Park board’s proposed balloon ban deflated

A motion that would have banned balloons from the city’s parks, community centres and beaches couldn’t get off the ground Monday night.

“When I started this process… I wanted to initiate a conversation and, boy, did I initiate a conversation,” Green commissioner Stuart Mackinnon said in introducing his motion, adding that since the proposed ban started receiving some media attention last week he had received emails and messages on social media from across the country and around the world.

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The motion asked the board to prohibit balloons in parks, community centres and other areas under the board’s jurisdiction.

In presenting his case, Mackinnon said that balloons, made of plastic and latex, are non-renewable and are increasingly found in landfills, on beaches, in waterways, oceans and other natural areas.

He said mylar balloons are particularly dangerous because when the shiny foil fades away, the balloon is translucent. When they end up deflated in the ocean they look a lot like jelly fish, posing a risk to animals such as sea turtles, birds and dolphins, which often mistake them as food. Ingested balloons can lead to stomach and intestinal blockages, which can be fatal.

“It’s a long, slow, painful death by starvation,” Mackinnon said.

The motion also cited a study by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the DuPont Institute that found that balloons cause more childhood deaths than any other toy.  Mackinnon also noted that, according to the Canadian Pediatric Society, balloons are the number one non-food cause of choking in children under four.

Mackinnon said he wasn’t looking to make it a punitive ban, and the purpose was to educate the public of the possible negative consequences of using balloons.

The ban got little support around the board table, with many commissioners stating that while the environmental issues are a concern, there are many more pressing issues facing the park board, such as cleanliness and safety in parks. The proposed ban was defeated 5-2, with fellow Green commissioner Michael Wiebe supporting Mackinnon’s motion.

Mackinnon ended the debate with a warning: “We will have to change the way we act, whether it’s now or later,” he said. “The time is coming when our world is becoming filled with toxic things that are killing it. While the Earth will go on forever, we may not.”

@JessicaEKerr

jkerr@vancourier.com

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