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Plan for fireworks survey loses sizzle with Barrie councillors

'This survey isn’t a fact-finding mission, it’s an opinion-finding mission,' says Coun. Sergio Morales, instead urging residents to 'call out your neighbours when need be'
Fireworks over Kempenfelt Bay in Barrie are shown in a file photo.

Plans to poll Barrie residents about city fireworks regulations have fizzled.

City councillors defeated a motion Wednesday night to have staff get public feedback and do a phone survey, for as much as $5,000, on restricting fireworks in residential areas, and report back with the results.

“This survey isn’t a fact-finding mission, it’s an opinion-finding mission,” said Coun. Sergio Morales.

The Ward 9 councillor also said there’s a better solution than tougher regulation. 

“Talk to your neighbours, get to know your neighbours, call out your neighbours when need be, have tough conversations and then let’s just be better citizens to each other,” he said.

Six councillors voted against getting public feedback and having a survey, four voted in favour.

“I’m not sure what we’re going to try to accomplish with doing this and using some taxpayers money to do it,” said Coun. Gary Harvey.

“I just don’t know if we achieve anything, and think we’re sending a false sense of hope that we’re going to come out with a better outcome than we have today,” said Deputy Mayor Robert Thomson.

“I don’t believe that a review is going to solve anything. I think it’s actually going to be a little more divisive," he added. 

“What we aim to achieve from this motion is really unclear,” said Coun. Nigussie Nigussie.

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 relate 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.

“I’m not coming at this with a pro or con fireworks,” she said. “I’m hearing there is a public interest.”

Coun. Amy Courser said she wants to see the numbers.

“If we don’t go out and actually fact-find things, figure out exactly where it sits, then we can’t make good decisions,” she said.

Service Barrie says it received 35 complaints about fireworks in 2023, although Courser said she believes that number is not indicative of all complaints.

“I get a lot of complaints and phone calls when it’s firecracker time,” said Coun. Clare Riepma. “I’d like to see if there are some alternatives available the community would be interested in looking at.”

“We need to have a study and get a better idea of what the folks, the population of Barrie thinks,” said Coun. Craig Nixon.

Mayor Alex Nuttall said this isn’t about holidays, religious or otherwise. 

“It’s about, from where I sit, which is a dad having his daughter running to his bedroom in the middle of the night, scared,” he said. 

A city memo says staff had developed a series of questions to gain an understanding of residents’ general awareness of the city’s fireworks bylaw. Staff were also to look for public opinion on permitting fireworks on public property for community events hosted by the city and allowing them on private property during approved holidays.

Staff were recommending an online consultation on to include the broader community and allow residents the opportunity to provide feedback through a survey.

Questions included awareness of current bylaws, if respondents had set off fireworks, on which holidays this should be allowed, if public fireworks — those on Canada Day, for example — should be allowed, could the bylaws be enforced and should there be a complete ban, and if so, why. 

A random phone poll, with a statistically valid sample of 1,000 residents, would also have been conducted to help inform city council’s decisions.

Its questions would have included whether fireworks should be allowed on private property, on which holidays, should only city-run fireworks be allowed and again, should there be a complete prohibition of fireworks.

The online feedback would have taken place between March 8 and March 29 this year, the telephone poll during the week of April 1.