The debate over neonicotinoid pesticides and their continuing effect on bees has reached the political level in Ottawa, where questions are now being asked about the propriety of a former Conservative minister working for CropLife Canada, the industry association defending those pesticides.
Ordinarily ethics rules would prevent a former cabinet minister from directly going to work for certain businesses, particularly in a lobbying role. The use of your political contacts to open doors immediately after you have exited those doors is meant to protect the public and government from perceptions or even actual conflicts of interest.
It seems that former Tory Ted Menzies, a junior finance minister, was hired by CropLife as its new president and CEO, just as the organization, which represents pesticide manufacturers, including Bayer and Syngenta, to lobby the finance department.
See this story at the CBC, which covers a complaint made by the Sierra Club.
The complaint was filed with Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, who had previously confirmed that Menzies had contacted her office before taking the job, but she wouldn’t reveal what advice she gave because of confidentiality rules.
However, Dawson herself has come under fire from activists who have complained about similar close lobbying relations, since she has not upheld any of the complaints.
Needless to say, there can be no doubt in my mind that the pesticide industry has a lot at stake here. Recent research papers – including one by Harvard University’s school of public health, have pointed to neonicotinoid pesticides as having a more direct effect on the health of bees than previously thought. The press release on Harvard’s study is here. It backs up a previous study pointing to a neonic being responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder. The European Union continues to regard the chemicals suspiciously, and every day the wires are filled with stories about the effects of these chemicals.