Nothing ruins a dinner date downtown like stepping on a large, yellowish, bubbly glistening gob of slippery spit.
If a new City of Calgary bylaw passes next week, spitting will not only be gross, but illegal within city limits. Citizens caught spitting or performing other socially inappropriate public acts like putting feet up on public benches, standing on statues, fighting, urinating or–gasp!–defecating, will be slapped with a fine of anywhere from $50 to $300, depending on the severity of the inappropriate act.
The problem with this bylaw is that it targets the wrong groups of people, mainly the city’s ever-expanding homeless population, and punishes them for not having a home, a toilet or a place to put up their weary feet.
Some of the worst spitting offenders are joggers. During a run, especially when it’s chilly outside, things get snotty and spitty and an hour into it, there is no place for snotty spit to go but on the ground.
But it is safe to bet the city bylaw officers won’t be scrambling after loogie-horking fitness enthusiasts down city pathways while waving $50 tickets. Rather, bylaw officers will use the proposed bylaw to target homeless people sleeping on park benches or relieving themselves in an alleyway because they have no other place to go.
City Council needs to reconsider its ridiculous anti-spitting bylaw, and clean up the city by addressing the problem of homelessness, rather than dolling out punishments to those who can least afford it.
Building more shelters is a good first step, but to really address homelessness the city needs to look further than short-term shelters. If Calgary truly wants to address its homeless issue there needs to be more affordable housing, increased funding to mental health and addictions treatment programs and increased accessibility to education programs for people already living in poverty or on the street.
Granted, this is a long list of needs and the city can’t do it alone. The province has to step up and fund social programs aimed at helping people get off the street, addiction-free and trained for steady jobs. It may seem like a lofty request, but as the richest province in the country, Alberta–and Calgary especially –is in a position to give a hand to those who need it.
Such a combined City of Calgary and provincial strategy would go a lot further to get spit and other indecent acts off of Calgary streets than punishing people already down on their luck.