Outdoor Fire Levy

Wednesday, December 17, 2014   by: Bill Walton

The City is abuzz with the news that outdoor fire pots will soon be bursting into smoke and flame this spring. A fly on the wall (actually more of a bug than a fly) in the fifth floor boardroom at City Hall reports total agreement with the Fire Chief that outdoor fires are wanted by many people in North Bay. Although not an election issue this last fall, councillors and the mayor say they are pleased it was part of their platform of promises made.


What was not said is that in conjunction with Premier Wynne’s promise of a Carbon Tax (or Cap & Trade), the new outdoor fireplaces will be subject to a levy. This is not a tax although it may look like a tax, smell like a tax and sound like a tax, it is just a levy. No, it is not a service fee even though the Fire Department will be issuing permits for the smokeless fires. Any monies collected by the levy will be redistributed to other City residents who do not have fire bowls (or chimineas as the fancy ones are called) and who will receive a carbon credit on their tax bill in 2016.


My source at City Hall was uncertain how Carbon Credits actually work, but assured me that they are good for the environment and business. Credits or offsets are calculated the same way the City calculates the benefits of Summer in the Park or Summer Nearby the Downtown, as the new event will be called. What you do is take the amount of money that people will spend at their local fire pot suppliers plus the cost of carbon dioxide free fuels, the cost of shopping including gasoline and a Tims, plus the cost of issuing and policing the permits and multiple that number by 7 or some other magical unsupportable number, and tell the people that fire pots generated a total of (2,000 x (200+ 64+50+38+x)) times 7 which equals almost 5 million dollars!


The thought of having five million dollars to spread around the city has buoyed the spirits of the Budget Committee. There is even talk of throwing in a free wrist band for the C&W night schedule for next August Civic Holiday – this may generate more sales of chimineas as people see the huge benefit to the City. Even if the Fire Department and the By Law enforcement officers do get called out, the overtime costs will be added to the cost / benefit generator and thus increase the carbon offset numbers.


This great news should quieten the naysayers who were worrying about people burning not quite dry wood (as defined in the By-Law as being three year old poplar, spruce and tag alders, or last year’s hedge trimmings). Suspicions that people will burn marshmallows and wieners as well as old socks over their glowing chimineas are groundless since these do not qualify for a carbon credit. Throwing grass and green leaves on the fire pot to make a smudge for mosquitos will not be allowed under the FP&C By-Law, so neighbours will still be able to dry their laundry outdoors. There was talk of another carbon offset / levy for people buying those free-standing clothesline poles but the Fire Chief said that was outside his current jurisdiction.


Alas, there may be a fly in the ointment. A new environmental group are said to be starting a Facebook petition titled “Save Our Air”. The protest group has copied a number of the ideas of the people who want to “Save our Lake” from the pipeline people although they have not yet identified who exactly they should be protesting against. Maybe it will be the Fire Chief and Council. After all, we cannot live without air. . .

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