There has been an ongoing debate centered on the use of the herbicide, Glyphosate in New Brunswick.
Proponents of its use argue that it is essential for use in sectors like Forestry and Agriculture and that it does not present a threat to human health. Opponents of its use, want to see it limited or banned outright and argue that it may propose a threat to human health and we should not take that risk.
The Green Party has called for a ban on the use of Glyphosate, but only as it relates to spraying on crown land by forest companies and by NB Power. Given that the use of Glyphosate and other pesticides have a far greater application, it is hard to fathom why the proposed ban would be so limited in scope, unless of course they have a separate political agenda which they are not being forthright about.
During the most recent session of the Legislature, the Liberal Caucus brought forward a motion for debate that urged the Government of New Brunswick to establish a legislative committee to study the use of a wide range of pesticides including Glyphosate; not just on crown forests, but on private woodlands and agricultural land as well. The committee will study: What pesticides are being used and where? What are the facts? Are there issues associated with their use that may raise concerns and what are those concerns? What do scientists, health professionals and subject matter experts have to say? What concerns do members of the public have on the use of pesticides? Are there other more natural products that might be used as substitutes? If there is a decision that the use of certain pesticides should be phased out, what is a reasonable timeline to phase out and /or eliminate their use? What are the experiences of other jurisdictions and what controls or best practices are in place that we might adopt? What do our entrepreneurs, foresters, farmers and others who use these products have to say about the use of pesticides including Glyphosate? How are they used in the various sectors and in what quantities? If there was a need to transition away from their use, how might this best be achieved?
We know that Glyphosate and other pesticides are also sprayed on private woodlands. What is the extent of the spraying being carried out on private land?
How does the agricultural sector use glyphosate and other pesticides? What crops are they sprayed on? What is the frequency of use?
Clearly there are many questions that need to be addressed and that is why the Liberal Caucus has referred this matter to a committee of the Legislative Committee where interested parties, subject matter experts, NGOs, health authorities, and the general public can appear and have their say. This is a responsible course of action. We were pleased that this motion received unanimous support from all parties in the Legislative Assembly, including the Green Party.
The Liberal Motion sets a six-month timeline for the committee to do its work and present its recommendations to government.
Following the vote in the Legislative Assembly, a member of the Green Party referenced that the Liberals did not support his motion for a partial ban of glyphosate. He neglected to mention that his party supported to Liberal motion to refer the issue to a legislative committee. Perhaps he just forgot, or perhaps he was playing politics. People deserve better from their elected officials.
What’s important is that this committee supported by all parties will take an all-encompassing in-depth look at not just Glyphosate but all pesticide use in our province. One would think that the Green Party would enthusiastically participate and would welcome an approach that was not so limiting in scope as the position they propose.
I share the concerns New Brunswickers have about Glyphosate but I am also a strong supporter of this responsible approach. Our caucus has a large cohort of young and young at heart MLA’s who take environmental stewardship seriously.
We understand that it is a bold idea to take a holistic approach to examining pesticide use in our province. By supporting the Liberal motion all parties have agreed to take a seat at the table. Now is the time for all parties to not only talk the talk, but to walk the walk and collaboratively work together to address this important issue.
I look forward to the committee starting this very important work as soon as possible in the new year.
Leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party