MINTO – Signs warning that smoking is not permitted anywhere on the grounds of Minto recreational facilities will soon be in place.
At the March 5 town council meeting, recreation program director Matt Lubbers pointed out new regulations took effect the same day cannabis was legalized last fall.
The main changes to the act involve a prohibition on smoking or vaping on the property of community recreational facilities, Lubbers explained.
Staff attended a workshop in late February in Elora and have met with health unit officials to clarify expectations.
Councillor Mark MacKenzie asked if the town has a bylaw covering the prohibition or the measure relies on provincial regulations.
“It’s the provincial legislation that we adhere to,” explained Lubbers. “If a complaint is brought to our attention we have to address it and there’s also a requirement for mandatory signage.
“So, just recently the health unit has come out with a lot of replacement signage to encompass the e-cigarettes or vaping.”
“This says they can’t smoke anywhere on a community centre property,” councillor Jean Anderson pointed out.
“The way we’re reading the regulations, it’s not just 20 metres from the entrance to the facility, it’s the facility and its grounds, so essentially a parking lot may be included in that,” said Lubbers.
He conceded there may still be some exceptions.
“With regard to outdoor recreation, it’s still 20 metres from the spectating area and/or playing area,” he stated.
“There could be small pockets, technically, where people could hold tobacco and not be in (violation) … it would be better if it were an all or nothing thing.”
Councillor Ron Elliott said, “If you say 20 metres, then it turns into five, if I’m correct in watching people smoke.”
The regulations could mean at areas such as the Palmerston soccer field and the Clifford ball park, smoking could be allowed 20 metres from the playing/spectator area, while at community halls and arena grounds it would not be allowed.
“It does actually make it a lot more restrictive,” said Mayor George Bridge.
“The public’s going to be quite shocked, in a way, because where they go now (to smoke) they can’t go at the end of the day.”
Councillor Mark MacKenzie expressed concern about town staff having to enforce the ban.
“It’s hardly fair for our staff to be facing this,” he stated.
Bridge pointed out Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has a single inspector for smoking violations and the OPP have advised they won’t enforce the ban itself, but will respond to any altercations resulting from enforcement efforts.
“The OPP are saying unless there’s an aggressor, they wont’ step in,” said Bridge. “I see why the province did it, and public health why they want it, but again it’s hardly enforceable with our local bylaws.”
Lubbers said he feels the situation will improve as people get used to the new rules.
Under the provincial legislation, anyone smoking or vaping where prohibited may be charged with an offence and subject to a fine ($1,000 for a first offence, $5,000 for any further offence) if convicted.
“It’ll be a learning curve for everyone … but I think over time it will prove effective,” said Lubbers.
A full staff report on the new regulations will be presented at the April 2 council meeting.