By Loreth Beswetherick If local restaurants, bars and pubs choose to defy new Workers’ Compensation Board regulations aimed at limiting employee exposure to tobacco smoke, a Whistler bylaw may be needed to help level the playing field. That is one of the recommendations made by the Whistler Tobacco Task force formed to help local businesses adjust to the new WCB regulations which come into effect Jan. 1, 2000. The WCB legislation is designed to protect employees from second-hand smoke. It effectively prohibits lighting up indoors in any public facility. Task force chair, Bernie Lalor-Morton, gave a report on the group’s progress in helping businesses go smoke-free at Monday night’s (Oct. 18) council meeting. "We know it is going to be an issue for bars," said Lalor-Morton. She said the task force has decided it will try and monitor compliance through the months of January and February and then determine if a bylaw would be necessary. She said Whistler Food and Beverage president Dale Schweighardt, who is on the task force, expects a 75 per cent compliance rate. She said the B.C. bar, restaurant and hotel sectors are still trying to fight the legislation. "But it’s a done deal." Lalor-Morton acknowledge enforcement will be a problem. She said the health ministry has not been clear regarding the policing issue. The task force is comprised of Marilyn McIvor, Leigh-Ann Chakowski, Bob Adams, Connie Rabold, Holger Heitland, Janet McDonald, Ken Melamed, Dale Schweighardt, Bryce Leigh, Ivar Toop and Lalor-Morton. The group feels creating a "smooth transition" means creating awareness of the rules coming down the pipe and that includes providing information about what the regulation is, informing bar and pub owners what they can do to prepare and updating guests once they are in Whistler. Lalor-Morton said the task force got off to a rocky start. "But we feel we have come together as a group." She said local businesses have been encouraged to go smoke-free when they open for the winter season or after seasonal renovations. It was suggested this would be easier than trying to adjust to new guidelines mid-season. The mountains have taken the lead and are going cold turkey for their November opening. From the first of next month all Whistler-Blackcomb restaurants, bars and pubs including Merlin’s, Dusty’s and the Garibaldi Lift Company will be smoke free. Enforcement will essentially be complaint driven. Lalor-Morton said the legislation empowers a staff member of an establishment to ask a patron to butt out or leave. If the patron refuses the bar operator can legally evict the offender. If there are problems, RCMP will respond. Lalor-Morton said there will also be a 1-800 number to call with complaints. Councillor Dave Kirk asked, if this is a WCB regulation, why should Whistler consider a non-smoking bylaw? "It may help to create a more level playing field," said Lalor-Morton of the already highly competitive bar environment. "Given the eventuality (of the regulations) we may have to show our support and adopt the bylaw." Council passed a motion – on councillor Ken Melamed’s suggestion – that municipal staff investigate the possibility of proving funding to help deliver a training program for managers of local establishments. The program would help provide bar, pub and restaurant operators the tools and knowledge to train their staff in how to deal with patrons who want to smoke where they are not supposed to.