Red Deer is left without any fireworks regulations after city council could not agree on a new bylaw.
An amendment that would have exempted sparklers from a new municipal bylaw was defeated on Monday — as was the original bylaw presented to council by Red Deer Fire Chief Ken McMullen that would have prohibited all fireworks sales within city limits.
Council was split right down the middle on both votes, with Coun. Ken Johnston absent.
As McMullen did not receive council’s instructions for drafting an alternative bylaw, the fire chief left the meeting saying Red Deer effectively has no restrictions on any kind of fireworks sales.
“Of course” it would be better if a bylaw was in place to prevent injuries, said McMullen. He hopes to get direction on what kind of proposed bylaw he should bring back to council.
John Adria, of Uncle John’s Fireworks in Edmonton, had sent council a letter stating the proposed bylaw was too restrictive. He noted there were only two fireworks-related injuries in 10 years in Alberta.
While Adria considers firecrackers dangerous, he said sparklers and other small fireworks are no more harmful than a lot of other products legally sold.
Adria wants city council to discuss with representatives from the National Fireworks Association what would best meet their needs and address concerns.
“We’d be open to anything at this point,” said McMullen.
As of April 1, the Alberta branch of the federal fireworks code expired. It won’t be reinstated, leaving municipalities to come up with their own rules. McMullen said his proposed bylaw was the same as the former Alberta law.
He told council that even the sale of sparklers was never officially allowed before — although many retailers didn’t know this.
But councillors’ concerns ran the gamut.
Mayor Tara Veer noted council does not “discriminate” against the sale of birthday candles or other products that can cause injury.
Coun. Lawrence Lee did not see why buying sparklers should result in a fine.
Coun. Vesna Higham noted the defeated bylaw would only enforce the same products that were regulated for the past 30 years.
“I think council is losing perspective,” she said.
While many agreed with her, the bylaw could not be passed.
The Canadian National Fireworks Association conducted a poll of Red Deer residents earlier in April on consumer or family fireworks use. The poll, which surveyed 873 residents, found 73 per cent believe they should be allowed to purchase and use family fireworks to celebrate special occasions.
About 62 per cent confirmed purchasing and/or using fireworks in the city, and 68 per cent believe fireworks are a safe product when used by a responsible adult.
As a result of the poll results, the group has once again asked city council to undergo a public consultation process to make a well-informed decision.
The association encourages Red Deer residents who believe they should be allowed to safely purchase and use family fireworks to contact Veer and city council, and ask them to conduct a public consultation before passing the bylaw.