Hamilton to restart pest control work after pandemic pause amid complaints


Published August 3, 2023 at 6:30 pm

City officials say one dedicated bylaw officer will be handling pest control complaints and enforcement starting next week, more than three years after the work was paused due to the pandemic. 

A new full-time bylaw officer will be starting on Tuesday, Aug. 8, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the City’s medical officer of health, told journalists during a virtual news conference today (Aug. 3). 

Richardson told inthehammer.com that due to limited funding, Hamilton only had one part-time bylaw officer dedicated to pest control before the pandemic.

“We’re going to have a bylaw officer who can begin to have a handle on where things are today,” she said during the press conference. She explained there will be “ongoing discussions” with council to address the problem.

The news conference occurred several hours after Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, urged City staff to apologize over the pest control complaints that were not addressed by City officials, a story that was first reported by CBC Hamilton on Aug. 2.

CBC Hamilton reported that the City of Hamilton hasn’t been enforcing its own pest control rules since the pandemic started. Since 2019, Hamilton public health reportedly received 1,365 pest complaints.

This is completely shocking and unacceptable,” Horwath wrote on X, including a link to the public news organization’s story. “I’ve told City staff I expect an apology to the public and immediate measures to address this issue and restart bylaw enforcement. Council and I will work together to make sure this situation is addressed.”

Richardson, the City’s medical officer of health, and Matthew Lawson, manager of health hazards and vector-borne diseases, apologized to the public about the ”insensitive” comments Lawson had made in the CBC Hamilton story.

Richardson said she apologizes on behalf of the City for the comments in the report suggesting “that we do not take the issue seriously,” which may have caused pain to tenants grappling with pest problems.

She said many programs and services were paused in March 2020, including enforcement of pest rules, because of the “unprecedented challenges” during the pandemic that required them to redeploy staff and resources. 

Lawson specifically apologized for his “lapse in judgement” for the comments that may have been perceived as insensitive and dismissive about tenants’ pest problems. He acknowledged that pest infestations can affect people’s well-being, causing anxiety and insomnia for instance.

In the CBC Hamilton article, Lawson was quoted as saying: “I couldn’t agree with you more that nobody wants to live with pests. … But pests in the modern form aren’t necessarily presenting a health hazard.”

Richardson said the public news organization’s article wasn’t the reason the City is restarting the bylaw enforcement work. “This has been on our radar for some time,” she told journalists.

inthehammer's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising