Ticketing our trash

By P.A. Sévigny on July 10, 2008

Last December, shortly before taking a taxi to the airport for an early-morning flight, Montreal writer Alan Hustak dropped a small bag of garbage into one of the city’s  garbage cans in Old Montreal. Only a few days after he came back from his Christmas holiday, he received a letter from the Ville Marie borough authorities with included a $187 ticket for having broken one of the borough’s new municipal garbage by-laws.

“I really didn’t get it,” Hustak com-mented. “It was garbage and I was simply putting it into a garbage can.”

 The borough’s letter informed Hustak that one of the borough’s inspectors saw him deposit the bag in the municipal container. The inspector later cut open the bag to more specifically determine its origins as well as its contents. The letter also informed Hustak as to how borough residents are no longer permitted to bring out their garbage outside the borough’s prescribed hours for garbage collection.

 “This was nothing more than a bottle, two cans, an envelope and a few little bits of  paper in a little plastic grocery bag,” said Hustak. “We’re talking about a tiny little bag of garbage…not a truckload!”

During a recent press conference, Ville Marie Borough Mayor Benoit Labonté continued to boast about his fight against the borough’s litterbugs and promised to carry on with his struggle to clean up the city’s downtown core. In the single year since he set up the borough’s new anti-garbage programs, some 2700 ticketed offences have produced over $1 million in fines and assorted court fees which are supposed to provide the revenue for the borough’s new ‘beautification’ fund. Business people continue to be outraged by the borough’s severe financial penalties for what many consider to be minor, if not spurious offenses.

 Even as 1800 new ashtrays have been installed throughout the borough, the borough is also beefing up its anti-litter campaign with a series of ads to be placed on the streets near the borough’s metro stations and in its bus shelters. If that doesn’t work, police can now give smokers a ticket worth $125 if they see someone toss a butt on the street.

As one of the borough’s tax-paying residents, Hustak is still not impressed. If he decides to fight the city, the fine, accumulated interest and assorted court fees may end up costing him hundreds of dollars. As matters stand, the city is still waiting for its money because Hustak still wonders why he has to pay $187 for having put a small bag of garbage into the city’s own trash can.

“What kind of person goes around cutting into garbage bags and looking at someone’s garbage for a living?” he asked.

Others might wonder as to why  the city would want to pay people to do it.


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