Halifax council affirms one of Canada's toughest smoking bylaws
Published Tuesday, September 11, 2018 9:43PM ADT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 11, 2018 10:22PM ADT
The smoke has now cleared after a fiery debate over smoking in Halifax -- and the smoke will be soon clearing from city streets as well.
Regional council has voted to include tobacco in a bylaw that also bans cannabis smoking on municipal property. It's one of the toughest laws of its kind in Canada. Councillors first embraced the idea a few weeks ago, but then got cold feet when smokers complained.
Tuesday, they had a second change of heart that couldn't have been any closer when it came time to vote.
With three members out of town, regional council considered deferring Tuesday’s vote, but the legalization date of Oct. 17th is set in stone, so they forged ahead.
The issue was brought back to the agenda by Coun. Sam Austin, who argued lumping tobacco-smokers into legislation designed to restrict pot-smoking simply didn't make sense.
"I think we're setting up the worst of all worlds,” Austin said. “We're going to have a ban that's not really a ban because we're setting up all kinds of smoking areas.”
While acknowledging some backlash, a good number of councillors are convinced the municipal government got it right the first time.
“There's been some input that we've received, from folks who say it's not a good idea,” Coun. Shawn Cleary said. “We've received a lot of input - especially from health promotion folks - who said, ‘actually, this is a great idea.’”
Supporters argue the legislation isn't an all-out ban - more of a restriction: smokers will still be able to light-up in designated-areas.
Matt Whitman, the councillor for Hammonds Plains says that's not feasible - or fair.
“I thought that smokers were getting caught in the crossfire on this one,” he said. “The real issue here is legalizing marijuana - it's not about cigarette smokers.”
In the end, the vote was a seven-seven tie, killing the amendments and leaving the original bylaw intact, a decision that likely won't sit well with smokers.
One little change council did make Tuesday was to alter the name of the bylaw, which will now be called “The Nuisance and Smoking Bylaw,” as recommended by the experts on city staff.
They're the same folks who urged council to keep the original bylaw for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that anything that discourages smoking is considered a plus in a day-and-age when we all know it's not good for us.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.