Getting noisy mufflers to pipe down is proving exhausting for Halifax regional council.

Swamped with regular complaints from residents, councillors have been trying for years to get police to crack down on loud straight pipes and aftermarket exhaust systems.

For Coun. Waye Mason, it’s been almost eight years since he made a motion at council’s Transportation Standing Committee.

Then in 2017, council voted to ask the province to amend the Motor Vehicle Act “to address the issue of noisy mufflers.” The province instead passed amendments in 2021 to allow municipalities to set their own rules about noisy mufflers.

Armed with this new authority, municipal legal staff tabled a report at regional council on Tuesday recommending councillors do nothing at all.

Bylaw would outlaw ‘objectionable noise’ from vehicles

Along with the report, lawyer Meg MacDougall drafted a new Vehicle Noise By-law.

The bylaw would outlaw “objectionable noise” from a vehicle, subjecting drivers to a fine. “Objectionable noise” has three definitions in the draft bylaw: any noise that “unreasonably disturbs or tends to disturb the peace and tranquility of a neighbourhood;” “emits a sound measured at 96 db(A) or more as measured by a sound level meter; or “is increased by a device attached to the muffler or exhaust system.”

Police would be equipped with sound level meters to measure the decibel level of a vehicle. They could also find a noise objectionable if it “unreasonably disturbs or tends to disturb the peace and tranquility of a neighbourhood.”

But MacDougall recommended against adopting the bylaw.

“At this time, it is not recommended that Council adopt the Vehicle Noise By-law. The draft By-law would duplicate existing legislation in the Motor Vehicle Act and Noise By-law contrary to HRM’s Charter of Governing Principles for Regulation Administrative Order,” MacDougall wrote.

“There would also be increased costs associated with the purchase of sound level meters, training, and additional resources required to enforce the By-law.”

Those increased costs total a little more than $10,000, including four sound level meters at an estimated cost of $1,500 each, a calibrator for $1,000, and training for officers at $3,500.

Police writing fewer tickets

During council’s meeting on Tuesday, MacDougall argued police can enforce the current laws.

Her report said Halifax Regional Police and RCMP issued a total of 88 tickets for vehicle noise under section 188 of the Motor Vehicle Act between 2018 and 2022, most of which were upheld and paid.

That’s fewer tickets than HRP officers were writing a few years before, according to a previous report to council.

That 2017 report, by lawyer Donna Boutilier and HRP Sgt. Stephen Calder, says HRP wrote 146 tickets under section 188 between 2014 and 2016. That’s an average of about 49 tickets annually, compared to 18 between 2018 and 2022.

Supt. Greg Mason told council on Tuesday that the traffic department is stretched thin, and they would need more officers to effectively enforce any vehicle noise laws.

Councillors unhappy with staff recommendation

Councillors were unanimous in their disappointment over the staff recommendation, but unsure about what to do. They expressed frustration over being told for years that there’s nothing HRM can do about noisy mufflers, and then being told on Tuesday that the existing legislation is sufficient to deal with the issue.

There was an alternative laid out in the staff report to move ahead with the draft bylaw.

Chief administrative officer Cathie O’Toole convinced council to ask for yet another staff report to take another look at the costs associated with the bylaw, and look at other options to enforce the existing bylaw.

Coun. Becky Kent moved to defer the vote on the staff recommendation pending the receipt of a report on staffing and cost implications.

O’Toole said the report could be done within six weeks, but any boost in enforcement is likely to be delayed until the next budget.

Approved at council Tuesday:

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. Let me add my voice to the congratulations extended to City Council on getting another report done instead of actually doing something about a noise bylaw. Like enforcing the current one or adopting a new one. Hopefully this means that the man-childs driving around in cars shattering ear drums around the city can continue fucking doing that. We’ve been asking all levels of government and the police to ticket these adolescent mutherfuckers for 8 years. But yes! Another report by city staff would be fucking amazing.

  2. Imagine bicycles that honk an air horn every five seconds while moving.
    Imagine walking shoes that blasted a siren while the wearer is in motion.
    Yeah, truly ridiculous. Obviously unacceptable.