Monday, July 4, 2011

All Politics Are Local

There is no doubt that within the next five years British Columbia will have new pesticide legislation.  The NDP has introduced Bill M 203 before the legislature.  Liberal Premier Christy Clark has indicated she supports a cosmetic pesticide ban.   A crystal ball is not needed to see that changes are coming. 
I was thinking about changes to BC pesticide legislation as I was attending our Kootenay Chapter meeting of the British Columbia Golf Course Superintendent’s Association (BCGSA).  This meeting was a joint meeting with the Western Canadian Turfgrass Association (WCTA).  It was also the WCTA Traveling Annual Road Show which provided members with a chance to earn continuing education credits for  pesticide licenses and to meet with fellow turf managers.  Amanda Brown, a Regional Pesticide Officer from the Pesticide Management Regulatory Association (PMRA), spoke to the chapter about the PMRA’s evaluation process for pesticides and how the PMRA enforce their rules.
Jerry Rousseau WCTA Exec Director and Amanda Brown PMRA speak to BCGSA Kootenay Chapter
The discussion of pesticide issues was a prolific topic during the meeting and during the question and answer period with Amanda.   The fact that the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) had written a letter of support regarding Bill M 203 was also a source of frustration for all local superintendents.   It was surprising to many members that the RDEK would support legislation that would severely impact the business of golf and the spin-offs that the golf industry provides.   The proposed legislation that the RDEK supports would only allow pesticide usage on putting greens for five year. 
As the discussion about pesticide related issues went on I was asking myself questions.  Why would a local government support such legislation?  Have I done enough to put forward my side of the issue?
The answer to my first question is “all politics are local” - one of the oldest political adages.  Upon reflection the answer to the second question is no.
I have been involved in the pesticide debate for years.   I have written letters to the provincial government regarding pesticide issues.  I have lobbied the PMRA about re-registration of particular pesticides in Canada.  I have attended meetings of environmental groups and the Canadian Cancer Society.  I have written the federal government and the provincial government regarding pesticide issues.  I support my local, provincial and national turfgrass associations.
All these efforts are behind the scenes.  They are letters, emails, and listening to the other side of the debate.  These types of activities must continue.  But are they enough?  For a politician at the local level is it’s just another letter.  Just another email in the inbox.   Have I put a voice to my side of the issue?
All politics are local.  Until now I have missed the biggest opportunity to influence the process that I am given.   I must talk to the person I help elect.  I have not influenced the political narrative about my golf course, my industry and about pesticides.  If I do not tell my story, who will?   The elected officials need to hear about the health benefits of the game of golf, how my facility is a steward of the environment, and how I only use pesticides when required.  Do they know that I use products that the federal government scientifically tests for safety or that I host research trials at my facility to aid in fungicide research?  All these points have been made by our associations at the federal and provincial levels.  Few of us are making this point at the local level where all politics take place.
If the current legislation were to pass, my facility will shut down.   Most golf courses in BC will be dramatically affected by the proposed legislation.  I work in a competitive industry where golfers can vote with their dollars to play another golf course.  If conditions are not favourable in BC, golfers will go to Alberta, Montana, or Washington.  The local economy, the tax base, and the spin-offs the golf industry provides to our communities will be gone.
How did my local government come to support pesticide legislation?  I did not speak up at the local level.  I was busy running my golf course.  I now realize that if I do not speak up, soon I will not have a golf course to run and there will be plenty of time to think about what I should have done during the pesticide debate.
Have I done enough?  No.  Should my MLA, MP, and RDKE board members be expecting a call and a request for a face to face meeting?   Yes.
All politics are local – A phrase I must not forget and I encourage you to think about.    

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