March 3, 2015 4:36 pm
Updated: March 4, 2015 2:11 pm

After tight vote, council approves Churchill Square smoking ban

City Council votes to ban smoking in Churchill Square.

Vinesh Pratap, Global News

EDMONTON — In a narrow vote of seven to six, Edmonton city councillors decided Tuesday to ban smoking in Churchill Square downtown.

Mayor Don Iveson supported the ban, saying the decision was about making the square a safe and welcoming place at all times with consistent and clear rules.

“There are still places for people to be but, the heart of the square itself, making that smoke-free,” said Iveson.

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“Churchill Square is already smoke-free around the pool and in front of City Hall and I think it’s becoming a gathering place for people from all walks of life and all ages and all health situations.

“I think making that main public square smoke-free and making that consistent throughout the whole public space I think is fair.”

“There’s going to be no cost associated with this that I can tell,” Iveson added. We have existing resources on the square doing this kind of enforcement for half of the space anyway, so this is not going to break the bank and I think it will make it a more welcoming place for all people.”

Councillor Michael Walters said many other communities have already banned smoking from public spaces. He added the onus shouldn’t be on the non-smokers to accommodate the smokers.

READ MORE: ‘I’m not trying to ostracize anybody’: Councillor Walters on smoking ban in Churchill Square 

However, Councillor Dave Loken was against the ban.

“Largely because I see that it’s going to be very difficult to enforce,” he explained.

“If people can’t smoke in the square – especially during a busy event – then where are they going to smoke? They’re going to smoke outside the square.

“It doesn’t make logical sense to me.”

Councillor Henderson agreed that pushing smokers out of the area would just move them onto the sidewalks.

Councillor Amarjeet Sohi said he would support the ban as long as enforcement would be compassionate towards the vulnerable population.

READ MORE: Edmonton city council moves forward with Churchill Square smoking ban 

The issue was previously brought up in council in October. At that time as well, councillors were torn.

Councillor Michael Oshry asked for a report to see what a smoking ban could look like at other city facilities with large outdoor spaces such as the Valley Zoo and Fort Edmonton Park.

“Maybe we should be expanding this and looking at doing this at all city-run facilities indoor or out,” said Oshry back in October.

“In a public venue like a city-owned facility, I think there is an onus on the city to make sure it’s enjoyable for everybody and I think that’s something that we need to look at.”

At that time, Walters said there would be no additional enforcement expenses for the smoking ban in Churchill Square, which was expected to come into place in the new year. Any further smoking bans must be debated by city council.

Those caught smoking in the square will be warned and could face a fine of up to $250.

The bylaw comes into effect April 15.

*NOTE: The mayor initially said the bylaw would take effect immediately but the city has since clarified it comes into effect April 15.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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