Welcome to City of Ottawa Whac-A-Mole.
The municipality has been unleashing it’s extensive bylaw powers and those of its provincial partners on establishments that have become hangouts for shooters.
And on the surface that’s a great idea. You get these places out of neighbourhoods so residents can rest at night.
Except here’s how this works.
When I toiled at the Winnipeg Free Press just north of Portage Avenue in that Prairie city in the 1970s and ’80s, north Portage was a dump. Conversely, south Portage (on the other side of this east-west street) had good solid businesses eight lanes and a median across from north Portage.
So Winnipeg City Council and a number of developers came up with this so-called great idea. They would bulldoze the northside and erect a huge shopping mall stretching over many blocks downtown. So they did just that.
Well guess what? All the seedy businesses relocated across the street to the healthy southside making the south side the dump. Many of the good businesses from the southside moved into the new mall.
Here you have it. The city and developers spent tens of millions of dollars flattening dumpy businesses to clear out a slummy area. Except … all the bad businesses moved across the street. In essence the slum wasn’t eliminated, just moved.
Now the city is practising the same failed strategy on establishments where gun-play has been occurring outside. It’s a game of Whac-A-Mole. Hit one mole in a hole and it pops up in another hole. You’ve got to whack it again. Except it pops up in another hole. It goes on.
You can close these questionable establishments as much as you want but the shooters and the gangs will find another place to hang out. Whac-A-Mole.
Since the city started doing this, has anyone seen a decline in bullets flying around Ottawa? Not a chance.
The causes of gangs and guns can’t be solve by playing Whac-A-Mole.
But that means spending money on social workers and other people expert in improving neighbourhoods. It’s a slow process. And it’s hard for a politician to cut a ribbon on it many years in the future.
What makes the city and its politicians look like they are doing something is playing Whac-A-Mole on restaurants and bars where shooters hang out.
Unfortunately, the shooters just take their action somewhere else.
And who is working on zoning shooters’ bars out of existence? Why councillors Mathieu Fleury and Riley Brockington.
What could go wrong?
Video above: Whac-A-Mole in action. Given enough time, councillors Mathieu Fleury and Riley Brockington could get quite good at this.
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