Food For Thought
A couple of staff reports hit Barrie councillors’ desks this week, resulting in some revisions which may or may not mean anything at the end of the day.
A report recommending that Barrie be among the Ontario centres bidding for the opening round of pot stores was discussed by general committee, and will likely be adopted by council this coming Monday. The province is conducting a lottery for an initial 25 locations, and municipalities need to decide by Jan. 22 if they are in or out.
So, Barrie, barring unforeseen circumstances, is in and if successful in the lottery will earn the right to open one store. To be sure, more locations will follow down the road, but right now we are talking about a competition for one of 25 locations.
Sounds like a lot of fuss for not much of anything, but even so committee spent some time discussing the report’s recommendations, and adding to it. Among those recommendations is a condition that would restrict a pot store from operating closer than 300 metres from a number of “sensitive uses,” including schools, parks and open spaces, day care centres and nurseries, and locations that retail alcohol.
That would seem to put much of the city off limits to a pot store, including the downtown given the presence of a liquor store on Mary Street.
The whole exercise might be moot in any regard, as the only restriction the province has placed on retail pot locations is that they be at least 150 metres from schools. And as you may well know, the province has the last word when it comes to this sort of thing. The City can ask, but the province is under no obligation to listen.
Another decision made by committee that is likely to mean nothing is the addition of a clause to ban the smoking of pot on city sidewalks, even though it is now a legal product. Currently, the smoking of cannabis comes with the same restrictions as tobacco use, meaning it’s not allowed in parks, enclosed public places, etc.
However, as anyone who has ever attended a bar or club knows, smokers frequently gather near the front door to puff away, and the province has aligned the smoking of pot with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, meaning that as far as the province is concerned, pot smoking can be allowed anywhere people legally smoke a cigarette.
It’s possible that Queen’s Park may be amenable to changing its rules, but I’m betting that’s not likely. At any rate, how is the City going to enforce such a restriction without more bylaw enforcement working nights and the wee hours of the morning? Could happen, but don’t hold your breath. As I understand it, there were only 12 smoking-related offences in all of last year.
The other report related to the possible privatization, either through sale or lease, of the Barrie marina. Back in 2016, council decided to take a look as to whether the City should be in the marina business at all, following some service complaints from marina patrons. To really no one’s surprise, the report recommended the marina stay in the City’s hands, saying there was no identifiable advantage to doing otherwise.
So, it’s status quo, with the possibility of some service upgrades paid for through marina surpluses; the place pays for itself, with no contributions from the overall tax base. However, one councillor did feel the need to say that the City remains open to future bids to privatize operations. If the issue does come up again, here are a couple of points to consider.
- Although the marina is self-sustaining, it is connected to the waterfront upgrades financed by many millions of taxpayer money. So, all that taxpayer money spent to provide an attractive and convenient location to a future private operator? Doesn’t sound like much of a plan for Barrie or the taxpayers.
- The report also suggested that a future operating model could include getting rid of the rule that prioritizes Barrie residents for marina slips. The thinking is that non-residents with bigger boats would pay more to access the marina, perhaps paying for service upgrades. Right now the marina is described as low-fee, low-service, although that is a bit misleading as marina users pay out-of-pocket for related services like winter storage and parking. When these costs are added to the mix, the marina is more of a moderate-fee, low-service model. Even so, there are relatively few complaints coming from patrons. The current model seems to work.
- If the City did go with a model that favoured non-residents over residents, would boaters be able to buy their way in? If so, the new out-of-town boaters would gain access to a marina at the centre of a lovely waterfront paid for by city taxpayers, and a location supported by past and present patrons.
Questions, questions … the devil, after all, is in the details.