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Committee chair's pesticide conspiracy email was 'impolitic', says recipient

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett seems to view environmentalists as a threat to freedom, said a person who received a blunt and dismissive email from him this week.

In a May 30 email to Bill Wells, a retired agrologist in Kaslo, B.C., Bennett suggested people who support a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides are "politically motivated left wing conspiracy theorists."

"I do think he thinks that," said West in a telephone interview. "It was an impolitic thing for him to say as the head of a committee and it was a 'f**k you' to me."

Bennett was the chair of a Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides that decided not to recommend a ban, even though Premier Christy Clark had said a year earlier that she supported one and would work with the NDP to put one in place.

Wells said he wrote to Bennett after reading a piece by Salmon Arm doctor Warren Bell on The Tyee website and concedes his own first email was "a bit snarky."

He said he was surprised Bennett responded at all and did it personally, but even more so at the MLA's tone. Bennett's initial response said, "I am pleased to hear that you can read and encourage you to put your skill to work reading the Special Committee's Report."

A second Bennett email explained the committee's decision by taking aim at supporters of a ban: "I'll take the 350 scientists at Health Canada over the politically motivated left wing conspiracy theorists any day."

As the exchange continued, it became more respectful, said Wells. "The main thing is there are good reasons to put controls on the home use and public use of some of these things," he said. "Some of them are very persistent and they accumulate."

Bennett declined opportunities to comment on the email exchange, which critics have said show the bias he brought to his role as chair of the pesticide committee.

"Clearly it's enormous disrespect for the Canadian Cancer Society and all the other groups who participated strongly and believed in this for years," said NDP Leader Adrian Dix. "I think the Liberals have a problem there. They treat people who disagree with them with total disrespect."

The emails referenced in this story are available here.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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