By Doug Hallett
It will take more than a survey done by the health unit to convince city council that a widespread ban on outdoor smoking in Guelph is a good idea, says Mayor Karen Farbridge.
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health staff recently recommended such a ban in Guelph, after surveying about 2,000 people this summer, including about 900 in Guelph.
“If and/or when the city was to proceed to give this matter consideration, it would require a significantly more fulsome community engagement plan than the survey,” Farbridge said Tuesday. The mayor has heard support for an outdoor smoking bylaw in the past, she said in an email sent in response to a Tribune query. “With the release of the survey, I have recently received some opposition,” she added.
Farbridge, a Guelph council representative on the regional public health board, noted that when the survey was presented to the health board last week, it was merely received by the board. “They (the board) did not direct any further action.”
Farbridge also noted that the issue of outdoor smoking on city-owned property such as parks has been discussed internally at city hall in the past, both in relation to a proposed public nuisance bylaw and to a parks bylaw that has been in the works.
Derek McCaughan, the city’s executive director of operations and transit services, said the most recent internal discussions about outdoor smoking related to the public nuisance bylaw. Last March, council backed away from most of the proposed nuisance bylaw, while approving sections making it easier for the city to crack down on so-called “nuisance parties.”
During the public input process for the nuisance bylaw, the city heard from some people who wanted outdoor-smoking restrictions to be part of the bylaw. However, city staff decided against including any specific references to outdoor smoking in the nuisance bylaw that went to council, McCaughan said in an interview Tuesday.
Staff did, though, include a section in the proposed bylaw that would have allowed the city to post signs against “undesirable activity” on city-owned property. This section could, with council’s approval, have been used at some point to prohibit outdoor smoking on city land, he said.
But that’s a moot point, given council’s rejection of most of the nuisance bylaw, he added. “It was not approved, so it has no standing at this time.”
McCaughan said that he, city CAO Ann Pappert and Derrick Thomson, the city’s new executive director of community and social services, are in the process of trying to decide what to do with the report from the health unit. They are discussing how to get the report “into the city’s pipeline,” he said.
The issue could go directly to council, or the report could go to one of council’s standing committees, he said. It would require direction from council or from one of its committees for city staff to consider the health unit report in depth.
“This is something new that is not on anybody’s work plan at the moment, so it would have to be a council decision” for staff to do the sort of in-depth work that could lead to recommendations to council, McCaughan said.
Thomson said Tuesday that it would be premature for him to comment on the health unit’s outdoor smoking report until there has been more of a review and he’s had a chance to look at the issue in the context of the city’s other bylaws.
“We are sorting through the process and want to do that expeditiously,” Thomson said in an interview. “And I look forward to moving it forward.”
The report that went to city hall said the health unit’s survey found a high level of support in Guelph for some form of outdoor smoking restrictions. Health unit staff are recommending the city enact a “smoke-free outdoor spaces” bylaw, which would ban smoking at playgrounds, parks, sports fields, splash pads and bus shelters, as well as on restaurant patios and within nine metres of doorways to public places and workplaces.
By Doug Hallett