Calgary city councillors voted down a measure to ban smoking and vaping in parks and on pathways, with many saying it was an intrusion into people’s lives.
The item, which faced some debate at committee but ultimately passed, would have seen a full ban on smoking and vaping in all city-owned parks and pathways.
Questions came in from councillors around city bylaw’s ability to enforce the bylaw, but many were concerned about government overreach.
Chief Bylaw Officer Ryan Pleckaitis said that while they’re stretched resource-wise coming out of the pandemic, they have recruit classes coming and there’s backend work being done to improve systems. That will improve capacity.
Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean said that the people he’s talked to don’t really want the city dictating where they can smoke outdoors.
“They want less government intrusion into…a lot more and more laws governing their everyday lifestyles,” he said.
Ward 14’s Peter Demong said he didn’t understand the problem they were trying to solve with this bylaw amendment.
“I very much appreciate what councillor Sharp was saying with regards to one legal sin being OK in our parks and the other of the two legal sins, we’re gonna say no, no, we can’t do that one,” said Demong.
“Seems rather hypocritical on that side.”
Demong was referring to the expansion of the alcohol in parks program.
Smoking a contradiction to clean, green spaces: Coun. Penner
Coun. Jasmine Mian said that it’s reasonable to allow people to smoke in parks and pathways provided they’re respectful of others.
“In my view, a ban is unnecessarily restrictive at a time when there’s little appetite for unnecessary restrictions,” Mian said.
Coun. Gian Carlo Carra, who seconded the motion, said that bylaws are enforced on a complaint basis. But, you need the laws on the books in order to have the tools to enforce them, he said.
“We do know that if someone behaves badly our bylaw officers need to have laws in place to actually get the job done,” he said.
Coun. Kourtney Penner, who put forward the motion, said she put it forward because she’d heard from people that this was a problem.
“It is about voluntary compliance, like the majority of our bylaws. Red Deer has had this bylaw for 10 years, many other municipalities across the country have had similar restrictions,” she said.
“When we talk about our parks being healthy, green, clean spaces, smoking has been a total contradiction to that. As is vaping. So yes, this is about modeling, but this is also about the kind of behaviour that we are encouraging.”
The amendments were defeated 3-10.