British Columbia

Balloon ban motion defeated by Vancouver Park Board

The Vancouver Park Board has decided to deflate a proposal to ban balloons in all city parks.

Majority felt the proposal, which received national attention, was too far reaching with not enough study

The Vancouver Park defeated a motion to ban balloons in parks and community centres. (CBC)

The Vancouver Park Board has deflated a proposal to ban balloons in all city parks. 

In a 5-2 vote, commissioners rejected the motion, which had gained national attention since it was introduced last week.  

Green Party Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon, who introduced the motion, said its most important effect would be to let people know the environmental hazards of balloons.

"We really need some education about this. Do people really understand the consequences of their actions when they have helium balloons, when you leave balloons in the park, when you have water balloons and they explode?" he said. 

"Responsible people put their trash into buckets, but not everyone does that, and these are very serious consequences for our wildlife."

The Canadian Paediatric Society agreed in 2012 that balloons are the most common non-food item children choke on. Balloons have also been blamed for power outages in B.C. after they have become entangled in power lines, including a power outage for much of Granville Island during the Fringe Festival earlier this month. 

But aside from Mackinnon and the other Green Party commissioner, the Park Board ultimately felt education was a better idea than prohibition.

"There is a general consensus that we do not want to use ranger time on this and I agree that nobody wants to be policing children and anything like that," said commissioner Catherine Evans. 

Other board members expressed concern community centres and restaurants that operate on Park Board land hadn't been consulted, and that park rangers had better things to do with their time, including cleaning up used needles

There was also an amendment to the motion so it would only apply to helium balloons, but that failed by a 4-3 margin.  ​

'I'm very surprised by the attention'

After the motion was revealed, it gained significant attention and provoked a protest by clowns — a development Mackinnon said caught him by surprise.

"I'm very surprised by the attention. I thought this would be a little motion, I would be labelled no fun Mackinnon, and we would move on," he said.

Despite the failed motion, he's heartened by the public debate it produced.

"I am pleased that we had this conversation," he said to commissioners, minutes before his motion failed.

But he predicted it wouldn't be the last time a balloon ban would come up at the park board table. 

"We will have to change the way we act, whether it's now or later. The time is coming when our world is becoming filled with toxic things that are killing it. 

"While the earth will go on forever, we may not."