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  • Writer's pictureDoug Matthews

Deplorable Lack of Public Restrooms in Canada

I want people from all countries and cities to read this post. I want municipal, provincial, and federal governments to read this post. I want to hear comments from people frustrated that they cannot easily find a public restroom (toilet, WC, washroom, etc, etc) while going about their daily business or travelling around our country (Canada). Someone has to take action to solve the problem of Canada's deplorable lack of public restrooms.

My wife and I have just returned from an extensive trip to Eastern Europe and as usual, have returned singing the praises of European cities that can so easily manage to provide and maintain public restrooms (we have also travelled to all continents except Antartica). Here is one of dozens of examples I can relate. We spent a couple of nights in Plymouth, England - yes, tiny Plymouth on the south coast. The very first thing we were given at the tourist office in the train station was a tear-off, easy-to-read city map with - you guessed it - 10 clearly marked public WC locations spread all around the downtown core. And they have a fraction of the population of Canada's largest cities (just under 300,000). Pretty well ALL public transportation systems (read subways) in big European cities have public restrooms at many stations. All town squares have public restrooms and all are well marked.

This subject has been written about extensively in Canadian magazines, press, and online. All commentaries are in agreement with what I say. Canada ranks near the bottom of all countries when it comes to the provision of toilets. And furthermore, why can we not charge for them??? Most other countries of the world (with the exception of maybe the USA) have attendants who collect cash, give change, and usually maintain the facilities. Some ridiculous arguments - and even legislation - state that a basic human function must not cost anything. That is absurd. We charge for clothing, shelter, and food. I would say that if you can charge exorbitant prices for putting garbage into your body you should be able to charge for eliminating it. In Europe the going rate appears to be in the $.75 CDN range. Why not charge a standard loonie and keep a lot of facilities in good order as well as giving a lot of people meaningful employment? Even the name "loonie" makes sense, especially if you're British (the "loo" being another name for restroom). Another argument to try to get around spending any public money, is to encourage the owners of businesses (e.g. coffees shops, stores, etc.) to let the public use their restrooms. Why should any business have to do that? If they agree, they should be given some sort of incentive in the form of grants to build and maintain restrooms or a tax break. A final equally inane argument put forth by municipalities is that drug users and prostitutes frequently trash such public facilities. Again, employ attendants and charge fees. There are also many designs, notably the Portland toilet, that are supposedly trash-proof. I think municipal politicians just cannot be bothered and wish the problem would go away.

To tourists from all over the world, including Canadians, take the time to pressure tourist agencies and municipal and provincial governments to correct this problem. Do not hesitate to complain to them loudly about it.

I have stated in another post that Canada has the potential to become a world-leading tourist destination. Providing an adequate number of easily locatable and well-maintained public restrooms in every city and on every highway is the first step.

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