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Letter: Pesticide policy shows Kamloops is stuck in the past

Administration justified the city’s pesticide use by piously invoking the city’s responsibility for invasive weed control. Does it matter that invasive species account for only 6.07 hectares out of a total of about 47.8 hectares sprayed by the city in 2020, or that most “weeds” sprayed by the city are dandelions and plantain, which aren’t on any invasive weed lists? 
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Editor:

Hey, City of Kamloops, the 1950s called. They want their pesticide policy back. And there’s a memo to remind you about your 2019 strategic priority for accountability.   

I’ve been a Kamloopsian almost all my life. People know me from school, 4-H and Girl Guides, from my time owning a downtown business, from my decades at Cariboo College/TRU and from my involvement in music, horses and children.  

For my sins, they also know me as a pesticide activist. I’ve spent the past 40 years learning about pesticide types, uses, effects, laws and alternatives.

I’ve conducted pesticide appeals, compiled fact sheets, organized forums, hosted talks and served on boards and advisory committees.  

I’ve dealt with all levels of government over the years, but the dystopian plays from city hall late last month floored even me.  

Despite my history dealing with bureaucracy, I credulously believed civic operations director Jen Fretz’s written promise to the Kamloops Food Policy Council for “several opportunities for the KFPC and the general community to review the city’s pest control plan and provide input subsequent to the [civic operations committee’s] September 27th meeting,” so I was surprised when the meeting agenda gave the committee no opportunity to discuss or approve any public process.  

I wrote to council to point out this omission. I figured Fretz would be reminded of her promise and propose an amendment to the agenda. Nope.

The city’s glossy plan was presented for “information” and that was that. I wonder how a top administrator can make a promise and then so openly renege on it, but maybe that’s just me. Nobody else seemed bothered.  

More dystopia ruled during the meeting. Mayor Ken Christian bemoaned people feeding marmots on McArthur Park, saying feeding wildlife disrupts the ecosystem. Strangely, he’s never mentioned any eco-misgivings about the city spraying 440 gallons of a 2,4-D weed-killer from a truck-mounted gun across about 20 hectares of McArthur Island last year.  

Administration justified the city’s pesticide use by piously invoking the city’s responsibility for invasive weed control. Does it matter that invasive species account for only 6.07 hectares out of a total of about 47.8 hectares sprayed by the city in 2020, or that most “weeds” sprayed by the city are dandelions and plantain, which aren’t on any invasive weed lists?  

I felt for Coun. Kathy Sinclair, who also got her share of double-speak. She was handed the old spot-spray mollifier, but spot-spray doesn’t mean what most of us think it means.

Rather than a direct application to a very small area, spot-spray in professional terms means spraying only the weedy portions of a landscaped area, but not, as in blanket-spray, covering the entire lot, weeds or no weeds. Far from being just a dab on an individual plant, a spot-spray can cover half a hectare or more.

But how was Sinclair to know this, especially when administration adheres to the policy of don’t ask, don’t tell?

She was also fobbed off with the old “we only use pesticides as a last resort” chestnut, and it was an adamant “no” from city administration when later asked if cost was the major deciding factor when using pesticides. They’re right. The city’s individual pesticide records show the city’s single-most popular reason to spray pesticides is because they are “easier to use chemicals.”

I had to laugh when administration solemnly swore an anti-pesticide compromise had been reached when the city passed a bylaw a few years ago banning homeowners from using pesticides. How noble of the city to concede so graciously to a bylaw that bans pesticide use by residents, but still allows the city to spray as much as it wants. 

After all, in the interest of community health (if that’s why council enacted the bylaw), it’s imperative city homeowners stop using pesticides entirely to balance the city’s rising pesticide use, from about 3,500 gallons in 2018 to 12,000 gallons in 2020.  

Coun. Bill Sarai called Kamloops’ unique Tournament Capital moniker into question when he wondered if administration knew of any other cities exactly like Kamloops (same climate, same population, same Tournament Capital image) that have eliminated pesticide use. What a relief to discover Kamloops won’t be in competition with a pesticide-free Tournament Capital of similar size and terrain that may draw the more health-conscious sports organizations away from our weedless turf. 

Watch out, though. In Vancouver, all neighbourhood parks, sports fields and playgrounds are already pesticide-free. 

It’s not like we anti-pesticide types have ever asked the city to stop using pesticides entirely (even if that’s what we’d like).  

We just have misgivings about the city using pesticides like 2,4-D in tot lots. We feel like spraying Roundup on the pickleball courts and not notifying anyone isn’t really fair to the users. We think people should get a say in what kinds of pesticides are allowed in neighbourhoods and public spaces.

We agree with the Canadian Cancer Society and Health Canada that pesticides pose a health risk and should be used as sparingly as possible, especially where children play.   

And we want to know — is it 2021 in Kamloops or not? 

Bronwen Scott

Kamloops