By Nikki Jamieson
For the first time in 20 years, Vauxhall has a new business bylaw.
During their regular Sept. 6 meeting, Vauxhall town council performed the first reading of Bylaw No. 907-16, or the Business License Bylaw. Once the third and final reading is performed, the bylaw will replace the town’s existing Business License Bylaw, Bylaw No. 721, which received its final reading in December 1992 and came into force at the the start of January 1993.
“Our old (bylaw) was really old,” said Mindy Dunphy, office manager for the town. “This is just to add more parts in it, that our old one was really missing.”
Some of the changes being made to the bylaw include getting rid of the $1 refund issued when a business license is revoked, requiring transient salespersons and food trucks to have their own, separate business license, business license requests for carnivals or circuses must be approved by council and a public health inspector must give approval to a huckster or transient salesperson before they can be issued a business license.
Also included were some updated and further definitions for the bylaw. For example, the definition of ‘Hawker or Pedlar’ was streamlined to read “means any person going from house to house or from party to party selling or offering for sale any merchandise or service, or both, but does not include any person selling: a) Meat, fruit or other farm produce that has been produced, raised or grown by themselves, b) Fish or their own catching”.
Likewise, definitions such as ‘Adult Person’, ‘Circus’, ‘Carnival’, ‘Huckster’, ‘Transient Salesperson’ and ‘Truckers and Deliverymen’ have been added, while the definitions for ‘New Business’ and ‘Municipal Administrator’ were removed from the bylaw.
However, with the modernization of the bylaw, Vauxhall Mayor Margaret Plumtree wondered why one definition wasn’t included; ‘Panhandling’.
“Is there a different regulation for people who beg for money or play music,” said Plumtree, noting she didn’t see it included under definitions. “Because the two I thought maybe it would be under, it doesn’t say that specifically.”
Panhandling is typically defined as approaching strangers to beg for money, with the common image associated with it as some sitting/standing on the side of the street with a sign and a cup or someone playing an instrument with its case open for people to throw money into.
While Vauxhall doesn’t have a specific bylaw to deal with panhandling, the City of Calgary has Bylaw No. 3M99, the Panhandling Bylaw, to set rules regarding panhandling, and the Town of Taber regulates it under their controversial Community Standards Bylaw. Most places with such bylaws do make a distinction between asking for money for charity or asking for money for one’s self.
According to Edmonton police, a hardcore panhandler can make up to $400 a day. To put that in perspective, if that panhandler makes about $400 every day, working Monday-Friday, excluding statutory holidays, all year long, they would be making about $100,000 this year.
“It just gives you an opportunity to do something, right, if someone does set up for a day,” said Plumtree, adding that she hadn’t seen any in town. “It’s just like, you know, you can’t go sell Tupperware in the park.”
“But if you play guitar on the street corner, you’ll have to go and get a business license to have money donated,” asked Kim Cawley, Vauxhall councillor, to council’s amusement.
“I don’t think so.”
As panhandling is more common in larger urban centres then in smaller towns such as Vauxhall — which has a population of about 1,300, the question was raised if it was something they could feasibly do.
“I think it would be tough,” said Dunphy. “Maybe Vancouver or some have stuff like that, right, because they have a lot of people who do that.”
“I’m with you guys; I don’t think it would be something we’d really see a lot of, but if we’re looking at the bylaw, and this would be where it would go, why not put it in,” said Plumtree.
Administration and council agree that should a panhandler become the nuisance, they could always call the RCMP. However, it would be hard to collect money from them for a business license, or if they could prove they are actively seeking money.
“If they are just sitting there, playing the guitar and everything is open, they’re not, unless they have a sign that says ‘Money Accepted’. But otherwise, they are just sitting there,” said Christie Sorensen, Vauxhall councillor. “They’re just sitting there? I don’t know if the police could do anything, because they are not doing anything.
“Not a thing I would have thought of for Vauxhall.”
“But it happens everywhere, right,” said Plumtree. “We get a lot of transient people in town, so one day I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.”
Council did not make any direction to include the definition of panhandler in the bylaw, and performed the first reading of the bylaw. As councillors Martin Kondor and Richard Phillips were absent, they did not perform any further readings. The second and final readings were later performed during their regular Sept. 19 meeting.
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