Open-air burn bylaw the Standard-Freeholder's top 2019 news story
Open-air burn bylaw the Standard-Freeholder's top 2019 news story

Cornwall Fire Chief Pierre Voisine answers questions about the proposed changes to the open-air burn bylaw at a public information session on Tuesday October 8, 2019 in Cornwall, Ont. Alan S. Hale/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network ALAN S. HALE / ALAN S. HALE/STANDARD-FREEHOLDER

The City of Cornwall’s proposed change to its open-air burn bylaw was this year’s biggest story, generating protests and resulting in several meetings and consultations.
Looking back at 2019, the Standard-Freeholder has chosen this issue as being the year’s No. 1 story. While respondents to a late-December poll on our website identified Eric Duncan keeping Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry firmly in Conservative hands as the No. 1 story, we disagreed.
Duncan’s rise to Parliament was predicted and to some extent expected from the moment now-former MP Guy Lauzon announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election. The proposed changes to Cornwall’s open-air burn bylaw though?
It was a No. 1 issue that came out of nowhere and got some in Cornwall riled up enough to sign a number of petitions, rally outside city hall and pack council chambers, then give Fire Chief Pierre Voisine an earful during two public meetings. It was a battle between those opposed, who felt their rights to do what they see fit on their own properties was being unfairly squashed, and silent supporters who suffer from being smoked out of being able to safely enjoy their own property by inconsiderate neighbours.
The initial discussion regarding changes to the bylaw was made during the Sept. 9 council meeting. A divided council decided to push ahead with the decision.
The proposed bylaw from Cornwall Fire Chief Pierre Voisine essentially repealed the city’s existing rules for issuing three-year burning permits for recreational fires. In effect, the city would no longer give out permits for wood-fuelled outdoor fires, and would allow people to use gas-powered fire pits without needing a permit.
According to data it collected, there were roughly 260 fire permits issued in Cornwall at any given time, with about 80 new permits issued every year.
These fires spawn an increasing number of complaints because of the smoke. During the six-month burning season in 2018, the fire department responded to 62 complaints about smoke. As of the end of July 2019, the department had received 51 complaints.
Some Couns, such as Justin Towndale and Eric Bergeron, opposed the change outright, whereas Coun. Maurice Dupelle voiced his concern regarding the lack of public feedback to the idea.
Others, such as Couns. Elaine MacDonald, Glen Grant, Syd Gardiner and Claude McIntosh supported the bylaw changes, explaining the nuisance, health, and environmental impacts of wood fires was more than enough reason to ban them.