Municipalities have rights on federal, provincial territory

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer




Municipalities are used to stepping aside when senior levels of government flex their muscle.

That is seen locally with the situating of wind turbines, which is a provincial responsibility, and the establishment of telecommunications towers, which is a federal jurisdiction.

But municipalities have override powers of their own in areas for which they are responsible. That includes regulating second-hand smoke on federal and provincial land.

The question arose this week as Norfolk council passed a bylaw governing the use of tobacco and other smokeable products in public areas.

Some on council were surprised that Norfolk could impose such a bylaw on the beaches of Turkey Point and Long Point. Both are within the boundaries of Norfolk County but are provincial jurisdiction.

“You can (act) so long as you are within your mandate,” CAO David Cribbs said Tuesday.

Court cases involving municipal powers at federal airports have helped establish this principle. Businesses at major airports such as Pearson International in Toronto have challenged the right of municipalities to tax and regulate them like other businesses.

Cribbs says a body of case law has evolved which establishes that municipalities can tax and regulate on federal and provincial property so long as they are acting within their allotted powers.

Norfolk council applauded modifications to the smoking bylaw that have made it more palatable politically.

The draft bylaw that came to council last May allowed for $10,000 fines and bans from parks and other public spaces for up to a year.

The maximum fine in the revised bylaw is $250. As well, the bylaw allows for a series of warnings and consultations before penalties kick in.

Michelle Lyne, a community health program manager with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, says the bylaw’s focus “is to establish social norms and help people understand what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.”

“That is the spirit the bylaw is written in,” she said.

The bylaw forbids the smoking and vaping of any product in public parks and other recreational spaces. It also forbids the smoking and vaping of any product within nine metres of an entrance to a public building.

“Progressive enforcement is the way to go,” said Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus.

“We’re not using the stick but giving people warnings.”