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Doctor, mayor clash on pesticides ban

Members of Stratford council were set to consider banning cosmetic pesticide use at a meeting on Wednesday, but the decision wasn't quick enough for some angry residents.

The decision to refer the matter of banning cosmetic pesticides in the city came after a presentation to the protection to persons and property committee from Dr. Patricia Van Boekel on Monday night.

Van Boekel, who has threatened to step down from the city's integrated pest management education committee, told council municipalities who choose to adopt an IPM instead of an outright ban often see an increase in pesticide use.

"I cannot remain on a committee that promotes pesticide use," said Van Boekel, who works as an emergency department physician at Stratford General Hospital.

She presented council with a petition signed by 51 local physicians calling for an end to cosmetic spraying.

She said 71 per cent of Ontario residents support a ban on cosmetic pesticides and she said chronic exposure to pesticides can increase miscarriage rates.

She also mentioned associations between pesticides and kidney and brain cancer, along with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and leukemia.

She said there are over 6,000 pesticide poisonings in Canada each year.

"The only lawn care council can support is pesticide-free lawn care," she said.

Last month, a motion made by VaBoekel at an IPM meeting to have the committee's mandate changed to educate people about pesticide-free lawn care was passed.

Coun. Bonnie Henderson, who has sat for three terms on the ad-hoc IPM committee, said though the committee was originally hoping for a ban, they had to work on what they were mandated to do. Currently, the committee was to discuss the benefits of a ban versus reduced use, along with establishing an educational program to let people know about pesticides.

However, Coun. George Brown – who chaired the first IPM committee – took issue with Henderson's comments.

"I do take offense to you saying it was pushed through," said Brown, adding every member of the committee had a vote.

The discussion quickly ended after Mayor Dan Mathieson made a successful motion to refer the call for a pesticide ban back to subcommittee, a meeting of which was expected to be held on Wednesday.

While the discussion in chambers had wrapped up, a heated conversation continued in the hall between Mathieson and Van Boekel and her supporters.

Mathieson told the group council had to follow the proper procedure, first discussing the issue at subcommittee, with that recommendation being forwarded to committee for discussion at the next meeting.

The matter would then receive final consideration by council.

But Van Boekel said she had already addressed subcommittee with little result. On her way out of chambers, she had said the outcome was "disappointing" and "unbelievable."

"I'm really disappointed there was no discussion about the whole thing," she told the mayor outside chambers.

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