Saanich council recently considered a motion to begin the process of banning gas-powered leaf blowers. The motion was presented by Mayor Fred Haynes, in response to a petition signed by hundreds of Saanich residents, which I submitted to council.
The motion would have been the start of a very gradual process that would have had council consider asking staff to prepare a phased-in ban on gas-powered leaf blowers at the next strategic plan check-in. While the motion did not pass, council instead opted to pass a different motion to refer the broader issues of noise pollution to September’s strategic plan check-in.
This represents progress, and I’m pleased to see Saanich begin to take the issue of noise pollution seriously. Noise pollution is not only an annoyance but negatively impacts health and well-being. Research has found that noise pollution disrupts sleep, can exacerbate other health conditions, can interfere with cognitive functions, and has been associated with heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, mental disorders, and a range of other health issues.
Urban noise is not inevitable. Cities can minimize noise by altering infrastructure design and by enforcing and improving noise bylaws. Last updated in 1993 and with large unenforceable sections, Saanich’s noise suppression ordinances are long overdue for an update.
Given the excessive noise and air pollution produced by gas-powered leaf blowers, our pressing need to transition away from fossil fuels, and the existence of reasonable alternatives, I was hoping that Saanich would step up and tackle gas-powered leaf blowers directly. However, I am pleased to see noise pollution on the agenda for September.
Reading through the hundreds of pages of letters submitted by Saanich residents concerning the motion, it is clear that noise pollution is an issue in Saanich. I hope that council will work towards updating and improving Saanich’s noise suppression ordinances, and I hope that the new noise bylaws include a phased-in ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, at the very least.
Teale Phelps Bondaroff