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Halton Hills fireworks ban off the table - for now - following tied council vote

Motion to conduct public survey on the topic coming to next council meeting
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The saga of fireworks in Halton Hills has taken another unexpected turn.

In a 5-5 vote, a previously-endorsed motion to ban the use and sales of personal fireworks in the community was defeated during Monday's (May 27) Halton Hills Council meeting.

Councillors Chantal Garneau, Jane Fogal, Jason Brass, Mike Albano and Mayor Ann Lawlor voted in favour of the ban while Councillors D’Arcy Keene, Bob Inglis, Ron Norris, Joseph Racinsky and Alex Hilson opposed the motion. Councillor Clark Somerville was absent.

Several councillors in the ‘nay’ group expressed concern about the process that was followed on the divisive topic, as council had originally asked staff to bring forward a report with a motion that leaves the current fireworks by-law status quo until a public survey can be conducted.

But after a lengthy debate at the May 6 meeting, Garneau proposed an amendment to the motion to instead implement the ban, which was narrowly supported 6-5 at that time.

Following the tied vote that defeated the matter Monday, Racinsky indicated he will be resurrecting the original motion at the next council meeting that directs staff to proceed with hiring a consultant to conduct a statistically valid survey on fireworks as soon as possible.

“We value transparency and accountability at this council; I think we ought to (follow) a better process,” he said during the meeting as he voiced support for the survey, as did Keene and Inglis.

Norris - who voted in favour of the ban earlier this month, then against the motion Monday - spoke about a conversation he recently had with a neighbour that got him thinking.

“He said he supported the ban, but (asked), why did we not talk to people about it?”

Norris added that even though he personally still supports the ban, he also thinks council needs to listen to what residents are saying about their desire to be involved in the process.

“Let’s do this survey and move forward,” he said.

But others around the council table contended that local residents have already had time to share their input, and they’ve been doing so via email since the controversial topic came up three weeks ago.

Two residents also attended Monday’s meeting, with one speaking in favour of the ban and the other taking issue with the lack of public input.

Fogal and Lawlor said they don’t think public surveys are the right approach on topics that relate to health, referring to a report from Dillon Consulting that detailed the potential effects of fireworks on animals, the environment and human health.

Garneau said the sheer cost of a survey that would involve 450 random residents was also a factor that influenced her to bring the ban motion forward in the first place.

She and Lawlor characterized the survey as a “waste of money” that may not get council any further ahead in its decision making process.

Town Communications Director Alex Fuller said she estimates the cost would be under $25,000 for the consultant to develop the survey, execute it and parse through the data.

The matter will be back on the council agenda June 17.

Under the current Halton Hills bylaw, which was revised by council last year, local residents are allowed to buy and discharge personal 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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