THEY SAY GOOD news travels fast. When Glen Murray, the now former Ontario minister of environment and climate change, announced his resignation from Cabinet and the legislature this summer it came as a surprise to many and a relief to some. Almost immediately, my inbox was flooded with emails and my phone was lit up with text messages from industry associates not only here in Ontario but across the country. They all assumed that I would be happy with the news.
Working with Murray was challenging and frustrating. I recall one meeting Grain Farmers of Ontario held to discuss the neonicotinoid regulations; it was an invitation for Murray to hear from farmers about their issues and concerns. The one hour meeting turned into 55 minutes of him sharing his own views with us. It was clear he wasn’t there to listen.
Before Murray became actively involved in the neonicotinoid issue as minister of environment and climate change, we were working with the Ontario Beekeepers Association and the provincial government — discussing changes to best management practices for neonicotinoid usage that would be workable on all sides. Once Murray became involved, this dialogue ended and we ended up with a unilateral imposition of regulations restricting the use of this important tool. If Grain Farmers of Ontario hadn’t opposed the regulations, Murray may have been successful in eliminating neonicotinoid use altogether. At one meeting where people were critical of the fact he didn’t impose an all-out ban on the pesticide, his response was “you eat the elephant one bite at a time”. Clearly, he was no friend to farmers.
It is interesting how one person can have such an impact on the direction an issue takes. In recent times we have positive examples of working with the provincial government when it comes to issues such as the reduction of phosphorous runoff and Business Risk Management reforms. We have collectively moved forward on these issues to meet the goals of the government with beneficial results for farmers. It’s too bad the neonicotinoid issue couldn’t have been dealt with in the same manner.
As I reflect on Murray’s departure, I realize it isn’t a big deal for me personally; but his legacy is a big deal for our farmer-members. During his tenure, the harshest regulations Ontario farmers have experienced in a lifetime were implemented and he has now moved on before seeing the full effects of them. With the first year of the full implementation of the regulations, we are hearing and seeing examples of crops that weren’t fully protected by neonicotinoids and the negative effects of that. We are also getting questions from farmer-members about the audit process they are about to go through.
Am I happy Murray is gone — yes, in that he can’t do any more damage to our farmer-members. But the damage is done. We have to look on this as a bad experience; and now that we have learned from it, put it behind us so that we don’t let past bad feelings and poor interactions cloud our future experiences with government ministers. In fact, better relationships have already been formed.
This is why I say — Goodbye Mr. Murray. Goodbye. •