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Foe of 'eco-fascists' to chair cosmetic pesticide committee

The next chair of the British Columbia government committee considering a ban on cosmetic pesticide use is an MLA who last year took aim at "eco-fascists."

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett is the new convener of the special committee on cosmetic pesticides. He replaces former chair Margaret MacDiarmid, who Premier Christy Clark promoted on Sept. 26 to minister of labour, citizen services and open government as part of a small cabinet shuffle.

"I'm familiar with the file," said Bennett in a phone interview. "I've read quite a lot about pesticides and their use in B.C. for the past three or four years . . . I've had a long standing interest in the topic."

But Bennett is also on record being at odds with the environmental movement, in particular those who wanted the Flathead Valley protected as a park. A July 13, 2010, Globe and Mail article quoted an email he sent to constituents: “We either stand strong together against the loss of the Flathead Valley to the eco facists [sic], or we will lose the Flathead."

Asked today if people might take the comment as a sign of bias that might affect the pesticide committee, he told The Tyee, "I'm not going to lose a lot of sleep over that."

Bennett has a record of speaking frankly and forcefully, and last year was ejected from the BC Liberal caucus after criticizing former premier Gordon Campbell's leadership.

"I say things that are not politically correct," Bennett said. "Sometimes it's healthy to say things out loud that people are uttering under their breath or saying quietly."

As chair his job will be to make sure the committee gets exposed to as broad a range of information as possible, he said. "I've always felt it is important to make decisions on the environment based on available science," he said. Bennett is a former fishing guide who professes a love of the outdoors. "I don't really have an ideological point of view when it comes to the environment."

While the committee still has to do its work, Bennett said it will likely follow through on Premier Clark's commitment to act on the file. "I would be amazed if we didn't end up making recommendations that suggested government take action of some sort," he said.

Former environment minister Barry Penner, who resigned as attorney general during the summer, has also been added to the committee membership.

NDP environment critic Rob Fleming has served as the committee's vice chair, and is slated to return to that position when the committee meets on Oct. 6.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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