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Halton Hills Council narrowly votes in favour of fireworks ban

Decision to be ratified at next council meeting, come into effect on Sept. 1
USED 062722ActonCanadaDay
Canada Day fireworks over Acton's Fairy Lake, which would not be affected by the ban.

The upcoming Victoria Day and Canada Day weekends will be the last time local residents can legally purchase and set off personal fireworks at their homes in Halton Hills.

In an unexpected turn of events during their Monday meeting, Halton Hills Council members voted 6-5 in favour of banning the sale and discharge of ‘low-hazard’ fireworks - the type the average person can buy - effective Sept. 1.

‘High hazard’ display fireworks used by professionals at large community events, like the Acton Canada Day festivities, would still be permitted, but council did ask staff to look into potential alternatives for those as well and report back.

The ban decision appears to go against council’s own direction to staff at a workshop last month, when the local politicians asked staff to bring forward a recommendation report with a motion that leaves the current fireworks bylaw status quo until a public survey can be conducted.

Following a lengthy debate on Monday though, Councillor Chantal Garneau proposed an amendment to the motion to instead implement the ban, with Mayor Ann Lawlor suggesting a further change to make it effective Sept. 1. This decision will be ratified at the next council meeting May 27.

“As we evolve and learn and get more information, then we need to also change what we do,” said Garneau. “The information that’s come to light is that fireworks cause harm to wildlife, to pets, to people, to property.”

She added, “It’s important to do the right thing. The safety of others trumps my right to have fun.”

Council received a report from Dillon Consulting that detailed the potential effects of fireworks on animals, the environment and human health.

In contrast, council also heard a presentation from the Canadian National Fireworks Association that countered much of what was said in the report.

It became clear that council members’ sentiments are also divided on the topic.

“I guess we should be banning candles then because they cause harm, they cause damage,” said Councillor Clark Somerville.

“Im not supporting this. I don’t like the lack of public consultation, (and) that we are going with something that’s completely different than the staff report.”

He added he wants to do the community survey and see the data before making a decision.

“If our community comes back (in the survey) saying ‘ban them,’ I’ll lead the charge,” Somerville noted.

Councillors D’Arcy Keene and Bob Inglis echoed Somerville’s concerns about the lack of public consultation, while Councillor Joseph Racinsky contended that a ban would only “take away fireworks from law-abiding, respectful citizens” and illegal activity would continue.

Meanwhile Councillor Jane Fogal, who supported Garneau’s motion, said the “harmful effects” detailed in the Dillon report can’t be ignored, and matters that relate to health shouldn’t be put to a community vote, similar to when smoking in public spaces was banned.

“I think it (a fireworks ban) is the responsible thing to do,” she said, with Mayor Lawlor sharing this sentiment.

The head of council said she feels that conducting a survey “would simply prolong the conversation,” and the funds that would’ve been devoted to it could be used for other things in tight financial times.

Councillors Jason Brass, Mike Albano and Ron Norris also spoke in favour of Garneau’s motion amendment.

Under the current bylaw, which was revised by council last year, local residents are allowed to buy and discharge low-hazard fireworks on Victoria Day, Canada Day, Lunar New Year, Diwali and New Year’s Eve.


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Melanie Hennessey

About the Author: Melanie Hennessey

Melanie Hennessey serves as the editor for HaltonHillsToday. She has lived in Halton Hills for almost two decades and has spent the past several years covering the community as a journalist.
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