A smoke free downtown bylaw proposal was butted out by council but ignited a question of a municipal politician’s prerogative and the effectiveness of some bylaws.
At the April 22 City council meeting the majority of City council felt a smoke free bylaw—one that would prohibit smoking in all public parks, playgrounds and restaurant patios within Rossland city
limits—was a provincial health issue.
And, to further reduce the downloading council felt was occurring at too-frequent intervals, it decided against the motion brought forward by councillor Kathy Moore at the April 8 meeting.
Councillor Kathy Wallace said council had a lot of really significant issues to deal with, and a smoking prohibition bylaw was not something they needed to take on.
She characterized the work of crafting a bylaw by City staff as low priority and pointed to it as another form of “downloading” from other levels of government.
And even if it was enacted by council in Rossland, the bylaw would not have any “teeth,” since there was no enforcement department in place to deal with the transgressors.
“A critical piece of imposing a bylaw is its enforceability,” she pointed out. “Imposing of unenforceable bylaws is a slow, degrading and undermining of the very bylaw system that we are talking about.
“If we continue to put in bylaws that we know we are not going to enforce, then what does that tell the public? Not to worry about any of the bylaws?”
Wallace said the motion was altered for one councillor’s purpose, as council had been discussing a smoke free bylaw of its own for the downtown streetscape and, in particular, for Harry Lefevre Square.
Council already had a process going on, she said, and it already had a discussion going on, but one councillor took the issue from council having a discussion with options to one councillor deciding that one option was the way to go.
“I don’t think that is appropriate,” Wallace stated.
The rationale for the motion was based on the information provided by the delegation from Interior Health to council at the regular meeting of April 8 to show a commitment to building a healthy community, said Moore.
It is also a health issue province wide, she added, and a lot of initiatives start as grass roots efforts by individual communities.
“And we have different views about whether councillors can bring motions forward. I still think there is a place for this kind of action,” said Moore. “It did go beyond scope of the park … but I did not think there was a breath of chance this was going to pass.”
Councillor Jill Spearn agreed.
“It’s certainly our job as councillors to bring a motion forward. We don’t bring a motion forward together,” she said. “I’m not here to get into an argument about anything. It’s our job to (move things forward), it’s not just about pipes in the ground and roads to be paved anymore.”
It wasn’t that a councillor couldn’t bring a motion forward, Wallace explained, it was that council already had one and one councillor derailed the process and the options that could have arisen.
The issue of no smoking on downtown city patios has not been had in council chambers up until this point, said councillor Jody Blomme, but restaurant owners could put signs out to ban smoking.
“I would prefer to leave it up to the individual business owner to make that kind of decision for themselves,” she said, instead of council passing a bylaw.