Halifax to miss target date for controversial smoking ban
Date pushed back so bars, businesses can apply for designated smoking zones
The Halifax Regional Municipality will miss its target date of Oct.1 to implement a controversial smoking ban on all municipal property, calling the original deadline "too optimistic."
Spokesperson Brendan Elliott said a new date has not been pinned down, but the ban will be in full effect by the time recreational cannabis is legalized in Canada on Oct. 17.
"We want to get this done right and we feel that by rushing to meet an artificial deadline that we created for ourselves just doesn't make sense," he said.
Regional council voted in July to ban vaping, cannabis and tobacco smoking on sidewalks, streets, all other municipal properties including parks, trails and playgrounds.
When a new date for the ban is decided, Elliott said the public will be notified through advertisements and social media.
City will open applications for smoking zones
One reason for the delay, Elliott said, is to allow bars and other private businesses to apply for designated smoking areas.
"We want to find a way to make the process fair for everyone who wants a designated smoking area," he said, adding there will be no fixed number of zones granted and no deadlines for applications.
Elliott said city staff are still determining the criteria for approving requested smoking zones and locations have not yet been decided.
"We're going to come up with locations on our own that make sense. We're also going to listen to those that are requesting them."
Fines 'will be a last resort'
Elliott said that bylaw enforcement officers and police — who will both be responsible for enforcing the ban — will encourage compliance as a first step, rather than immediately issuing fines.
Fines will range from $25 to $2,000.
"If someone was blatantly disregarding our conversation or was a repeat offender, we do need to have some teeth in that legislation that allows us to deter people from doing what is now considered to be illegal, but that will be a last resort for us."
Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais said Monday that enforcing the bylaw is "not necessarily" a good use of police resources.
The controversial ban has garnered criticism that it disproportionately affects vulnerable and marginalized people.