Halifax aims for 30 smoking zones by end of week
Municipality says it is having trouble finding appropriate areas in downtown core
Anyone keeping track of Halifax's designated smoking areas map — a map of municipal properties where it's OK to smoke tobacco and cannabis — has likely noticed a glaring omission.
As of Monday afternoon, there were still no designated smoking areas on the peninsula. That's because the municipality is having difficulty finding places that would be in compliance with Nova Scotia's Smoke-free Places Act, which prohibits smoking within four metres of a door, open window or vent.
"So the challenge we're facing is finding locations in the downtown core that actually meet the Smoke-free Places Act," said Brendan Elliott, a spokesperson for the municipality.
"What we were finding is people were smoking in places that were already illegal before we brought in the bylaw amendments."
Challenge for businesses
Businesses can apply for designated smoking areas, but Elliott could not say how many have submitted the online form or what areas they're in. He suspects many are on the peninsula.
"That's where people are saying they have the most issues because we have the most people. Businesses have the challenge of not having their own property," he said.
He said the municipality is aiming to have 30 smoking zones established by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, Jacques Dubé, Halifax's chief administrative officer, said the municipality is spending about $1.5 million on one-time expenses related to cannabis legalization. That includes training, testing equipment and signage.
He said in the worst case, the costs related to cannabis legalization could be upwards of $3.5 million a year.
Dube said he anticipates Halifax's 311 line will likely need more staff to cover cannabis-related calls.
Anyone caught smoking in prohibited areas risks a fine, but in the beginning the plan is to hand out cards explaining the rules.
Too close to a school?
There are worries outside of the downtown area.
Rosemary McRoberts said she's concerned about her neighbourhood's designated smoking area. It's located across the street from Porters Lake Elementary School.
"There's unfortunately a lot of creeps out there and if they're being invited here to smoke a joint, a cigarette, whatever, then they have free access," she said.
McRoberts said she doesn't understand why the location — a park and ride across the street from the school — was chosen.
"Did they have it here thinking the people who want to smoke a joint want to pop on the bus and pop back on the bus so they're not smoking and driving? I don't know. Anywhere but here, I don't care. Or nowhere around kids," she said.
20-metre rule from schools, rec centres
But Elliott said the Porters Lake location is in compliance with Smoke-free Places Act.
"The province has said that 20 metres from a school or rec facility is an acceptable distance for smoking. Our location is outside of that so we're in compliance," he said.
Elliott said anyone who has a problem with locations of designated smoking areas should take it up with their MLA.
"If someone feels like there's a problem with it being too close, it's a provincial issue," he said.
But Elliott said the municipality is always open to reassessing areas and finding alternative locations.
"Ultimately, we want this to work for everybody," he said.
With files from Pam Berman and Angela MacIvor