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City council lights wick on fireworks restrictions, new regulations

'With a population of 150,000 … we’ve had 35 complaints. To me that seems quite minimal to be spending any time, effort and attention,' says councillor
2017-08-03 Illuminate Barrie Fireworks 5

Feedback on dimming fireworks in Barrie neighbourhoods could be on the horizon.

City staff could get public feedback and do a phone poll, for as much as $5,000, on restricting fireworks in residential areas, and report back to Barrie councillors with the results.

Councillors approved a motion to this effect Wednesday night at the finance and responsible governance committee meeting. It still requires general committee and city council approval.

But councillors had more questions than answers about fireworks feedback and a poll.

Coun. Sergio Morales asked: “What is it exactly we want to find out? The thing about polls is … if you get 50/50, what do you do? If you get 80/20, what do you do? And if you get 20/80, what do you do?

“What do we want to find out? Do people think there’s an issue? Do they want to ban all holidays? Some holidays?”

In June 2021, council changed the city’s regulatory matters bylaw.

Without a business licence for fireworks or a pyrotechnic display, and/or an applicable special event permit, fireworks are only permitted in Barrie on Victoria Day, Canada Day and New Year’s Day, and for the duration of the Lunar New Year and Diwali, the five-day Festival of Lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world, usually sometime between October and November.

Barrie’s noise bylaw prohibits the detonation of fireworks after 11 p.m., but there had previously been no provisions for times in the regulatory matters bylaw when fireworks could go off.

Coun. Ann-Marie Kungl has said concerns related to noise in residential neighbourhoods impacting young families, veterans, shift workers and the well-being of pets, along with garbage left from fireworks and enforcement issues when people let them off days after the permitted time frame.

“This wasn’t tagged to a particular cultural event or a cultural group or the city (of Barrie) on how fireworks are used,” Kungl said of the planned probe. “This is absolutely not meant to be discriminatory.

“I really want to be clear,” she added. “This has nothing to do with any type of way in which any cultural group has used fireworks or uses fireworks in celebrations.”

But whether the consultation and poll are necessary was questioned.

Rebecca James-Reid, general manager of Access Barrie, said Service Barrie received 35 complaints about fireworks in 2023.

“So with a population of 150,000 … we’ve had 35 complaints,” said Coun. Bryn Hamilton. “To me that seems quite minimal to be spending any time, effort and attention.”

The Ward 10 councillor said she’s had no complaints, while Ward 7 Coun. Gary Harvey said he’s had one or two complaints in five-plus years on council.

Both Ward 1 Coun. Clare Riepma and Ward 2 Coun. Craig Nixon, however, said they’ve had many complaints.

Mayor Alex Nuttall questioned the effectiveness of tighter fireworks regulations.

“As our CAO (Michael Prowse) once said to me, ‘you can’t legislate stupid’,” Nuttall said. “And it doesn’t matter what culture we’re talking about, whether it’s July first or Christmas Eve to if it’s Diwali or … we can keep going on and on, there’s going to be somebody going out at 1 a.m., setting off some fireworks.

“What are the questions we are trying to answer?” he said of the poll. “Private fireworks versus public fireworks. Should we have no fireworks. One of the questions I’d really like asked is do you think the city could enforce no fireworks? 

“I’d like to drill down on what it is that we’re asking that will then inform our action.” Nuttall said.

Coun. Jim Harris said he has similar concerns.

“What problem are we trying to solve?” he asked. “Will the remedy that comes forward be even remotely able to address the problem?”

The Building Barrie platform on the city’s website would be used to get community feedback, then a random sample phone poll of 1,000 people would be done.

“They keep calling until they get 1,000 people who answer the survey,” said James-Reid.

General committee is next scheduled to meet Feb. 28.

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Bob Bruton

About the Author: Bob Bruton

Bob Bruton is a full-time BarrieToday reporter who covers politics and city hall.
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