Cornwall has all-out burning ban, including fuel-based fires, through council inaction

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – City council chambers were full Monday night as councillors discussed and ultimately upheld its previous move to ban open air burning in the city.

But, through a lack of action of putting a new bylaw on the books, it ultimately banned all burning in the city including propane and fuel-based appliances – an option the fire department allowed since the fall.

“Without a bylaw, we will follow the Fire Prevention and Protection Act, which prohibits open air burning in the province, including our submission which was the fuel-based appliances,” Fire Chief Pierre Voisine said.

As for what the “appliance” exemption was in the proposed bylaw, it was “outdoor fire pits and gas fired bowls fuelled by ethanol, propane or natural gas.”

If people break the provincial law, they could face fines up to $10,000.

The city’s half-instituted burning ban – no outdoor fires but grandfathered permit holders – was paused last fall to gather public consultation.

During Monday’s meeting, fire proponents Rodney Rivette and Terry Muir called for a “respectful compromise” rather than an all-out ban because the city’s own survey showed that a majority of 1,700 respondents don’t want a ban. Rivette called for a law with some teeth that had stiff penalties.

They also presented a petition with 2,000 signatures, which council accepted.

Later in the evening, Coun. Todd Bennett asked for a motion to reconsider drafting another bylaw with stricter regulations, but that was shot down.

Coun. Dean Hollingsworth took aim at his colleagues, suggesting they didn’t want to hear what the public had to say nor work on compromises. “Everybody said we should have public consultation because we’re going to listen to what the public has to say. Curious how that’s worked out isn’t it? You don’t have to listen to the numbers, so much for democracy. We don’t care. We’re doing what we want anyway.”

Some councillors and the mayor bristled at the suggestion that they didn’t care.

“If people want to take it upon themselves to have a bonfire, start camping!” Coun. Glen Grant retorted, suggesting the ban was driven by the protecting the health of Cornwall residents.

Council had rescinded the bylaw allowing open air burning in August, reverting the law to provincial legislation. “But it allowed for fuel-based appliances without permits. But in light of the fact that council hasn’t implemented that bylaw (tonight), then it’s a complete prohibition.”

Monday night’s move was to put a new bylaw on the books that would cement the ban but it was defeated.

There are 260 people in the city that still have a valid permit. The Ontario Fire Code under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, states there is an exception for fires that are approved by the chief fire official, in this case being the fire chief.

The discussion is not over. “We’re going to discuss this at another time,” Mayor Bernadette Clement said.