City councillors strike down ban on smoking and vaping in Calgary parks

The proposed change to the City of Calgary bylaw to include city-owned parks and pathways as areas where smoking and vaping is restricted was defeated 10 votes to three. File / Global News

Calgary city council has struck down a potential ban on smoking and vaping in Calgary parks and on pathways after several councillors raised concerns with the change.

The amendment to the city’s smoking and vaping bylaw would have seen the inclusion of city-owned parks and pathways as areas where smoking and vaping is restricted.

The suggestion to do so came following research and engagement the city did on the issue in 2019.

Councillors outlined several concerns with the ban, including local bylaw officers’ ability to enforce it and whether it could be seen as overreach.

“I’ve consulted with a ton of people,” Ward 13 councillor Dan McLean told council. “What I’m hearing is people, they want less government intrusion into their lives, not more and more laws governing their everyday lifestyles.”

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Read more: Proposed bylaw aims to ban smoking in Calgary’s public parks

In response to the question if the ban is government overreach, Ward 9 councillor Gian-Carlo Carra said enforcement of city bylaws are a complaint-driven process, and that it’s “almost impossible” for bylaw officers to enforce “bad behaviour” without clear rules in place.

“What if somebody is out in the middle… of Nose Hill and they light up a cigarette? If no one is there to complain, we’re not going to get that,” Carra said. “We do know if somebody behaves badly, our bylaw officers need to have laws in place to actually get the job done.”

Ward 3 councillor Jasmine Mian said that while she doesn’t smoke or like smoking, she feels it is reasonable for people to smoke in public parks and on pathways if they are being respectful.

“Smoking is a legal activity, we have sufficient bylaws to manage it,” Mian said. “In my view, a ban is unnecessarily restrictive at a time when there is little appetite for unnecessary restrictions.”

Calgary’s current bylaw restricts both smoking and vaping at Olympic Plaza, in the +15 systems and within five metres of outdoor pools, outdoor skating rinks, playgrounds, skate parks or sports fields.

Administration said that most smoking and vaping complaints are covered under the provincial Tobacco Reduction Act.

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Read more: Calgary’s alcohol in parks program returns

Ward 1 councillor Sonya Sharp raised concerns that the city was looking to ban smoking in parks and on pathways after city council voted in favour of expanding a program that allows alcohol consumption in certain city parks.

“It is looking very hypocritical if we’re allowing that and we’re banning one but not the other,” Sharp said. “I’m having a tough time with this one because it feels like over-governance.”

Other cities like Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver, Red Deer and Edmonton have similar smoking prohibitions in parks and pathways, a city report said.

Click to play video: 'Proposed bylaw aims to ban smoking in Calgary’s public parks'
Proposed bylaw aims to ban smoking in Calgary’s public parks

City administration said that it had trouble finding strong data linking smoking and vaping in open outdoor spaces with second-hand smoke concerns, but health experts that were engaged said there was a potential impact on “modelling behaviour for children.”

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“When we talk about our parks being healthy, green, clean spaces, smoking is in total contradiction to that, as is vaping,” Coun. Kourtney Penner said. “Yes, this is about modelling, but this is also about that we are encouraging.”

Penner added that the bylaw, like the other laws the city has, is to seek “voluntary compliance” from Calgarians.

Ultimately, the change to the bylaw that would ban smoking and vaping in city parks and on pathways was defeated 10-3, with just councillors Carra, Penner and Raj Dhaliwal in support.

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