A bid to silence drills, chain saws and other power tools on Sundays has sparked a noisy row in the city of Granby, Que., where the hunt for tranquillity has come up against the new realities of the 24/7 economy.
The city of 60,000 has passed a bylaw fining people who violate a noise ban aimed at giving neighbours a break from builders and Sunday do-it-yourselfers.
Mayor Richard Goulet says he acted on complaints from residents fed up with neighbours' home repairs and renovations on what is traditionally a day of rest.
"This is aimed at the minority of people who don't respect their neighbours," he said Tuesday from his office, about 85 kilometres east of Montreal. "They do carpentry non-stop all weekend, and when people complain, they say it's none of their business. But when you live in a community, you can't just do what you want."
The bylaw, meant to bring about peace and quiet, instead met with raucous opposition and a 1,500-name petition launched by Sébastien Ouellet, a construction entrepreneur who says clients these days expect work seven days a week.
"Hardly anyone goes to church any more on Sundays or takes a day off," Mr. Ouellet said. "We live in a new economic reality. In 2009, if I can get work, I simply can't afford to turn down a job."
Many do-it-yourself homeowners also work Monday through Friday and need the weekend to carry out home improvements, he said.
The law would impose fines of $150 to $1,000. The mayor said the bylaw, which takes effect at the end of the month, also bans noisy auto-body work, though lawnmowers are still allowed. He did not know if the ban would extend to yard-work tools such as weed wackers or leaf blowers.
Opponents of Granby's bylaw say they're ready to fight the Sunday noise ban in court, and have a lawyer representing them. The lawyer, Gabriel Gaudet, says Granby's bylaw violates citizens' rights and encourages snitching because the city will only act on complaints.
"This is using a nuclear bomb to kill a mosquito," Mr. Gaudet said.
An undercurrent of the discussion in Granby is whether Sunday still deserves its status as a day of rest.
Eric Greenspoon, head of NoiseWatch, an Ontario-based group dedicated to lowering noise pollution, said Granby's bylaw is hardly draconian by Canadian standards, and it's appropriate that it targets Sundays.
"They didn't pick Sunday randomly. People traditionally thought of Sunday as a time when you rest. Part and parcel of that is a certain tranquillity … some kind of rest from the hustle and bustle and noise that comes with it," he said.
"Society is getting more and more inundated by noise," Mr. Greenspoon said. "It's harder to get the quiet enjoyment of your property."