shouted at and welcomed with equal measure.
The only way any federal politician can earn the trust of wary rural
voters would be to get to know us better instead of pandering from
your lofty perch in Ottawa.
One way to earn cred with rural Canadians is to stop spending your
summer holidays in France. While it may earn you status points in
urban circles, it just seems pretentious to country people who know
that, in summer time, Western Canada is the only place to be.
In the small town where I live, we value accountability. When I don't
pay my off-leash fines, I can expect a phone call from the new bylaw
officer or "they'll have to take the matter up with town council."
We also value thrift and pragmatism. While you were reading War and
Peace to your lovely wife over the Christmas break, my partner and I
were re-enacting the frozen country house scene from Dr. Zhivago. Our
abnormally frigid December was spent chopping wood for our new EPA
woodstove so we could save money.
Throughout February, our local hospital didn't offer emergency medical
services because of a doctor shortage; I'll contemplate your good
intentions while I drive 35 minutes to a Prince Albert walk-in clinic.
If you want to build trust, you have to dig in and help out. When our
front brakes failed on our car, our mechanic neighbour, Ryan, made
space in his service bay. Then he helped my partner install them
before rushing home for his Sunday supper followed by his weekly beer
league hockey game.
As a displaced aristocrat, Mr. Ignatieff, you probably can't even
change a tire. Unlike our sainted Tommy Douglas, you don't have one
gram of grassroots folksiness, so don't bother to affect it. You
aren't a Baptist minister; you're probably one of those dreaded
secular humanists such as Kurt Vonnegut.
I also guess that you have no daily connection to the land other than
fond recollections of your uncle's farm. When was the last time you
sprayed a dandelion in your coveralls and rubber boots with the
intensity of a hit man?
As for that glowing profile in The New York Times, we don't care what
New Yorkers think of you. We read Rural Roots, so you'd better get
yourself a hobby like sculpting cigarette foil figurines if you want
any good ink in that regional paper.
Most noticeably, you're in the wrong party and you live in urban
Besides, the embattled city people really need you right now - not the
farmers in the dell who are well stocked: wood piled high, canned
goods in the root cellar and enough hoarded pesticides in the garden
shed to get us through until 2050.
Patricia Robertson is a Saskatchewan-based writer.