Green Party leader Mike Schreiner is calling for an immediate ban on neonicotinoids, a common insecticide used in corn farming that Ontario honey bee farmers have blamed for major population losses.
"A healthy environment is essential to a healthy economy and those 740,000 jobs in the food and farming sector are threatened if we don't protect bees and other pollinators," said Schreiner.
- Ontario Votes 2014: Full coverage
- Ontario Greens want Catholic, public school boards merged
- Analysis: Ontario Green Party says their ideas are what's worth your vote
Schreiner said Ontario should impose a ban until neonicotinoids have been proven safe for honeybees. Schreiner was making a campaign stop Thursday at a bee farm in Fergus, Ont. owned by Jim Coneybeare.
Coneybeare said he lost more than $250,000 in revenue in 2013 due to hive losses and honeybee deaths. Of the 850 hives he harvests in Wellington County, he yielded only 50 barrels of honey out of the 200 he expected. This year does not look much better.
"Even in September, I saw piles of dead bees in front of my hives," said Coneybeare, who says his grandfather started the business sometime around 1915.
Working group recommended ban
Last July, Ontario established the Ontario Bee Health Working Group, which submitted a final report last March. The group, which consists of honeybee farmers, researchers and agribusiness representatives, studied the decline of bees, including the possible impact of neonicotinoids.
One of the report's recommendations was to consider an immediate temporary ban on neonicotinoids.
"[W]e continue to look to the federal government, the regulator of pesticides in Canada, to provide evidence-based direction on a national approach to neonicotinoid use," said Liberal leader and agriculture minister Kathleen Wynne in a statement.
Wynne said she's committed $1.2 million in bee health research and is offering financial assistance to beekeepers.
"We want to keep honey bee colonies strong going into the growing season while we continue working with the industry to support long-term sustainability for beekeepers and the health of all pollinators," said Wynne in a statement.
"That's why we're providing one-time financial assistance of $105 per hive to beekeepers who manage 10 hives or more and lose 40 per cent of their colonies between Jan. 1, 2014 and Oct. 31, 2014."
Coneybeare said this compensation would only cover about an eighth of what he lost last year. In the meantime, he's not sure how much longer he can hold on.
"If we don't change something, this will be my last year. You can't run a business and continue losses like this," Coneybeare said.