St. John's city councillors have narrowly voted against a campaign to ban the all-out use of a chemical spray used to control brush along Newfoundland and Labrador's highways.

Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary had proposed a resolution that would call on Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador to urge the province to stop using herbicides — including the controversial spray Tordon 101 — to kill roadside brush.

"Bring it before MNL so the entire province can have an opportunity to discuss it," O'Leary told council during its public meeting on Tuesday.

"And I think as the capital city of our province, of Newfoundland and Labrador, we should be taking leadership on this issue."

The City of St. John's does not use Tordon 101 on its own parks and facilities, and the provincial government has banned homeowners and businesses from using it for cosmetic use.

The province has, though, defended the use of Tordon 101 to control brush in order to prevent moose-vehicle collisions.

Several councillors did not share O'Leary's concern. After a tie vote, Mayor Dennis O'Keefe voted against the resolution, bringing the vote to 5-4.

Coun. Wally Collins believes the dangers of Tordon 101 are being exaggerated.

"Out our way, we're using pesticides worse than [that]," said Collins, who represents a largely agricultural part of the city.

"You just heard Coun. O'Leary say they cause smaller babies [but] look at the farmers in our way, and none of them are too small ... I don't think they're very weak or dying of cancer, anymore than anybody else."