Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kentville – No smoking Down in the Valley

Kentville is a small town in the picturesque Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia with a population of about 6,000. I haven't been down that way in years. Better make that decades; time flies when you're having fun.

In a recent news article, Bob Gee, owner of Mader’s Tobacco Store in Kentville, said freedom of choice is being limited, with regulations slowly eroding constitutional freedoms and rights. He was, of course, talking about the plethora of anti-smoking legislation passed by the province in recent years by gutless politicians folding under intense lobbying by the lunatic fringe of the anti-smoker cartel.

I've written several articles over the past couple of years to update the status of Bob's fight with the province over the tobacco displays in his shop. Back in 2007, Gee was ordered, under Nova Scotia's Tobacco Access Act, to cover up the tobacco displays in his store. He refused.

In 2008, he was charged with improper storage and display of tobacco products. Bob entered a plea of not guilty, thereby initiating a lengthy, and ongoing, legal battle with the province.

To the best of my knowledge, the constant delays have originated with Crown persecut . . . er, prosecutors, who always seem to need more time to prepare their case.

Last year, Provincial court judge Claudine MacDonald ruled that the provincial legislation breached Gee's right to freedom of expression under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The question now before the courts is whether the law is a reasonable means of protecting some compelling public interest which would override Gee's right to freedom of expression.

In October of 2010, the crown was still asking for more time to prepare their case. Bob's next court date is scheduled for June of this year. Unless, of course, the Crown needs still more time to prepare. I believe it was William Gladstone who used the the phrase: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Maybe the Crown is just trying to wear him down. They have all the time in the world, and all the power of the state behind them. And, the province certainly has much deeper pockets than he has.

But, Bob does not seem intimidated by the power of the state; men of principle seldom are. He shows no sign of capitulation, despite the odds.

Back in March, Bob Gee wrote a letter to Kentville Mayor Dave Corkum and town council criticizing a recent by-law banning smoking on all town-owned and -leased property, including streets and sidewalks. “Kentville’s bylaw does not reflect the larger issue at hand, which is really about how we as individuals educate ourselves, our families and one another so that the freedom to choose does not become hindered through a state of dictatorship.”

He noted that he has provided a service to the public and government by collecting over $20 million in (sales) taxes over the 35 years his shop has been in operation, and that he has conducted his family-run business in a way that gives back to the community. “It saddens me to realize that this same consideration was not returned to us and many of the customers that support us and the Town of Kentville when the town council decided to put this by-law into effect.”

And, he noted the government's reluctance to make tobacco illegal, but instead to set rules and regulations on smokers. Punishing rules meant to denigrate and demean, I might add. And, he has a valid point.

If smoking causes the damage the government and the anti-smoker zealots claim, then they are criminally negligent in the discharge of their duties and as much responsible for any morbidity and mortality attributed to smoking as the tobacco companies. If smokers are the victims of the tobacco companies, as the anti-smoker cartel maintain, then the government has a responsibility to end the victimization, not profit from it through the imposition of punitive sin taxes.

And, if the anti-smoker zealots want to punish the tobacco companies, why are they insisting that smokers and small business owners who cater to them pay the price.

Dave Reid, owner of another Kentville shop, DM Reid Jewellers, sees smoking, as a matter of choice - not something you can legislate. “Businesses pay the consequences for the decision if customers are staying away from town,” he said. “There was no consultation before making the decision.”

“How far do we go to legislate lifestyle?” he asks. “They have to use common sense and be realistic.”

Mayor Dave Corkum says the by-law isn’t an attack on smokers, but that “Kentville” just doesn’t want people smoking on town-owned property. Kentville . . . the whole damn town? And, the litter issue seems to be on everyone's mind these days. The mayor also notes that town staff don’t enjoy picking up cigarette butts. Maybe he should consider public ashtrays. Or . . .

Maybe smokers should take their business a few miles up the road; to Wolfville, maybe. Somewhere they'll be treated like the decent, hard-working people they are instead of being segregated like refugees from a leper colony.

They just don't want people smoking on town property? Shit.


bannedsmoker said...

After kicking the smokers outside,

They came for the patios

Then they came for the parks and beaches,

Then they came for the sidewalk cafés,

Now they want the whole damn town and still working on getting into our homes.

I agree.


smokervoter said...

In typical fashion, smokers' refuse is being singled out, tunnelvision style, for special attention in Kentville.

Kentville's streetsweepers need to be reminded that all of its residents, smoking and non-smoking alike, pay their salaries.

Through simple observation, a good street sanitation worker should inherently know where to optimally locate a few public ash receptacles to solve most of the problem. The same holds true for disposing of the Big Gulp soft drink cups you see everywhere.

As every smoker knows, there's that nifty little 'stomp and twist' trick with the sole of your shoe that'll make a cigarette butt virtually disappear. Alternately there's the Michael Jackson moonwalk foot move that works much the same way.