Irek’s Votes – January 21, 2019

ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_ IREK VOTED COUNCIL VOTED TYPE OF ITEM
8.1 & 8.2 Bike Share and Walk Wheel Windsor Yes 10-0 Presentation
11.1 Cannabis Retail Stores – Opt OUT Yes 3-8 Delegation
11.1 Cannabis Retail Stores – opt IN No 8-3 Delegation

 

ITEM 8.1 & 8.2 Bike Share and Walk Wheel Windsor:  City Council took an important step by voting to endorse the strategic direction for the development of a Bike Share Program and the Active Transportation Master Plan.

What makes the Walk Wheel Windsor process so impressive is the level of community consultation with over 4,000 residents registering their ideas and concerns whether through surveys, pop-up booths, stakeholder workshops, community roadshows and open streets.  Fantastic engagement!

The Active Transportation Master Plan has put forward an ambitious goal: that 20 per cent of all commute trips will be made by walking, cycling or transit by 2041.  That doubles the current mode share.

The report provides a lot of interesting data – and one in particular stands out:  Whereas Inner-City Neighbourhoods have about 22.5 per cent of mode share (walking, cycling, transit combined), Newer Communities – such as the ones we find in East Riverside – have only 3.8 per cent mode share, while mature neighbourhoods – such as the ones in Forest Glade – have only 8.3 per cent mode share.

To improve walking, cycling and transit in these neighbourhoods will require commitment and strategic investment.

ITEM 11.1 Cannabis Retail Stores:  I voted to Opt-Out of Cannabis Retail stores.  Here is how I got to this decision.

Every city I looked at which allows cannabis retail stores  – even the most progressive ones like Denver, Vancouver and  Seattle – give local governments the same five powers to regulate the location of cannabis retail stores:

  • Cannabis shops cannot be located within 300m of a school or daycare
  • Cannabis shops cannot be located within 300m of playgrounds, parks and libraries
  • Cannabis shops cannot be located within 300m of addiction treatment centres
  • Cannabis shops cannot be located within 300m of each other
  • All of these cities also have broad zoning powers that allows them to establish zones in the City where cannabis stores can and cannot locate

The Government of Ontario has provided our municipalities like Windsor none of those powers – except a 150m buffer from schools.

And so – that led me to ask five basic questions at City Council:

Q1: Elizabeth Kishkon Park has a very popular playground in close proximity to a property that is zoned commercial.  Under current regulations – could the City prohibit a cannabis shop from opening near the playground at Elizabeth Kishkon Park?  NO

Q2: If you notice – LCBOs and Beer Stores are not located within residential neighbourhoods as they tend to be located on main roads like Walker Road, Howard Avenue, Tecumseh Road.  In Ward 7 – we have residential plazas in Forest Glade Plaza and a new plaza soon to be built on McNorton and Banwell Road.    Does the City have the power to prohibit cannabis shops from residential neighbourhoods?  NO

Q3: There is a methadone clinic – an Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre – located in the plaza on Tecumseh Road and Forest Glade Drive.   Does the City have the authority to prohibit cannabis shops next to addiction clinics like the one in Forest Glade?  NO

Q4: There is a children’s daycare centre on Wildwood & Banwell Road.   Does the City have the power to prohibit a cannabis shop next to the children’s daycare in Forest Glade under the current regulations? NO

Q5:  Under current regulations – if five cannabis stores wanted to open next to each other on Banwell Road or Forest Glade Drive, would the City have the power to prevent such clustering? NO

CONCLUSION:

The advantages of opting-in for cannabis shops are clear:  there are economic benefits + also increased availability and convenience for residents.

But that is only half of the debate.

The critical issue – one that is just as important if not more so than economics – is the regulatory framework surrounding retail cannabis.

Specifically – the key question: where can retail cannabis stores locate.

It is so important – in fact – that even the most progressive cities have the same five powers:

  • Cities can ban retail cannabis stores within 300m of a schools or daycare
  • Cities can ban cannabis stores within 300m of playgrounds, parks and libraries
  • Cities can ban cannabis stores within 300m of addiction treatment centres
  • Cities can ban cannabis stores within 300m of each other
  • And cities have zoning powers to permit or prohibit cannabis retail in specific parts of the city

Cities in Ontario have been given none of these powers – except for a 150m buffer from schools.

And so let’s be clear about what it means to opt-in:

  • It means cannabis stores may open near playgrounds and parks
  • It means cannabis stores may open near children’s daycare centres
  • It means cannabis stores may open near addiction treatment centres
  • It means cannabis stores may open in residential plazas and neighbourhoods
  • It means no control over the number of stores

In short – the Government of Ontario is asking us to buy a car with no brakes and no seat-belts.

Cities such as Denver, Seattle and Vancouver demonstrate that you can be progressive, pro cannabis and be pragmatic at the same time.  They have rolled out a model for retail cannabis that is responsible.

I too am ready to support retail cannabis under those same conditions – but not under the Government of Ontario’s framework and not at all costs.

For this reason – I voted to Opt-Out.