Fort Saskatchewan is now one step closer to having a new smoking bylaw.
The proposed bylaw passed first reading on Tuesday with only councillor Brian Kelly speaking against the new regulation.
The city needs to put some new rules into effect ahead of October 17’s federal legalization of recreational cannabis use. Earlier this year council gave initial approval to a bylaw that dealt only with cannabis – in later meetings, council decided to go a different route, asking city staff to come up with a regulation covering all types of smoking.
When drafting the bylaw, staff used the results of a public survey the city posted on its website in mid-July. The survey showed that a majority of residents want to see all types of smoking restricted in most places in the city, with 78 per cent wanting smoking banned in the places the province has already restricted cannabis use, including hospitals, schools, playgrounds and sports fields.
"It is a little bit different than what I personally had expected,” councillor Deanna Lennox said of the new bylaw on Wednesday. “But at the same time, I think that it does for the most part address some of the issues that we had, as well as the community had in the responses to the survey.”
City staff gave a presentation on the wider-reaching bylaw on Tuesday, sharing details of the proposed new rules. If upcoming meetings see council giving the green light to the bylaw, smoking in Fort Saskatchewan – including tobacco and vaping in addition to cannabis -- will only be allowed in designated smoking areas.
Private property owners, including business owners and landlords, will be able to decide where to locate smoking areas on their properties. The city has already scouted out 40 potential smoking areas on public land. The designated spots must be marked with appropriate signage and will be not allowed within 10 metres of any window, door, or fresh air intake. The rules don’t apply to smoking in private residences.
Fines will be in place to help with compliance. The new bylaw doesn’t set out separate rules for medical cannabis use.
In voting down the new regulation, Kelly said he preferred the city's first attempt at a cannabis bylaw. He also questioned the validity of the survey results, saying he was surprised to see so much support for an outright smoking ban.
Kelly also argued that the wording of introductory comments on the survey could have led to biased responses.
"Council made some specific requests at the last meeting. I hoped to see some of those addressed in this draft bylaw,” he added. “And as near as I can tell, not one of them were. And I'm not pleased with this current issue of the draft bylaw."
The bylaw will be back at council for second and third reading and a non-statutory public hearing on September 11.