Mark Ouseley

Coming from Ottawa where pesticides have not been used in parks for over 15 years and pesticide spraying of one’s yard is even a social taboo, I am shocked to see the abundance of pesticide use in Calgary. (Pesticides include herbicides to kill plants, insecticides to kill insects)

Mark and his brother doing conservation work in Ottawa

I am a student from Queen's University here on a summer internship working with the Institute of Sustainability on the University of Calgary campus. I recognize the strong smell of pesticides and can detect it everywhere on campus and in many public areas which sickens me.

It is not in the best interest of Calgarians to use pesticides.  The cosmetic use of pesticide is short-sighted and it is ludicrous to use pesticides just to serve tourists an aesthetic image of the City when pesticides are a major "turn off" to both Canadian and international tourists who hail from areas where pesticides have been banned due to their health effects.

At all the various convocation ceremonies I see on campus here, infants are playing on the grass and parents are oblivious to the pesticide sprayed so liberally which threaten the health of their children. At Queen’s and other Ontario universities, pesticide is avoided at all costs as there is a great student opposition to the use of these noxious chemicals.

In Ottawa, we take a laissez-faire approach to public spaces and they are no more displeasing than Calgary’s.  In fact, I prefer them due to a greater ecological richness. In Calgary, the ecological nature of the city seems dead to me - I don’t see much diversity of species nor hear birdsong as I do in Ottawa. There are trees and grass and wild hares, yet very few insects, birds, and wildflowers except in the special environmental parks such as Bowmont Environmental Park. In Ottawa, I live in Rockcliffe Park and there is a great deal of species diversity in all public spaces.  This diversity owes its existence to the absence of pesticide use because pesticides kill indiscriminately not only pests but also butterflies, bees and other forms of wildlife.

Rideau Canal - Ottawa

It’s a well-accepted fact in Ottawa that it makes no sense at all to use pesticides due to the whole host of health problems associated with them. Unfortunately, we don’t have a pesticide bylaw yet that prevents homeowners from using pesticides, largely due to the presence of powerful chemical company lobbyists and activists in the Nation's capital, although the majority of Ottawa residents strongly desire such a bylaw.  The clear and present dangers posed to human health by pesticides are medically proven in addition to being well documented by a variety of sources.  What is even clearer are the negative effects of pesticide on nature. 

Calgary's ubiquitous use of pesticides was a huge disappointment to me and is major deterrent to myself and others to visit Calgary so as not to jeopardize our health.  I have shared my findings with contacts in Ottawa and they have also expressed great alarm and disgust, regarding my unpleasant discovery.  One would be inclined not to visit Calgary so as not to inadvertently support a city which advocates such careless use of a well-known health hazard, in the interest of superficial aesthetics.  With environmental issues being so mainstream recently, I am truly disappointed that Calgary lags far behind most major Canadian cities by not taking a stance against the insidious health hazards posed by pesticides.  It is interesting to note the Toronto, Canada's largest city and a huge urban centre, has deemed it fit to pass a tough bylaw, banning the use of pesticides on public and private properties. "to protect the safety, health and well-being of Toronto residents".  Do the residents of Calgary deserve less?