News / Vancouver

Poll: Should balloons be banned from Vancouver parks? Commissioner says yes

Balloons can kill animals and cause power outages says park board commissioner Stuart MacKinnon

Balloons may look innocent but they can take down power lines and get stuck in animals' throats.

Stock / Dreamstime

Balloons may look innocent but they can take down power lines and get stuck in animals' throats.

Balloons may be a thing of the past in Vancouver parks and community centres, if the park board motion on notice passes at a meeting Monday.

Commissioner Stuart MacKinnon is proposing a ban on balloons on all park board land due to environmental and child safety concerns. For instance, when individuals or organizations book space for an event, the park board could include a no-balloons policy in the contract, he said.

“I like balloons too. They’re colourful and they’re fun,” he said.

“But we need to start an education program of what sorts of things are fun and what sorts of things are actually dangerous.”

Balloons end up in landfills, the ocean, or in the throats of animals, he said.

“They cannot digest them so it gets stuck in their gullets and basically they have a horrible death by starvation.”  

But the colourful helium-filled party decorations can also cause entire neighbourhoods to lose power. One time, a helium balloon flew into a power line and blew the transformer at Granville Island during the Fringe Festival, said MacKinnon.

Balloons caused 30 power outages in B.C. during 2016, according to BC Hydro.

MacKinnon’s motion also cites a study from the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and DuPont Institute that found balloons cause more deaths than any other toy.

While some have already taken to social media to ridicule the proposed policy as , MacKinnon says he has been concerned about the impact of balloons for many years.

But it was an experience this summer at a celebration near the laughing statues in Vancouver’s West End that pushed him to table the motion.

“[The statues] all had three or four balloons attached to them, and people were releasing them,” he said.

“People came up to me and said they were really surprised that the park board had balloons at this event.”

The board is scheduled to discuss the topic at Monday’s meeting. There is no opportunity for members of the public to speak about the motion at the meeting.

If the motion passes, balloons would join other single-use items like paper cups and straws that could face regulations in Vancouver.

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