In late October 2014, Honourable Wes Sheridan, Minister of Municipal Relations made a surprise statement that the provincial government intended to table legislative amendments that would empower municipalities to enact and police their own cosmetic pesticides ban.

Retail Council of Canada (RCC) advocated for this responsibility to remain with the province, so as to maintain a harmonized system across PEI. Without a harmonized approach, retail businesses that sell pesticides could be placed at an unfair disadvantage when trying to compete with a retailer in a neighbouring municipality.

On November 27, 2014, the Prince Edward Island (PEI) government quickly passed the Municipal Statutes Amendment Act 2014. The Act gives municipalities the power to ban/limit non-domestic pesticide usage in the province. There are a number of exceptions to this Act including use of non-domestic pesticides on farms, golf courses and in buildings. The main target of the legislation seems to be those commercial landscaping companies who use non-domestic pesticides on their clients’ properties.

RCC succeeded in convincing the provincial government to maintain the status quo regarding the sale and use of domestic/cosmetic pesticides in PEI. The sale and use of domestic/cosmetic pesticides in PEI remains under provincial authority and is uniform across the province. RCC remains concerned that retailers selling non-domestic pesticides will potentially be disadvantaged based on bylaws that differ from one municipality to another.

What RCC Did / Next Steps

Since late October 2014, RCC has written to Honourable Wes Sheridan, Minister of Municipal Affairs (see letter below) and spoken with senior staff in his office to express our opposition to downloading this responsibility to the municipalities.

RCC also expressed this opposition to the Mayors of Charlottetown, Cornwall, Stratford, and Summerside and to the PEI Federation of Municipalities.

RCC reminded the Minister and the Mayors that over a decade ago, Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) exercised its authority to enact a bylaw regarding domestic/cosmetic pesticides. The result was a confusing, unpopular bylaw that was largely ignored by HRM residents. At that time, stores in HRM were allowed to keep cosmetic pesticides in stock but people were not allowed to buy the product. Customers became frustrated and began to travel outside of the municipality to purchase their pesticide of choice. They would then return to their homes in HRM to use those pesticides on their lawns. The bylaw was completely unenforceable and the situation reached a point where the bylaw was eventually ignored by HRM. Today, the HRM bylaw still exists but municipal officials simply direct HRM citizens to follow the strengthened and harmonized provincial regulations regarding pesticide use.

Due to RCC’s efforts, domestic/cosmetic pesticides were left out of PEI’s legislative changes.

RCC will continue to communicate with the larger municipalities in PEI to ask them to harmonize any municipal bylaws regarding the use of non-domestic pesticides.

Background

During the recent municipal elections in PEI, a number of municipal candidates (including all of the mayoral candidates in Charlottetown) declared that if elected, they would petition the provincial government to be given the power to ban or limit the use of cosmetic pesticides in their communities. These comments were not of concern to RCC until Honourable Wes Sheridan, Minister of Municipal Relations stated publicly, in the final week of the municipal campaign, that the provincial government intended to table legislative amendments in the Fall of 2014 that would empower municipalities to enact and police their own cosmetic pesticides ban.

Minister Sheridan introduced the legislation on November 21, 2014 and it quickly passed on November 27, 2014.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at:  [email protected] or 902-422-4144

Retail Council of Canada
www.retailcouncil.org

November 7, 2014

Hon. Wes Sheridan
Minister of Finance and Municipal Affairs
PO Box 2000
Shaw Building, 2nd Floor
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8
e-mail: [email protected]

Dear Minister,

As a follow up to Retail Council of Canada (RCC)’s communication with your office in October 2014, RCC would like to elaborate on the concerns of retailers in PEI, regarding your recent declaration of intent to table legislative amendments this Fall that would empower municipalities to enact and police their own cosmetic pesticides ban.

As you know, RCC is the voice of retail. We represent 45,000 member-store fronts – from the largest retail chains to the small, independent stores on streets in neighbourhoods across Canada. Retail is now the largest employer in Canada and contributes greatly to the economy in towns and cities all across PEI. The retail sector accounts for thirteen percent of Prince Edward Island’s employment and retail trade generates almost $2 billion in annual sales in the province.

In a province where the industrial use of pesticides is significant, retailers were surprised with the recent targeting of cosmetic pesticide use in PEI. During the recent municipal election, the issue became of greater concern for Island retailers when you stated the government’s intention to introduce legislation this Fall that would provide municipalities with the power to ban cosmetic pesticides. RCC’s primary concern with your statement is that by downloading this responsibility to the municipalities, a system of regulations that is harmonized across the province will be replaced with a patchwork system of different municipal bylaws. This will create a significant amount of ‘red tape’ for retailers, an un-level playing field for retail competition as well as confusion and frustration for retailers and their customers regarding the availability of cosmetic pesticide products.

Many of the retailers who sell cosmetic pesticides in PEI are chain retailers. These chain retailers are significant employers, often with multiple locations, in communities all across PEI. Prince Edward Island is not a large province thus; it is not uncommon for Islanders to meet their shopping needs by travelling to multiple Island communities to buy their goods. If the power to ban / limit pesticide use is given to the municipalities, RCC members could face a scenario where a retailer with stores in Charlottetown, Summerside and Stratford would have to deal with three different sets of rules and regulations. Even more troubling, if a city like Charlottetown were to ban a cosmetic pesticide product that is not banned in Summerside or Stratford, retailers in Charlottetown would lose loyal customers to neighbouring communities.

In Nova Scotia, Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) was granted similar municipal powers in 2000. The result was a municipal bylaw which created a huge amount of customer confusion, government ‘red tape’ and citizen indifference as people simply travelled outside of HRM to purchase their cosmetic pesticides. Residents of HRM also had no issue openly using the banned cosmetic pesticides on their lawns within HRM. The bylaw was a disaster as it was virtually unenforceable. In recent years, the problem has been addressed due the passage of updated provincial legislation dealing with pesticide controls. This has resulted in HRM simply ignoring its bylaw, while following the provincial law.

It should be noted that Halifax Regional Municipality has a larger geographical area than all of Prince Edward Island. If residents of HRM had no issue in travelling to neighbouring municipalities to purchase banned cosmetic pesticides, it is likely that PEI consumers will do the same. This will result in a loss of sales and the loss of reputation for retailers as they will be the ones who have to explain to their disappointed customers why they cannot offer a product that their competitor sells in a neighbouring town.

The confusion, ‘red tape’ and loss of business can all be avoided if the province maintains its authority over the use of cosmetic pesticides. Having one authority on this issue allows for regulatory harmonization from O’Leary to Souris and all points in between.

RCC calls on the provincial government to maintain the status quo regarding cosmetic pesticides and allow retailers to work through a harmonized system of regulations.

I thank you for your consideration of this important matter to the retail sector.

Sincerely,

Jim Cormier
Director (Atlantic)
Retail Council of Canada

cc: Mayor and Wardens of PEI