Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Local doctor optimistic as new minister reviews pesticide issue

22 Feb 2011

The Corner Brook Western Star

Local doctor optimistic as new minister reviews pesticide issue

BY CORY HURLEY
STAR STAFF WRITER

CORNER BROOK Retired doctor Ian Simpson is optimistic the provincial government will move legislation prohibiting the use of pesticides.

Speaking to the former western Newfoundland physician Monday, one can easily sense the newfound outlook for a man who has been lobbying for nearly a decade for such a restriction. However, one could also wonder how that desire can still flourish despite little movement toward enacting laws which the majority of Canada has in place.

Simpson lives on his quaint property in the Humber Village, with his backyard gardens and nurtured greenery, recalls the first time he spoke publicly against the use of pesticides. Danny Williams was campaigning for a run at premier when he addressed the Great Humber Joint Council in Massey Drive. Tom Marshall was simply a candidate in the forthcoming election and Marshall was joined in attendance by former then-Liberal environment minister Bob Mercer.

“It got a sensible hearing,” he said of his presentation that day. “Like anything else, whatever will get political push gets attention.”

Unfortunately for Simpson and other members of the later formed Newfoundland and Labrador Coalition on Pesticides, it has not gotten the political push since. The doctor believes that may be changing.

Last week, prior to a forum the coalition held in St. John’s Thursday, Simpson said he received a letter from new Environment Minister Ross Wiseman stating he hoped to meet with the group to discuss the issue. It comes 18 months after the coalition requested the meeting, he said, but they are looking forward to it.

Under the leadership of former Environment Minister Charlene Johnson this meeting was cancelled, delayed or ignored — depending on whom you ask — but, Simpson does not necessarily see that as a reflection of the former minister.

“My suspicion is whoever the minister, up to this point, would have been much the same,” he said. “Certainly one could criticize them, we have been trying to get them to listen to what are fairly significant facts in the health field.”

Simpson believes it has reached a time where government is now “embarrassed” it has yet to act on such legislation.

“My guess is, yes, it may be because of pressure now,” he said. “About 80 per cent of Canadians in communities are protected by some form of legislation as to what can be used, when it can be used, and what can’t be used.”

He said he expects something to be in place this year.

“But, I am always the optimist,” he said. Meanwhile, Wiseman said this was not a case of him coming into a new department to champion this particular cause, but it was something he identified while familiarizing himself with the various issues. On the contrary, he said his personal views as a resident of the province and MHA of Trinity North must be secondary in his role as minister.

“As a minister you have a responsibility to, on behalf of the people of the province, to objectively look at issues and do the appropriate due diligence ... and understand the issue,” he said. “Based on that, not be blinded by a personal view you might hold or a bias you might have.”

He said it has been an ongoing issue — a public one at that — and he has requested his staff gather the necessary information to prepare him to eventually make a recommendation to cabinet.

While acknowledging there has been a lot of public discussion on the issue, including presentations from a number of organizations requesting government review it, the minister would not put timeframes on his meeting with the coalition or making such recommendations to cabinet.

churley@thewesternstar.com

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