Penalties still uncertain under proposed anti-idling bylaw in North Cowichan

Vehicles that are left idling for more than a minute will soon be discouraged in North Cowichan.

Vehicles that are left idling for more than a minute will soon be discouraged in North Cowichan.

But whether the strategy takes the form of fines, public education, a combination of both or something completely different has yet to be determined.

Council in the Municipality of North Cowichan decided on Dec. 21 to ask the environmental advisory committee to review and recommend educational measures to raise awareness and discourage vehicle idling.

Council has been debating drafting a bylaw to deal with idling vehicles after Coun. Kate Marsh said at a previous meeting that she would like the municipality to take a look at the issue in the Cowichan region.

At the time, Marsh pointed out that, according to officials from Island Health, one of the factors that has led to the high rates of respiratory illnesses suffered by people in the region is idling vehicles.

She acknowledged that the bylaw would be difficult to enforce, but her intention is to raise awareness of the issue in the community.

Staff presented recommendations this fall, including a $100 fine for vehicles left idling for more than a minute.

Exceptions to the proposed new bylaw would include vehicles idling while passengers are embarking or disembarking, and idling due to traffic, weather or an emergency the driver has no control over.

As well, emergency vehicles in the performance of their duties and vehicles that must remain idling to power heating or refrigeration systems would also be exempt from the new bylaw.

But some council members, including Rob Douglas, feel that a $100 fine is unreasonable, and has suggested that a $15 fine would be enough of a deterrent if one has to be given at all.

“I expect the advisory committee will make a number of recommendations, which could include public-education measures and signage, when they complete their review sometime after Christmas,” Douglas said.

“Or they may come up with something completely different. If fines are still part of the strategy, I still think ones for $15 would be more in line with what we’re trying to accomplish.”