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MP Pam Damoff supports committee call for federal oversight of invasive species

Last month the Standing Committee on Natural Resources tabled its report “Insect Management in Canada’s Forest sector: Strengthening National Cooperation Against Current and Future Outbreaks.”  Pam Damoff, MP for Oakville North-Burlington and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minster of Health, was instrumental in extending the study to include urban forests.

As municipalities continue to struggle to deal with invasive species, the Committee recognized the need for federal leadership on the issue.  One of the report’s recommendations was that the Minister convene a meeting of the federal, provincial, territorial, indigenous governments as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to develop a coordinated national strategy to deal with invasive insects and diseases, including their impact on the urban forest. MP Damoff was asked to sit on the Committee hearings during the study, and was able to extend the study to include urban forests.  She was also part of the report drafting and participated in creating the recommendations that the Committee put forward and ensured that municipalities and urban forests were reflected in the final report.

The Emerald Ash Borer is a forest pest native to Asia that has killed millions of Ash trees in southwestern Ontario. Due to its major economic and environmental threat, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has prohibited the movement of firewood and any material made from Ash trees outside of designated areas under an Infested Places Order.

“I recall when I was on Oakville Town Council learning of the challenges municipalities faced when dealing with an invasive species like Emerald Ash Borer,” said  MP Damoff.  “While the federal government identifies invasive species, once that identification is done it is basically left to the individual municipalities to deal with the issue.  Recognizing that bugs don’t recognize borders, it hampers the efforts to eradicate an invasive species when there isn’t a co-ordinated national strategy matched by federal and provincial funding.  As a result, each municipality was left to its own devices to determine both how to deal with the attack on our urban forest, and to pay for the outcome of the devastation.”

"Recognizing that bugs don’t recognize borders, it hampers the efforts to eradicate an invasive species when there isn’t a co-ordinated national strategy matched by federal and provincial funding."Pam Damoff, MPParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

The Town of Oakville budgeted $2.5M in Budget 2019 for Emerald Ash Borer management.   Beyond its economic impact, the health of our citizens and well being of our communities is dependent on a healthy urban forest.  MP Damoff is pleased that the report recognized the impact of climate change on the prevalence of invasive species, as well as need for biodiversity in creating the resilience of our urban forests. Urban forests contribute to the economy, environment and social well being of our communities.  Oakville Town Councillor Allan Elgar has a long-standing record of environmental conservation.

« I have been vocal on Council about the need to preserve and grow our tree canopy,” said Councillor Elgar. “In Oakville we actually put a value on it – the structural value of our urban forest is over $1 billion, the tree canopy provides almost $3 million in environmental benefits each year and the value of home energy savings is almost $2 million per year.  The impact of Emerald Ash Borer has been devastating, both from a financial and environmental standpoint for the Town of Oakville.  I applaud any efforts to provide a co-ordinated strategy that also puts dollars behind the advice from the federal government »

Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward also expressed her support for a national strategy to protect Oakville North-Burlington’s urban forests from pests and disease.

“I am extremely happy the Federal Standing Committee on Natural Resources is recommending the creation of a co-ordinated national strategy to deal with invasive insects and diseases,” said Mayor Meed Ward. “And it’s great news our own Oakville North-Burlington MP Pam Damoff sat on the committee hearings during the study and that she was able to extend its reach to include urban forests. Burlington has been battling the Emerald Ash Borer for years and is now dealing with the Gypsy Moth as well — both are ravaging part of our urban tree canopy. Our City Council is dedicating hundreds of thousands of dollars to woodlot maintenance and tree-planting as protective measures as a result. With the concern of infestation becoming a growing problem, the City of Burlington will also be looking at long-term programming and resources in dealing with these invasive species. A co-ordinated national strategy will surely help what has become a cross-municipal borders issue.”