Former Saint Croix MLA candidates cross party lines to support the end of glyphosate spraying in New Brunswick

Krisi Marples/Courier From left - Rod Cumberland, Kim Reeder, and John Gardner, former Saint Croix MLA candidates threw away party lines and gathered together Sunday for the common purpose of ending the spraying of glyphosates in the province of New Brunswick. Saint Croix MLA election winner, Kathy Bockus, was invited, but did not attend the event.

Bocabec – “This is not a partisan thing. We are crossing party lines. We are community,” said former independent Saint Croix MLA candidate, John Gardner, from a hillside in Bocabec Sunday, Sept. 20 as a large crowd of concerned citizens gathered to speak out against the spraying of glyphosate on Crown Land in the province.

“We’re coming together to support community. And protect community. Not politics. It’s community.”

The event was hosted by Green party Saint Croix MLA candidate, Kim Reeder, and the main speaker for the event was People’s Alliance Saint Croix MLA candidate, Rod Cumberland.

“These people don’t have our best interests at heart when it comes to glyphosate,” said Cumberland, who has been looking at the impact of glyphosate on deer populations and their food supply since 2001, when he was the provincial deer biologist.

And this wasn’t the first rodeo for the Gardner/Reeder duo, either.

“Kim and I have been friends for years, and have a few adventures in the past. So for us, this collaboration is nothing new,” said Gardner.

“When I heard about the spraying happening last Tuesday (in Brockway) I was immediately concerned, and responded to someone’s post on social media. Kim picked up on it and there was no hesitation. She was in,” he added.

It was Brockway resident Peter Ganong who alerted friends via social media that posters indicating spraying had been posted in his area, close to the Brockway airport. And while it ended in a wild helicopter chase, it sparked the idea for Sunday’s event for the two compatriots.

“John and I have been working on various initiatives for years,” said Reeder. “Our favourite until now – working to create habitat and educational events about monarch butterflies,” she added.

Reeder said while the Brockway incident sparked their attention, Sunday’s event happened because residents wanted a forum to express their views on the spraying of glyphosate.

“People wanted a forum to express their own views,” said Reeder, “and it was so easy to do – why not?”

“Right from the start of this, we knew we wanted to be non-partisan,” said Gardner, of the three former MLA candidates pulling together for the event.

“Standing united in what we believe is important – the community. So, of course we invited all the local candidates to get involved. It is a good fit for Rod Cumberland as well since he has a history on the subject,” he added.

In fact, while Gardner, Reeder, and Cumberland were all in attendance Sunday, the actual election winner, Saint Croix MLA Kathy Bockus did not attend, although she was invited.

“We got involved in the process (the election) because this is our community,” said Gardner of himself, Reeder, and Cumberland. “We stayed involved because it is our community.”

“It started for me back in 2001, when I was the provincial deer biologist,” said Cumberland. “And the hunters in the province wanted the deer herd to grow again, we wanted to harvest 30,000 deer like we did in the 80s, so in 2001 we pulled all stops and were gonna grow the deer herd and see where we can get to – by 2007, we harvested 10,000 deer, so a third of what we did back in the 80s.

“The bells and whistles went off in my head and I said something’s wrong out there. Not only did we not grow it to where we wanted, where it was growing was around urban/suburban areas and agricultural areas, and our deer yards were vacant,” he added.

“So that started me on a quest to find out answers.

“It didn’t a rocket scientist to figure out that we were spraying these plantations and killing a ton of deer food. So I did a lot more research and found out what grows in these areas if we let them come back naturally – there is enough food on an acre of ground coming back naturally to feed a deer for an entire year and we were spraying (with glyphosate) 32,000 acres.

“I know this is new for some people here, but we’ve been doing this for over 30 years in this province,” he said.

Cumberland’s extensive knowledge of glyphosate, the forestry industry, the impact on forest ecosystems and provincial deals with Irving, who are the main beneficiaries of the spraying of Crown Land, is encyclopedic.

Cumberland claims it was the 2014 forestry deal between the province and the JDI Corporation that saw conservation lands, designed to protect habitat and environment, handed to the corporate behemoth in the first place, saying it’s a deal that would see 95 per cent of mixed forest become plantations of softwood – the product of choice for the lumber/forestry arm of JDI.

“This is the Agent Orange of our lifetime, glyphosate spraying,” said Cumberland.

“The battle right now has got to be focused on tax payers dollars spent spraying a poison on taxpayers land. You’ve got to focus on that issue.

“Keep it simple. It’s taxpayers money – $3 million per year – spent on spraying a poison on taxpayers land, that’s land that we all own. Keep it about that and we will win this. The science will look after the rest,” he added.

And Gardner and Reeder aren’t done. The spraying of Greenlaw’s Mountain is on their radar. The runoff of the site is Chamcook Lake, and the watershed for the Town of Saint Andrews. “That is not good,” said Gardner.

“We’ve had very successful week,” he said of his efforts with Reeder. “And the goal is to work with other like minded New Brunswickers to keep this going until the goal is met.”

“We need to get the message out to the average person. We’ve got a common purpose here. So don’t give up,” said Cumberland.

If you’re interested in becoming involved in stopping the spraying of glyphosate in the province, you can find Stop Spraying NB at www.stopsprayingnb.ca, or join the Stop Spraying in New Brunswick Facebook page.

editor@stcroixcourier.ca