The City of Beaconsfield has officially adopted its controversial plan to partially ban electric and gas-powered leaf blowers following nearly a month of heated debate and growing criticism from residents.
The motion was adopted in a 5-1 vote late Monday evening after residents showed up in droves. Montreal police were also stationed outside the packed city hall building as a tense question period got underway.
The measure, which was unveiled in June, prohibits residents from using the gardening tool during the summer months.
Georges Bourelle, the mayor of Beaconsfield, has staunchly defended the ban.
He said research indicates leaf blowers cause a lot of noise and air pollution — and many residents aren’t properly informed about the risks.
“Well, I think it’s very important everybody understand particularly the health risks and the health threats,” he said on Monday.
“I think the noise, everyone can relate to the noise but the health risks are extremely, extremely important.”
While city councillors have thrown their support behind the ban, the debate has divided Beaconsfield residents — with some saying the measure goes too far.
“The feeling I am getting is people are tired of being told what to do on their own property in Beaconsfield,” said Adam Robertson, a landscaper.
He said he also doesn’t believe the health risks are as great as the city makes them out to be.
“Nobody gets hurt — and I’ve been doing this for 30 years. If it was really that bad for my health, I don’t think I’d be standing here,” he said.
An online petition against the ban also amassed more than 500 signatures.
Issues of transparency
Aside from the issue itself, residents were also upset with how the city handled the ban. Some argue it should have listened more to opponents.
The city did conduct a survey to find out what residents thought — but those results were only released after the adoption of the ban.
“This situation has morphed from leaf blowers to just a transparency and an honesty issue,” said resident Toni Lemieux.
The survey, released Tuesday, shows that 54 per cent of residents are not bothered by the noise of a leaf blower and 64 per cent also don’t mind the dust and other particles that it produces.
On the other hand, 51 per cent of people say they are slightly bothered by the greenhouse gases emitted by gas leaf blowers — while 44 per cent are not.
When it comes to a ban, the survey showed that 56 per cent of residents agreed to one that allowed electric leaf blowers, but banned gas ones.
Meanwhile, 68 per cent disagreed with a ban against both electric and gas leaf blowers.
“Surveys do not necessarily make us make a final decision,” said Bourelle.
“It gives us a tool to know a bit about the controversy, if there is one, the division of how people think and then at the end, with a lot of other input from different sources, we finally make a decision.”
—with files from Global’s Elysia Bryan-Baynes, Rachel Lau, Felicia Parrillo and Gloria Henriquez