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Province should deal with smoke not cities: council

City council is upset with Fraser Health for asking it to change its smoking bylaw instead of going up the governmental food chain and requesting the provincial government make the rules the same across the province.

Fraser Health wants New Westminster to ban smoking from: within 7.5 metres of doors, windows and air intakes; restaurant and pub patios; parks, beaches and trails; public outdoor gathering places such as playgrounds, playing fields, stadiums; and bus stops.

The city has a smoking bylaw, but a staff report to council on Monday said enforcement is unnecessary because it has been made redundant by provincial regulations. The report said amending the bylaw would impose demands on staff resources

When asked by health authorities, some cities in the region have changed their bylaws, but others like Burnaby have resisted saying smoking restrictions are a health issue and should be taken up by the province.

"What we're getting is a bunch of checkerboard laws. Maple Ridge has done it, Vancouver has done it, but they're not all the same," said Coun. Bill Harper. "I have a tendency to agree with that."

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said it was the right move in the 1990s to develop regional health boards instead of the city-funded ones, so for the health authority to come local government instead of the province doesn't make sense.

"I think it strange they are coming to municipalities to engage in bylaws that vary from municipalities to municipalities, and the enforcement vary from municipality to municipality," said Puchmayr.

"To ask the local governments to spend resources what could be done with a stroke of a pen in Victoria [doesn't make sense]."

The issue caused quite a bit of debate at the council table Monday. Harper said banning smoking in all of public parks doesn't make sense when at the same time it's legal to smoke outside on the street as long as its outside the 7.5 metre barrier.

"Not only that but we can't enforce it. How can you enforce that?" said Harper. "We have trouble enforcing our bylaws now."

Council asked city staff to take into consideration the councillors' comments in coming up with its response to Fraser Health.

The report to council written by Keith Coueffin, head of the city's licensing and bylaw department, said the majority of the public are in favour of additional regulations, but there might be strong opposition from businesses that cater to smoking clientele.

"In addition, some businesses will likely raise concerns regarding an 'uneven playing field' if New Westminster imposes regulations that are not implemented in neighbouring communities such as Burnaby. Furthermore, the city can anticipate complaints from some citizens," wrote Coueffin.

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