The 2019-2020 sessions of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick (Second and Third of the 59th Legislature) have seen some forward motion on the issue of banning spraying of herbicides on public lands but have come far short of actually banning or reducing spraying.
Following the 2018 election, Stop Spraying New Brunswick (SSNB) organized an event with all the political parties to discuss the formulation of legislation on the issue, and much rhetoric was made about moving the issue forward but we are still waiting for its realization.
Currently with the elected parties, the Green Party has been the most active: the Greens tabled a motion to ban glyphosate on Oct. 24, 2018. However they failed to pursue this motion for second reading and debate. They did however follow this up with tabling Bill 7 in November 2019 that includes a ban on spraying alongside other forestry issues. Sadly, the Greens did not pursue a second reading and debate on their own legislation.
This was followed by the Liberal Party motion tabled also in November 2019 to study glyphosate which was debated and voted on December 2019. During the process, the Green Party proposed an amendment during this debate to ban spraying on Crown land and under NB Power lines. The amendment received votes by the Green Party and People’s Alliance Party only and thus was defeated.
The proposed committee by the Liberal Party was amended into a multi-party standing committee for Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship. The first item on the agenda for this committee was pesticides in general. However the current pandemic has sidelined the work of the Committee and the expert testimony needed to seriously discuss the issue.
The current Progressive Conservative government has also made statements about their support for curbing spraying of herbicides with an announcement in 2019 of a 121 hectares reduction in spraying on watersheds. As yet, there has been no actual documentation that spray licenses were denied in watersheds nor if they were actually requested. The rhetoric was also increased with promises made that there would be:
- a more transparent, Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development website (not yet released after 18 months)
- enforcement of buffer zones (no conﬁrmation that this is happening)
- 5% more conservation of public land including 300,000 hectares of Crown land
This last point, claimed by the Province as a major conservancy effort, came at the behest of local civil society organizations who have been advocating for more conservation and with $9.3 million of federal funding made available – half of which will go to purchasing private land to conserve.
This commitment for conservation was actually made by the then Liberal Minister Rick Doucet in Fall 2018. While all conservation is good, the claims of the Province that this was and is a PC-led initiative do not stand up to simple scrutiny of the facts. In the SSNB meetings with the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development, it was reported that there will actually be increased intensity of spraying on Crown land to meet the promised wood supply to industry.
While we are very pleased with the progress made towards stop spraying in New Brunswick, thanks to all the efforts made by our 15,000 members and the 35,000 plus that signed the petition, SSNB feels that all political parties need to step up their efforts to actually put in place a ban on herbicide spraying on public lands.
The issue has grown from a non-issue in provincial politics to being a major election issue but we are still waiting for an actual ban or signiﬁcant reduction in herbicide use on public lands. The electorate wants this to happen but we are only seeing small tangible results occurring. Our ﬁght to stop spraying NB continues.
Donald Bowser is the vice-chair of Stop Spraying New Brunswick.