The provincial election happening June 7 in Ontario has the potential to negatively impact millions of people, especially with the election of Doug Ford, a Trump-Like right-wing, crony capitalist. This deeply concerns me. But I am also deeply concerned about the impact of a Ford government on both native and honey bees. I believe that a Ford government will be disastrous for native and non-native pollinators, reversing the small progress made by the Liberals.
Pollinators – in fact all insects – around the world are in crisis. A recent study from Germany documenting insect abundance on a nature reserve over 30 years found a heartbreaking 75% decline in insect populations. Wild pollinators face declines in their populations (for some species quite dramatic) while domesticated honeybees face increasing vulnerabilities. This is due to multiple factors including, but not limited to, monoculture agriculture, pesticide use (both insecticides and herbicides), habitat loss, parasites, and climate chaos. As you may be able to deduce from the list industrial agriculture places a prominent role in the pollinator crisis as does increasing suburban sprawl.
The Conservatives have not released a platform but I believe that a Ford government will be even more aligned with agrochemical corporations such as Bayers, Monsanto, and Syngenta (and their front groups like CropLife International) than the Liberal government. The Liberal government, although mostly advancing a neoliberal capitalist agenda, did implement a partial ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of systemic and persistent pesticides scientifically shown to harm bees and other pollinators. Recently banned by the EU, the partial ban on neonicotinoids in Ontario was fully implemented in 2017. Although it has, so far, not caused a significant decline in neonicotinoid use (about 25% not the up to 80% promised), the partial ban was an important positive step in an on-going and intense struggle for pollinator health in this province. The partial ban, as you may imagine, is vehemently opposed by industrial farmers’ groups and agrochemical corporations. With Ford in power, they will be chomping at the bit for the government to throw out the partial ban, which will be a disastrous act for pollinators.
Although the Conservatives have no platform, Ford has stated that he would allow development of the greenbelt, which will cause a dramatic loss of habitat and forage for pollinators and other animals. Although he retracted this statement after a public outcry I think we can trust that Ford will push to dramatically increase urban sprawl.
And then we come to the issue of climate change, all but neglected in the coverage I am reading about this election. Let’s be clear: climate change is already having devastating effects on people and non-human animals in the form of extreme and unpredictable weather. This will increase dramatically and bees and butterflies of all species will suffer. What will the Earth look like without the animals who pollinate 87.5% of flowering plants? How will humans survive if we lose 30% of our most nutritionally dense foods (especially when we will be facing increased drought)?. Ford has stated he will reverse all the quite weak climate change initiatives brought in by Wynne. Like his kissing cousin in the South, we can bet that Ford will pander to climate change deniers and will push forward a business-as-usual approach to climate change. With this approach, the future is grim, not only for pollinators, but for people as well.
Don’t get me wrong, the Wynne government was not environmentally-friendly. The neonicotinoid partial ban needs to be much stronger to be effective because of the persistent and systemic nature of this class of pesticides. It was was only put through because of the tireless work of environmental activists, beekeepers, and entomologists. The few climate change initiatives the Liberals brought forward were similarly weak, and will have very little impact on mitigating climate change. To reduce climate change we must keep the fossil fuels in the ground. Their plan to sell off hydro signals their commitment to a neo-liberal agenda.
The NDP might be better than the Liberals (and will not undo the partial neonic ban), although their counterparts in Alberta seem determined to get every last drop of fossil fuel out of the ground, life on Earth can be damned! What we really need is a movement that links pollinator advocacy with the struggles of organic, small-scale farmers, climate justice activists, and Indigenous movements for land rights. That is what will ‘save’ the pollinators – and the people. I want you to all be part of these movements. But in the meantime, if you care about the plight of bees and want to do something about the pollinator crisis do not vote Conservative and urge others to also reject Ford.
She’s depending on you.