Mosquito fogging, one of the most contentious political footballs tossed around at city hall, has once again divided council at the intersection of politics and health.
The stinging issue hatched in council chambers on Tuesday when councillors voted to put forward a motion at an upcoming Association of Manitoba Municipalities meeting to push the provincial government to give municipalities the power to decide how big buffer zones can be.
Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship requires municipalities to have a list of registered residents who don’t want fogging near their home and equipment must be shut off 90 metres on all sides of the buffered properties.
The majority of councillors were in favour of lobbying the province to allow individual municipalities to decide the appropriate size of buffer zones.
"We would like to be considered as an individual municipality," said Coun. Murray Blight (Victoria), who put forward the motion to council. "I respect health ... but I find these creatures unbearable."
Council passed the motion, but not unanimously.
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst, who opposes the lobbying idea, had only councillors Corey Roberts (Rosser) and Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) in her corner.
"I think we have an effective program and I think we should stay on that course," Chaboyer said, referring to the city’s larviciding efforts.
"I think some councillors should do some research on the hazards of the (fogging) product because it does affect people’s health."
Roberts suggested the city isn’t qualified to decide on how big the buffer zones should be.
"It’s politics versus health and we’re not in a position to make those types of decisions," he said. "There are health-care professionals and people in higher levels of government that I think make decisions based on health, not popularity."
However, Coun. Jeff Harwood (University) argued the city knows what’s best in its own backyard.
"I think it’s important to realize municipalities know better than the province what the size of buffer zones should be," he said.
Coun. Len Isleifson (Riverview), in favour of the motion, said the decision should be made based on what the citizens want "regardless of the health component or how I feel about it."
"I sit at this council table as a politician," he continued. "We’re politicians and we need to represent those that put us here."
The mayor is now in the awkward position of speaking to the AMM motion at the upcoming meeting next month, despite being against it. She said she believes there has to be provincewide standards.
"I think that the science of the hazards of the chemical are established and accepted, we need a consistent standard throughout the province, it can’t be different from one community to the other," Decter Hirst said in an interview on Thursday.
"The effective way of dealing with mosquitoes is to make investments in larviciding and we have doubled our resources in that area, so we don’t need to be worried about spraying."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 23, 2014