Vancouver council delays vote on banning fireworks after spirited debate

Click to play video: 'Vancouver council discusses motion to ban retail fireworks’ sales in city' Vancouver council discusses motion to ban retail fireworks’ sales in city
The City of Vancouver is debating a motion that would see retail sales of consumer fireworks banned beginning in 2021. Grace Ke reports – Oct 23, 2019

Vancouver city council has delayed voting on a motion to ban the sale and use of consumer fireworks in the city.

The decision came after several merchants protested Coun. Pete Fry’s motion, while other speakers pointed to concerns about noise and safety.

The motion will now go up for debate and a vote at the next council meeting on Nov. 5.

Under current bylaws, consumer or “family” fireworks are legal to buy from certified retailers in the City of Vancouver between Oct. 25 and Oct. 31 by adults who have purchased a permit.

READ MORE: Vancouver council to debate ban on sale of Halloween fireworks

They are only legal for adult use on Oct. 31, on private property with permission of the owner or paths that avoid people, animals, buildings or vehicles.

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Firecrackers and bottle rockets are already banned, and violating the city’s bylaw can come with a $500 fine.

Among the speakers were Canadian National Fireworks Association spokesperson Melanie Sutherland, who said an outright ban would drive people toward unregulated and unsafe products.

“We want to continue our focus on education, and a ban would stand in the way of that,” she said. “People would get the wrong information, and that would lead to an increase in unsafe incidents.”

Click to play video: 'Vancouver city councillor proposes consumer fireworks ban' Vancouver city councillor proposes consumer fireworks ban
Vancouver city councillor proposes consumer fireworks ban – Oct 17, 2019

Raymond Greenwood, also known as Mr. Fireworks, has been selling fireworks for more than 30 years. He told council he’s committed to educating his own customers on safety, and wants police to crack down on illegal use instead of a city-wide ban.

“We’re going backwards with this motion,” he said. “Let’s keep the fun in this city.”

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Other retailers said they would simply move their sales online, where permits aren’t required and would make it easier for youths to purchase dangerous products.

Click to play video: 'Renewed call for fireworks ban in Vancouver' Renewed call for fireworks ban in Vancouver
Renewed call for fireworks ban in Vancouver – Oct 26, 2018

Some speakers also spoke to the years they’ve spent with their parents and their own families lighting fireworks every year.

Several fires and injuries have been attributed to the use of consumer fireworks in recent years, and in 2016 a dog was killed when it ran onto the SkyTrain tracks after being spooked by fireworks.

A spokesperson with the BC SPCA cited that last incident as one of many reasons why the organization supports the ban.

“This ban would greatly reduce the stress that animals experience,” she said, later adding that calls to the SPCA greatly increase on Halloween night, particularly in Vancouver.

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READ MORE: The explosive debate continues: Should Vancouver ban Halloween fireworks?

Others who voiced support for a ban said the week-long “fireworks season” creates annoyance and makes people feel unsafe, with people using fireworks in violation of the city’s bylaws.

Fry mentioned during the meeting that Vancouver police and the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association sent council written submissions supporting a ban.

According to Fry’s motion, Vancouver Fire Rescue Services found the average cost of damages from fireworks over the last 12 years is $379,000.

Despite warnings that banning consumer fireworks would be difficult, plenty of other cities throughout the Lower Mainland and elsewhere in B.C. have taken the step.

Click to play video: 'Firework ban blowing up in Vancouver' Firework ban blowing up in Vancouver
Firework ban blowing up in Vancouver – Oct 28, 2017

In 2016, the City of Burnaby banned the sale of family fireworks, though it still allows them to be used on Halloween with a permit.

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The City of Surrey banned them in 2005, and said it saw a drop in fireworks-related fires from a high of 40 in 2004 to an average of three per year.

Only West Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver and Port Moody continue to allow the sale and use of consumer fireworks in Metro Vancouver.

Vancouver has seen annual calls for a ban around Halloween for years now, but previous attempts to bring it up for a council vote have stalled.

Fry’s motion would see the city work with police and firefighters to develop a plan next year to ban the sale of fireworks by 2021.

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