Woodstove debate in Parksville: to burn or to ban?

City staff will come back to city council with bylaw options

Kirk Oates questioned the political will of his colleagues Monday night as Parksville city council started a debate about bylaws that could change the use of woodstoves in the community.

The first-term councillor wants to ban the future installation of wood-burning appliances outright in city homes.

“We certainly have the ability to pass a bylaw that says no wood-burning appliances are allowed,” said Oates. “I think it behooves this council to look at that. I’m not sure the political will is here though.”

“People who want woodstoves can perhaps move to the regional district.”

Council did not have a bylaw to debate on Monday. What was in front of them was a recommendation from staff — spurred by a previous council request — asking for permission to develop a bylaw for future consideration.

Some members of council were concerned some residents would feel some pressure on their already-stretched pocketbooks if woodstoves were banned, citing the rising cost of other heat sources like electricity.

“It could pose a real hardship for people,” said Coun. Mary Beil.

A staff report from director of community planning Blaine Russell seemed to back Beil’s assertion.

“Many residents in Parksville are on fixed incomes and heating a home with wood is one of the most cost-effective methods available when compared to other options,” wrote Russell.

“I don’t know what the balance is, but I know people are sick from wood smoke,” said Coun. Sue Powell.

Mayor Marc Lefebvre seemed opposed to a total ban.

“It’s debatable that proper wood-burning stoves are a pollutant,” said Lefebvre. “The problem arises when you get someone who doesn’t do it properly, uses wet wood or something.”

The staff report made reference to Lefebvre’s point.

“It is unclear the burning of solid fuel (eg. wood or pellets) for residential heating purposes is causing broad air quality concerns within the city,” Russell wrote.

The staff report detailed regulations and woodstove exchange programs from various levels of senior governments.

Oates said this council “can choose to be at the forefront” of the issue. Coun. Al Greir wasn’t so sure a total ban is what is needed.

“I don’t think we need a knee-jerk reaction here,” said Greir

In the end, council unanimously agreed to instruct staff to come back with some bylaw options.

Council then discussed changes to its outdoor burning bylaws, instigated by burning in October of last year on land just outside the city boundary near Church Road that filled the area with smoke.

“That was a travesty — it should never have been allowed to happen,” said Lefebvre.

Oates advocated for a total ban on the outdoor burning of brush in the city and he believed a strong bylaw of that nature in Parksville could be of use to Lefebvre when he represents the city at the board table of the Regional District of Nanaimo.

“It would be helpful for our rep to the RDN to be able to say ‘look at what we did in Parksville, you guys should consider it’,” said Oates.

Like the woodstove issue, staff was directed to come back to council with bylaw options related to outdoor burning in the city.

• Oates, a national representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, was also demonstrative Monday night when he brought forth a motion asking council to write a letter in support of “saving” Canada Post.

Oates used a preamble to his motion from Canadian Union of Postal Workers, language that pointed the blame for a diminished postal service directly at the federal Conservatives. He also called Canada Post “part of the fabric of the country.”

Oates said hundreds of municipalities across the country have written similar letters to the federal minister responsible for Canada Post. His motion for Parksville to send a similar letter of support passed 5-1, with only Greir opposed (Coun. Leanne Salter was absent Monday night).

“To keep something alive that’s half dead is not in my best interest,” said Greir.

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