BC Pesticide Issue Update August 2012

12.05.17-BC.house.of.parliamentThe Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides posted its 118 page report on May 17, 2012 concluding there is insufficient evidence to warrant a provincial wide ban on pesticides used for cosmetic purposes.  The Allied Golf Association of British Columbia was heavily involved in the process since August 2010 as a both committee witness and resource.  The AGA was also active in motivating individual golf facilities to contact their local politicians to voice their opinions on the matter.

According to the committee’s report, around 90 golf courses made submissions to the consultation process which is close to 1/3 of all facilities in the province.  In total, there were 17 pesticide use recommendations included in the report centered on furthering public education, restricting un-trained consumer access to commercial grade products, enhancing point-of-sale regulations, re-instituting government tracking of sales, increasing compliance and enforcement, enhanced professional certification, expanding safe disposal programs and an overall theme of promoting improved and regulated IPM programs. 

According to the report, “The Committee believes these recommendations will protect British Columbians from unnecessary exposure to pesticides, will provide improved education, will lead to safer use by unlicensed applicators, and will encourage the overall reduction of pesticide use while providing individuals, businesses and industries with access to the tools necessary to enhance their personal green spaces, and control pests and invasive species.” 

As for the golf industry, there were 134 instances of the word ‘golf’ in the report including many references toward how golf is legislated in other provinces.  There were many general references like, “Some environmental and health advocacy groups, as well as the golf industry established links on their web sites” and separate headings like the following:

Golf industry

The golf industry was an active participant in the e-consultation. National umbrella organizations representing different sectors of the golf industry including golf course owners, golf course managers and superintendents and over 90 BC golf courses and golf organizations made submissions to the Committee. The Committee heard that pesticides are a necessity and that any further restriction on their use will have a negative impact on the golf courses as viable businesses and tourism destinations.

The recommendation from the Committee as it pertains to golf is as follows:

The Committee received a large volume of input on the economic importance of golf courses and on the use of pesticides on golf courses. We would like to encourage further environmental stewardship and the implementation of IPM on all BC golf courses.

16. Ask the golf industry to develop a province-wide certification process, or to modify an existing one, that will ensure a high standard of pesticide use by all golf courses in BC, including the use of IPM principles. Note that golf was one of the few industries singled out in the list of recommendations.

Most recently:

On July 24, British Columbia Environment Minister Terry Lake met with a small group of local golf industry personnel at the Radium Resort Golf Course in Radium Hot Springs.  Coincidentally, over 200 Alberta golf industry leaders were present taking part in the Challenge Cup, a yearly event bringing golf course owners, golf professionals, general managers and superintendents together to represent their facility in a competitive team environment.  Radium Resort General Manager Wilda Schab, capitalized on the opportunity to show Minister Lake the scale and economic significance of the golf business highlighting the importance of the Alberta market to BC tourism operators.

The Environment Minister was extremely cordial, frank and open to the industry group.  After a short series of opening remarks, which included a description of his veterinary background, familiarity with the benefits of pesticides and his views on the importance of sports business in his home riding of Kamloops, attendees were encouraged to ask questions and make comments. 

Through the process, meeting goers learned that the Ministry of Environment (MOE) is charged with responding to the Special Committee’s recommendations.  The response could come in the form of amending the current IPM Act regulation or it could mean bringing a new Act to the legislature.  According to Minister Lake, the latter could only come from the Premier and Cabinet and would take considerably longer to enact but would be more transparent.

The Minister also assured the group that golf is not seen as a ‘cosmetic’ pesticide user and that by its nature, golfers are making informed choices when participating in the game.  According to Minister Lake, this is in contrast to residential pesticide use where being exposed to pesticides unknowingly might be far more plausible than in the confines of a golf course setting.

Closely aligned with the Committee’s recommendations, the Minister stressed the importance of education and training, comparing pesticide application to trades accreditation like gas fitting, an argument the golf industry supports.  The Minister also discussed a tighter approach to pesticide sales but admitted he was skeptical of a ‘behind-the-counter’ system, himself preferring a better accreditation model. 

Golf industry representatives discussed their maintenance challenges, in particular the problems brought on by the consistently harsh Canadian winter climate and the shorter playing season that would ensue if fungicides became outlawed.   Minister Lake was aware and impressed with the level of education and training most golf course superintendents possess and the high levels of Integrated Pest Management employed by the golf industry in general. 

Industry also made mention that the ‘level playing field argument’ brought forward by environmental groups does not take into consideration the destination tourism nature of many of the province’s golf facilities.  While an outright provincial pesticide ban might put all BC golf courses in the same boat, they would no longer be competitive with the Alberta and U.S. markets.  Doug Clovechok, local Liberal MLA candidate agreed, acknowledging the valuable contribution local golf courses make to the Columbia Valley economy keeping in mind the area’s reliance on the Alberta tourist traffic.

Next Steps:

The Environment Minister and Premier, along with cabinet, need to decide if a new Act is required.  If so, it will have to go through legislature.  Note the next provincial election is scheduled for May 14, 2013

The Ministry of Environment staff needs to ‘translate’ recommendations into a course of action.  The Western Canada Turfgrass Association has been working with MOE staff to help explain industry needs and act as a resource so staff can have a better understanding of the golf business. 

Regulatory changes could happen fairly quickly and might include things like:

o Mandatory pesticide certification by anyone applying pesticides and tightening of the supervision rules

o Mandatory recertification through ongoing education

o Training program enhancements, ie. Adding a component for hands-on training, making training course mandatory before test writing