Pot brings the smoking-in-public-parks issue to light in Parksville

The city is behind other municipalities in the region when it comes to its smoking bylaws, according to Island Health

Coun. Al Greir says residents complained to him all summer about people smoking — both cigarettes and marijuana — in Parksville’s public parks.

Grier said this week the election of the federal Liberals and their promises to loosen the laws around marijuana should have the city looking more closely at fines for those caught smoking in city parks, “especially those smoking marijuana.”

“Maybe marijuana will be legalized and we will have more and more smokers of marijuana in the park,” Greir said near the end of a council meeting on Monday night.

Mayor Marc Lefebvre said he was recently in contact with Dr. Paul Hasselback, Island Health’s medical health officer for the central Island area.

“He is going to recommend we ban smoking in all public parks,” said Lefebvre.

In April, the mayor didn’t seem to think this was a pressing issue for the city.

“My initial reaction is that I don’t think it’s a problem,” Lefebvre told The NEWS when asked if the city could benefit from a more stringent ban on smoking. “I have not been told ever, ever, ever that ‘Hey someone is smoking too much in here.’”

In that April story, Hasselback called Parksville “an anomaly” for its lack of local regulation around cigarette smoke.

“Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo have some of the better (smoking) bylaws on the Island and they implemented those bylaws years ago… Parksville sits in the centre and hasn’t addressed this issue at all,” he said.

Hasselback also said Island Health sent the City of Parksville a letter in early 2015 suggesting it consider a bylaw that would harmonize smoking regulations on Vancouver Island.

He confirmed that on Wednesday and reiterated his comments from earlier this year.

“Yes, Parksville should be doing something,” said Hasselback. “We have had conversations.”

Hasselback also said amendments to the provincial Tobacco Control Act — which has passed third reading in the Legislature — might provide clarity on the issue for municipalities like Parksville.

At the city council meeting Monday night, Greir questionned the effectiveness of any non-smoking bylaw the city would pass, in terms of the availability of bylaw officers.

“I know that if we put a bylaw through we won’t be able to enforce it,” said Greir.

Lefebvre said imposing some fines would be better than imposing none. “We don’t always catch all the people who speed, but when we do catch them they are fined,” said the mayor.

— with files from Candace Wu

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