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Council passes motion to draft non-smoking bylaw

Parents who smoke may have to butt out while they’re driving with their children, after Athabasca town council voted in favour of drafting a bylaw that would outlaw the practice.

Parents who smoke may have to butt out while they’re driving with their children, after Athabasca town council voted in favour of drafting a bylaw that would outlaw the practice.

Councillor Tim Verhaeghe presented the proposed bylaw to council during last Tuesday’s meeting, stating several reasons why Athabasca should have a bylaw in place.

“I remember as a kid my parents smoked in the car, and I found it very uncomfortable, but there was nothing I could say because the parents are the bosses,” said Verhaeghe.

He also stated that in the past, Athabasca has been a leader in proactive approaches to detering smoking in public places. The town passed a bylaw to ban smoking in public places such as bars and restaurants before Alberta made a province-wide decision to ban smoking in public establishments.

If a bylaw does come into force, Athabasca won’t be the only community to have one. The City of Leduc and the Town of Okotoks already have bylaws in place where if a driver is caught smoking in a vehicle with children, they receive a fine of $100 the first time and every subsequent fine is $200.

Who would enforce the law, how effective it would be and how to make the bylaw known to visitors were some of the issues brought up by council.

“How difficult would it be to enforce that? I worry about having bylaws in the books that won’t be enforced,” said councillor Christine Nelson.

Council discussed posting signs at the town limits regarding the law if it were to pass.

“What is our due diligence of making the public aware of this law?” asked CAO Topinka.

Council passed a motion to draft the bylaw by a margin of 5-1. Councillor Paula Evans was opposed. “I believe in education rather than enforcement,” she said.

Town council voted 5-1 in favour of keeping their rate of pay for 2011 the same. Councillor Lionel Cherniwchan voted against it.

Cherniwchan said his reasoning for his vote was the range in pay for councillors in different municipalities.

“I don’t disagree with the intent of keeping the pay rate the same, it’s the differences between municipalities,” he said.

Town council voted 5-1 in favour of hosting an open invitation formal dinner event on July 29, in conjunction with the centennial celebration weekend at the end of July.

After much discussion regarding whether the town should host a formal dinner event for past councillors, provincial and federal government representatives, and if it would be an open or closed event, it was decided the dinner should be open to anyone to celebrate Athabasca’s historical weekend.

Council contemplated not having a formal dinner altogether, because of the idea that the dinner would only be for provincial and federal government representatives, but because initial invitations had already been sent out to a unknown number of representatives, not going through with it would tarnish the town’s image.

“It’s a good chance to showcase our town. If we don’t do it now, we might look like a joke. The wheels are in motion and we have to go with it,” explained councilor Tim Verhaeghe.

Tim Verhaeghe made the motion to have a closed formal dinner, but no one seconded it. Councillor Richard Verhaeghe then made a motion to have it opened, which was accepted by council.

Councillor Lionel Cherniwchan said an event like this should be done to the nines, and the invitation list should not only include government representatives, but also people who have been a part of Athabasca’s history.

“Let’s put on a function that the town can be proud of. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well,” he said.

He was the only councillor opposed to the idea of an open dinner and felt the dinner should be by invitation only.

Councillor Paula Evans fired back, saying there are people among the public who have been instrumental to Athabasca’s history.

“People from the town have been part of the history of the town. I think it’s a crime to leave out the public,” she stated.

The cost per plate wasn’t discussed at the Dec. 21 meeting, but will be at future meetings.

The Knights of Columbus Park, located near the old Pleasant Valley Lodge, won’t be up for sale, but council will meet with members of the Athabasca Reformed Congregation and the Knights of Columbus to discuss what may be done with the park in the future.

Council voted 5-1 in favour of not selling the park. Councillor Tim Verhaeghe voted against the motion.





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