A spirited debate broke out over that old bugaboo — smoking — on Monday during Timmins Council Committee of the Whole Meeting.
A delegation from the Downtown Business Association and the Porcupine Health Unit consisting of Ginette Dubé the vice-president of the (DBA), Susanne Bonsall and Chantal Riopelle of PHU addressed council advocating for the extension of no-smoking zones outside of public places from the current three metres to nine metres.
“The Downtown BA with the support of its board and the Porcupine Health Unit want to amend the current city of Timmins By-law, “said Dubé.” The current smoking by-law states: no person shall smoke with in three metres of a public place whether a no-smoking sign is posted or not.”
“We want it changed to a distance of nine metres through out the city," said Dubé. “It only makes sense that if we want to enjoy the benefits of a smoke free environment indoors in our restaurants and shops that we also want to enjoy the same benefits outdoors on our sidewalks and entrances.”
“Currently the downtown is a place for people to gather after work and there is a high exposure to smoke,” Dubé continued. “Due to the shortness of the three metres individuals are able to smoke, some very close to the doorways imposing second hand smoke on all individuals who pass on the sidewalk or enter a building.”
“Most communities in Northern Ontario have a nine-metre distance from their by-law,” Dubé noted.
Susanne Bonsall from the Porcupine Health Unit said in her presentation that another reason the Downtown Business Association and Porcupine Health Unit want council to push cigarette smokers from the current three-metre limit (9 ft.) to a proposed nine metres (27 feet) is to eliminate the unsightliness of mounds of cigarette butts that accumulate near the doors and sidewalk of downtown establishments.
But it is not only the downtown that is of concern, the problem is endemic at all public buildings through out the city including hockey arenas and curling clubs.
“I was thoroughly disgusted,” said Noella Rinaldo Ward 4 councillor and the executive director of the Downtown BA.” When I entered the McIntyre Community Centre to attend the recent meeting of the Federation of Northern Ontario Mayors a large pile of cigarette butts had developed right by the front doors for all our out of town guests to Timmins to see – including the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne.”
The motion suggested by the PHU was supported by most councillors.
Councillor Andrew Marks (Ward 4) and a municipal representative to the Downtown Business Association supports the proposed amendment.
“I wholeheartedly support the proposal to extend the no-smoking distance from three metres to nine metres,” Marks said.
Noella Rinaldo, the Downtown Business Association, Executive Director, also strongly supported the amendments to the City’s Smoking By-law.
“Northern Ontario generally has more smokers per capita than in cities such as Toronto,” Rinaldo said.
“And in Northern Ontario, Timmins today has the shortest smoking zone from shop doorways – three metres,” she told committee of the whole. “All others have set their distance at 9 metres.”
However, the support for PHU’s proposed motion was not unanimous.
And even though the motion was proposed by the Downtown Business Association, Rick Dubeau, Councillor for Ward 4 and a businessman himself and a council representative on the Downtown BIA, said the proposed PHU motion went too far and would further penalize Timmins merchants who smoke.
“Our store owners do so much for this city and now we are going to ask them to move to the middle of the road to smoke,” said an incredulous Councillor Dubeau. “Now we are asking them to walk 27 feet to a back alley or parking lot to have a cigarette break?”
“This is ridiculous,” Dubeau added, “if it is litter problem we have by-laws in place to deal with that.”
Urging prudence in how the city proceeds to extend the no-smoking distance was Councillor Pat Bamford who, while supporting the intent of the amendment also wants to make sure the city’s smokers are consulted rather than having the sudden change imposed on them by Council.
“I think it would be fair if we consulted a little further with all our business people in the city,” Bamford suggested.
Committee of the Whole is a forum where councillors, invited speakers can more thoroughly thrash, discuss and debate a motion prior to it being referred to a council meeting for a vote on acceptance or rejection.
The next step before the proposed amendment can be affixed to the existing anti-smoking by-law is for a motion in support of the amendment to be introduced at an upcoming Council meeting.
Of course motions could also be introduced to study the matter further and to consult with merchants.