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She’s number one

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To Lezlie Lowe,

Kudos to you on your forthright treatment of the issue of the lack of public toilet facilities in the Halifax area ("Nowhere to go," Nov 10). It is high time that this matter was given the serious attention it is due. No one wants to discuss this issue openly, but it is an issue that has confronted everyone.

I live and work in downtown Halifax and deal with tourists and locals every day throughout the year. One of the most frequent requests (dare I say pleas) I hear every day is for public washrooms and one of the most frequent complaints is the lack of same. Halifax advertises and entices locals and tourists alike to come downtown, particularly to the waterfront. We host minor and major festivals, concerts, cultural festivities and attractions, but we fail to provide basic facilities (let alone security and first aid). We rely on private businesses to provide washroom services in supplement to the only public facilities at the ferry terminal and in Bishops Landing. Both of these offer limited service hours, and many mornings and evenings none at all. Waterfront Development Corporation mandated that Bishops Landing supply washrooms with public access as part of the agreement plan for the development, but has failed to keep them strictly public (they now serve the restaurant) and has failed to ensure they are open early morning until late evening.

You are correct concerning the "glare" factor non-customers receive when accessing private business washrooms when they are available. Mind you, why should they be expected to pay for the expense of covering what should be a public responsibility?

For the representatives of the Tourism Industry Association and the Downtown Business Commission to be so cavalier in their comments about there being no need for, or desire for, public facilities is to fly in the face of the obvious. Cities all around the globe, particularly those dedicated to tourism, have been addressing this issue with more public facilities and many of them with self-cleaning and automatic systems supported in part by advertising revenues. These groups and the city government should consider the same for Halifax.

Halifax intends to redevelop the waterfront and downtown with more hotels, bigger museums and more residential complexes, and it will be necessary to consider the provision of more widely available public facilities. Only the dedicated elitist would assume the only one who needs a public washroom is homeless—we all need to go sometime and somewhere other than at our home or office, and you can be sure the new hoteliers and condo owners won't be swinging open their stall doors for "those people" (read: the rest of us!)

Again, thanks for the effort. Let's hope some frank discussion ensues on this topic.

By J. Marr

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