City council would like to kick butts off Winnipeg patios -- but it's unclear when or even if an outdoor smoking ban will happen.
In an unexpected move Wednesday, council approved a plan to ask provincial health authorities to investigate the idea of banning smoking on outdoor patios.
Couns. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) and Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) had only hatched the plan in the morning, when they authored a motion to encourage the provincial government to consider including outdoor patios in the list of prohibited smoking locations under the Non-Smokers Health Protection Act.
The idea was expected to wind up at council's executive policy committee in July. But after Mayor Sam Katz pushed to debate the plan right away, council voted 14-2 in favour of the idea, with Couns. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) and Ross Eadie (Mynarski) voting against it.
"I've listened to doctors talk about the tragic results of second-hand smoke," Katz said following the meeting. Katz said he believes smokers have rights, "but I think you would also defend the rights of people who do not want to be impacted."
'I've listened to doctors talk about the tragic results of second-hand smoke' -- Mayor Sam Katz, in supporting the ban
The ban, as proposed by Havixbeck and Vandal, would affect restaurants and bars with outdoor seating and standing areas that allow smoking.
More than 40 Canadian municipalities have similar bans, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa. Yukon, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have also legislated bans on smoking in public places.
The city could go ahead and ban smoking on patios in Winnipeg without the province's permission, said Murray Gibson, the executive director of the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance (MANTRA).
Gibson encouraged the city to move forward with the ban, saying it would encourage the province to follow suit.
There is a precedent for this, as former North Kildonan councillor Mark Lubosch convinced his council colleagues to approve an indoor smoking ban the province later emulated. Manitoba was the first province in Canada to ban smoking in indoor public areas and workplaces in 2004.
"Ten years ago, we banned smoking in indoor public places and 10 years later we still haven't moved from that position to decrease the number of smokers in outdoor places at all," Gibson said. "We still have some convoluted regulations regarding what constitutes a place where people can or cannot smoke."
Starting next month, smoking on playgrounds and beaches in provincial parks will also be illegal. But the province isn't considering an outdoor smoking ban, said Sharon Blady, the provincial minister of healthy living and seniors. She encouraged the city to proceed on its own.
Havixbeck said that isn't quite the case, as provincial health inspectors enforce city regulations and handle the complaints. The city would prefer the province lead the process, rather than recreate a situation where the city enacts a bylaw, only to see it superseded by the province.
"It's their inspectors and their legislation," she said.
Havixbeck's motion calls for further research into the implications of the ban and consultations with restaurants and other businesses.
A MANTRA survey released in May suggested 67 per cent of Manitobans would support a patio smoking ban. Eight of 10 respondents said they thought the 2004 indoor public smoking ban made their community a healthier environment, Gibson said.
Saffron's Restaurant owner John Kolevris, who allows smoking on his 110-seat Corydon Avenue patio, said he wouldn't be opposed to an outdoor ban. Saffron's patio has a designated area for non-smokers and Kolevris estimates only 10 per cent of his patrons smoke on the patio.
A ban would temporarily affect business, he surmised. "You're going to see people (smoking) 10 feet out from the patio, out there on the sidewalks, making a mess. Whose business is it going to be cleaning that up?"
Scott Jocelyn, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said some Winnipeg restaurants already use smoke-free patios as a selling point.
"The reality was when people could no longer smoke in the building, there was a re-education period and people just sort of get used to it," Jocelyn said. "It's hard to believe when you think back now that you could ever smoke in a restaurant."
-- with files from Oliver Sachgau
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