Courtenay council considers smoking ban in parks

Courtenay council gave second reading to a bylaw to prohibit smoking and vaping in parks, public spaces and City properties. The idea is to increase public safety and enjoyment, minimize exposure to second-hand smoke, and to reduce the risk of fire and littering. The City contains 103 parks, 19 playgrounds, 35 kilometres of trail systems and 31 public facilities that would be regulated by the bylaw. Enforcement would be complaint-based, and when violations are observed by City staff. Maximum fines could reach $10,000.

Since the last revision of the Clean Air Bylaw in 1992, Coun. Manno Theos notes that vaping has become more prolific, and cannabis use has been de-criminalized.

“There will be an element of pure accountability involved,” Theos said at the Dec. 16 meeting.

Staff will confirm if the bylaw would apply to sidewalks, in response to a question from Coun. David Frisch.

“I recognize there are going to be some costs associated with the signage and possible enforcement, but I think those are far outweighed by reducing our risk to our natural places with regards to smoking, especially in the summer months,” Coun. Melanie McCollum said. “And also there’s the inevitable litter that always results from people smoking cigarettes.”

Coun. Doug Hillian said confusion could result from the definition of public spaces, which may not include sidewalks.

“While it’s relatively clear where people can’t smoke, it leaves open the question of where actually can they smoke, apart from their own private space,” Hillian said.

Deputy CAO John Ward will clarify the point when the bylaw comes back to council.

•The City will not be enforcing a bylaw to regulate single use plastics, pending a Supreme Court of Canada decision on the validity of Victoria’s plastic bag bylaw, and/or the outcome of regulatory approaches proposed by senior governments. Courts found Victoria’s bylaw to be ultra veris, or beyond their powers, based on circumstances regarding their bylaw adoption.

In June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a plan to ban single use plastics as early as 2021, where supported by science. In addition, the Province has launched an action plan and has gone through consultation on banning single use plastics.

“Having a multitude of differing local government regulations will make it difficult for businesses operating in more than one jurisdiction to adjust and comply,” a staff report states.

•Vancouver Island MusicFest has asked the City to contribute $20,000 a year for three years to help offset costs to produce the yearly event at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds. Frisch hopes the request will go through the Comox Valley Regional District.

“I suppose they could always apply for one of our grants,” Frisch said.

His motion to apprise festival organizers of grant opportunities passed. Courtenay directors on the CVRD will also help determine another funding source.

•Council adopted a nuisance abatement and cost recovery bylaw, which can impose fines up to $10,000 on offenders. At the Sept. 3 meeting, a couple said that criminal behaviour at a neighboring property has been adversely affecting their health and quality of life. According to the couple, police said City bylaws are their only defence.

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