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Canada Tom Mulcair: Why would Ottawa allow more pesticides in our food?

20:57  27 july  2021
20:57  27 july  2021 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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The good folks at Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency would like to have your opinion. They’re thinking of increasing the amount of the pesticide glyphosate allowed in the food you eat and want to know what you think about their idea.

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They also propose to permit increased quantities of pesticides and fungicides in wild blueberries and in raspberries. Producers never asked for the changes and are concerned it could hurt an industry that is more and more turning to organic production.

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I can guess what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his campaign team think about this proposal that hit the front pages in the ramp-up to the expected election campaign. It’s probably not printable.

Bureaucrats are fond of writing things like: “Given that a new MRL of 15 ppm is recommended for all commodities of crop subgroup 6C …”. You can be sure that very few ministers around Trudeau’s cabinet table had ever heard of “crop subgroup 6C,”  but they now have to deal with the real-world fallout from the debate about pesticides in Canadians’ food.

You’ll never know the names of the bureaucrats who decided to do this now. You do know the names of the politicians seeking re-election who are stuck with the mess.

Once an election campaign starts, the bureaucrats are essentially on lockdown precisely because you don’t want their handiwork to become an issue.

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“Regulatory capture” is endemic in Ottawa. German chemical giant Bayer, the manufacturer of glyphosate, wanted to get a rule change. The bureaucrats are always there to serve powerful lobbies even when it’s clearly not in the public interest.

Glyphosate is a suspected carcinogen. Original manufacturer Monsanto (and new owner Bayer) have paid out astronomical sums to settle lawsuits. So the real question is not: “What were they thinking to consult on increasing pesticide tolerances now?” It’s: “Why don’t they know that more pesticide in our food is bad?”

Hudson was the first city in Canada to ban the use of pesticides by lawn care companies. It had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court, but Hudson’s victory paved the way for similar bans in cities and towns across the country. The city of Laval recently banned glyphosate . That’s the wave of the future, not increasing the amounts allowed in our plates.

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The direction Canada takes on sustainable development questions ultimately has to be decided by people who are answerable to the voting public, not unelected bureaucrats. That’s the fundamental question here: who decides?

Trudeau had a very fresh image on environmental issues when he assumed office. Then he bought a pipeline , to help oilsands producers, and shoved it down B.C.’s throat.

He doesn’t get to say “the bureaucrats made me do it.” He’s the one sitting at the head of the cabinet table and this hare-brained idea to increase the amounts of pesticides allowed in our food is his responsibility.

Last week, Premier François Legault courageously cancelled the Energy Saguenay project and its gas pipeline from Alberta. Standing up to powerful lobbies does indeed require political courage.

Greenhouse gases have increased every year since Trudeau was elected. Beyond emoting at international conferences, he has done relatively little for the environment.

Trudeau fought British Columbia in the courts to reaffirm federal jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines, but would never fight Legault over his pipeline cancellation. Trudeau appears terrified of Legault, who holds all the cards in Quebec politics right now. B.C. voters are likely to notice the difference.

Climate change, global warming and food safety are top of mind for many Canadians. That could have provided a political opportunity. Instead, Trudeau’s failure to lead on a key health and environmental issue like pesticides shows once again that he won’t take on industry lobbyists, even to protect the public.

Tom Mulcair, a former leader of the federal NDP, served as minister of the environment in the Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest.

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