Nuisance Bylaw (Smoking): It was a very short Council meeting on Tuesday. The main item on the agenda was the return of the staff report on possible changes to the Nuisance Bylaw regarding smoking. Council previously changed the Nuisance Bylaw in response to the coming legalization of cannabis to ban smoking of all substances, including tobacco, on public property, including sidewalks. Under the bylaw, smoking will only be permitted in designated areas. As I have learned more about HRM’s approach to designated smoking areas, I have become more and more convinced that what HRM is trying to do just isn’t practical. What we’re getting is the worst of all worlds. It’s not going to be much of a ban because HRM is going to have to designate smoking areas. Designating smoking areas is going to be tricky and bureaucratic and, at the end of the day, I suspect it won’t be particularly effective because it will be unenforceable. I’m no fan of smoking, but I’m fan of reality and what HRM is proposing just doesn’t make practical sense.
The request I put forward was to remove the tobacco piece and focus the restrictions on public usage of cannabis, which is the approach used in Newfoundland, PEI, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Territories, and by the City of Calgary. The other four provinces (Alberta, BC, Quebec and Nova Scotia) opted not to restrict the public usage of cannabis beyond what already exists for tobacco. HRM is basically alone in the country in responding to the legalization of cannabis by banning all public smoking. Whether that means we’re leaders or have come up with a flawed approach was the essence of the debate. Here’s my case
Council ended up voting against my amendment to remove tobacco from the Nuisance Bylaw 8-6 and the politics around that vote were more tangled than usual. Despite the defeat of my amendment, the majority in the room expressed discontent with the Nuisance Bylaw’s current approach of banning both cannabis and tobacco except in designated areas (myself, Adams, Whitman, Zurawski, Streatch, Hendsbee, Outhit). So why did my amendment fail? The problem was that while the majority agreed on taking tobacco out and allowing the Smoke Free Places Act to set the standard, several of my colleagues felt that we should also remove cannabis. I tried to convince them to vote for my amendment since that would allow us to fix the tobacco piece and that’s what was before us (we couldn’t have removed cannabis without another staff report request), but I wasn’t able to bring them all onside. Both Councillors Hendsbee and Zurawski spoke against the current Nuisance Bylaw, but ended up voting against my amendment. Essentially, eight of us agreed that the current approach is flawed, but we couldn’t agree on what the alternative should be, which allowed the six Councillors (Blackburn, Craig, Cleary, Mason, Smith, Nicoll) who preferred the designated areas approach to prevail.
While frustrating in the moment, it likely wouldn’t have mattered much in the end since, had I been able to bring Hendsbee and Zurawski onside and tipped the vote to 8-6 in favour of my amendment, it would have still had to pass second reading on September 18. Council would have been back to nearly full strength on the 18th with the return of Councillors Walker, Karstin and Mancini and both Walker and Karstin have spoke very strongly in favour of the current approach in the past. So even if my amendment had survived Tuesday, there was a good chance of defeat at second reading on the 18th. Second reading would have all come down to Councillor Mancini. All a moot point though since the eight looking to change things couldn’t agree.
So, HRM’s experiment in trying to restrict smoking to only designated areas is a go. I don’t think it will work and even if it does, I’m not sure what the real benefit will be, but we’re about to find out. The plan is to make the bylaw effective in October, so look for signs for designated areas soon.
Residential Parking Pass Changes: Council moved first reading of bylaw changes to residential parking permits. The residential parking permit system works by placing parking restrictions on streets and then allowing residents to buy a pass to exempt them from the restrictions. The goal is to ensure that there is on-street parking available to neighbourhood residents in areas of high-demand. There are a few streets in and around Downtown Dartmouth that have residential permits.
The new residential parking permit system will be much more flexible than the old one. Rather than a street/block specific permit, a zone-based system will be implemented. Permit holders will be able to park anywhere in their zone rather than just on their block. That flexibility will also allow residents who live on streets that don’t have any on-street parking to buy permits. There will be three permit zones in Dartmouth.
The permitting time period will also become much more flexible. Right now, the effective date for all permits is June 1 – May 31. This means that if you buy a permit on June 1, you get the full value, but not if you buy one halfway through the year. Under the new system, permits will be effective for 12 months from the date that they’re purchased. This will allow permit holders to buy a pass when it’s most advantageous to them and will ensure that they get a full years worth of use out of it.
Visitor parking permits are also changing. In addition to the short-term passes, an annual visitor permit is being created for residents who live in homes that don’t have driveways. All visitor passes will be transferable, meaning a short-term or annual pass can be used by whoever is visiting. Finally, a pass for shared vehicles (Car Share) will be created to allow Car Share vehicles to park in permit zones.
- Appointed a new building official
- Approved a temporary borrowing resolution for this year’s capital budget
- Repealed the Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary admin order and grants program since the anniversary has now passed
- Approved several new street names
- Initiated a planning process for a development in St. Margaret’s Bay
- Tendered Halifax Transit software upgrade to Trapeze Software Group
- Finalized the By-law to create a financing program for homeowner who need a new well due to an inadequate water supply
- Approved a density bonus agreement for 1448-1468 Breton Street valued at $60,000. Money will go to create public art in the sidewalk around the building
- Approved an exemption to the District Capital Policy to allow Councillor Hendsbee to donate to the Lawrencetown Volunteer Fire Department from the District 2 fund
- Accepted several requests for staff reports including for variable highway message signs, a review of the Provincial aid to municipality’s program, an assessment of the Household Special Waste Mobile Program, the potential renewal/replacement of Ticket Atlanitc, and a Roadside Memorial Policy