County council ignores health
The Expositor (Brantford)
Fri 16 May 2003

It's hard to understand the thinking of Norfolk Mayor Rita Kalmbach and four Norfolk County councillors -- Roger Geysens, Ted Whitworth, Dean Morrison and Mike Columbus -- who refused to require county staff to obtain information about the economic impacts of smoke-free bylaws.

In doing so, these councillors ignored the results of a comprehensive survey of Norfolk residents which showed that a strong majority support making all workplaces and public places in the county 100 per cent smoke free. (Fifty-seven per cent of residents even support 100 per cent smoke-free bars, pubs and taverns).

The councillors also ignored another survey result showing that of the 27 per cent of Norfolk residents who smoke, half are seriously considering quitting.

In their repeated protestations of concern for the local business community, they demonstrated a fundamental ignorance of basic business activity affecting the county. County economic development staff pointed out to me at the meeting that most visitors and tourists to the region come from urban centres within a two-hour drive of the county. Toronto, Woodstock, London and Buffalo were specifically mentioned.

If they would look at the real world, these councillors would know that London and Woodstock will be 100 per cent smoke free later this year, all of New York state will be going 100 per cent smoke free on Aug. 1, and Toronto will be 90 per cent smoke free next June and is already well on the way there.

Countless other Ontario municipalities, including many others close to the county, are headed in the same direction.

In other words, visitors to the county will increasingly expect smoke-free as the norm - and will be disappointed.

Make no mistake: the refusal had nothing to do with whether or not to move a bylaw forward, but simply whether to obtain some information about the impact, real or perceived of such bylaws.

And just a note to Norfolk County bar and restaurant workers: not one of the councillors who voted down the economic study expressed any concern for your welfare, or noted that you deserve any protection in workplaces that are seriously contaminated with a major cause of lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.

Apparently, you can just go get a job somewhere else. Welcome to denial country.

Michael Perley
Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco

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