Many of the issues and questions had been heard before, but the discussion on a proposed bylaw to ban smoking in enclosed public places moved out of council chambers and into the public forum.
Chapple and Emo held meetings Monday night and last Thursday, respectively, on the proposed bylaw that attracted business owners armed with straw polls, doctors with passion, former reeves, and even a Grade 8 student who delivered a memorized, eloquent speech on the dangers of smoking.
About 40 people attended the meeting in Emo while 20 were on hand in Chapple.
Jennifer McKibbon, health promoter with the Northwestern Health Unit, also was on hand at both meetings to answer questions and explain the health unit’s declaration of second-hand smoke as a health hazard.
She also praised Rainy River District for its interest in debating the issue.
“It’s incredible to me how people are talking about it in the Rainy River valley,” she said at Monday night’s meeting in Chapple. “This is not happening in Kenora. I commend you as a people.”
McKibbon added the May 31 deadline set by Dr. Pete Sarsfield, CEO and chief medical officer for the health unit, for district municipalities to indicate their intentions to pass such a bylaw is softer in Rainy River District.
Chapple council has tabled a draft of the bylaw, which will undergo second reading at its next meeting.
Council there also is trying to ensure all area municipalities will work together to pass such a bylaw to ensure “a level playing field” as Reeve Bill Clink put it.
Restaurant owners in both Emo and Chapple were the most vocal critics of the proposed bylaw. At the Emo meeting, Village Variety co-owner Pete McQuaker vehemently spoke out against it.
“My taxes are paid . . . [Dr. Pete Sarsfield] is taking our tax dollars to take us to court,” he argued.
McQuaker conducted an informal poll at his store and said the majority of people were against such a bylaw.
Kathy Nugent, owner of the Barwick Cafe, also took an informal poll. She asked people to reply to the question on a sheet of paper left in her restaurant—should the provincial government or the municipal government ban smoking?
Out of 72 respondents, 51 were non-smokers. And the overwhelming majority—71 out of 72—said the provincial government should enforce this bylaw, Nugent reported.
“I’m against the bylaw as you probably know,” she stated Monday at the beginning of the meeting in Chapple. “I don’t think it should be up to the municipality. How are we going to enforce it?”
But supporters of the proposed bylaw were the vocal majority at both meetings. Sarah O’Sullivan, a Grade 8 student at Donald Young School in Emo, delivered a speech laden with statistics.
“Help pass the smoking bylaw. We don’t have to become victims,” she said to applause.
McKibbon even referred to O’ Sullivan’s speech, which took third place at the recent Intermediate speech contest, throughout the evening as a source of facts.
Gerd O’ Sullivan, a public health nurse in Emo, said that, as a smoker, she supports the ban. She also offered window signs supporting the bylaw to anyone who wanted one.
“Why should people be forced to work where there is a health hazard?” she asked.
Three people submitted letters supporting the bylaw that were read Monday night at the Chapple meeting while 11 had submitted letters in Emo, almost all in favour of the bylaw.
Both councils planned to discuss the bylaw at their next meetings. Emo met last night (May 28) while Chapple will meet June 11.