Pointless panhandling bylaw

Talk about looking at the wrong place to help bolster City revenues.

Red Deer City council recently decided to restrict when and where panhandlers can approach people on downtown streets. Fines for overstepping the new boundaries start at $75 for a first offence and go up to $500 for repeat offences.

The new restrictions, part of the Community Standards bylaw, mean that now panhandling is banned between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. and can only be done by individuals.

Earlier recommendations allowed two people to approach pedestrians.

Panhandlers also can’t approach people if intoxicated or under the influence of illegal substances and can’t panhandle within 10 metres of an entrance to a financial institution, automated teller, bank deposit slot, liquor store or transit terminal.

Obstructing pedestrians, or threatening, insulting or harassing behaviour is also not allowed.

But back to the fines. It makes little sense that these people, who are on the street begging for money could end up with fines for their actions. It’s hardly realistic to think much could ever be collected from them if they are fined, not to mention the general transient lifestyles of these folks.

Obviously they don’t have the money to pay for these fines, and to us it seems like the whole panhandling bylaw puts much-needed City Hall resources towards a ‘go-nowhere’ issue.

Frankly, it will just create a pile of paperwork and added bureaucracy.

We’re all in favor of bylaws being in place to ensure public order and that help to make our community a safer place.

Council needs to put their efforts into more realistic issues, especially when it comes to creating revenue, and not simply whip up a new bylaw just for the sake of it that has virtually no chance of success.

This appears to be such an instance.

While no one wants to be approached for money at every turn downtown, panhandling is recognized by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The positive outcome from discussions over this useless bylaw is that City council is looking at programs in other cities where people can buy coupons and give them to panhandlers instead of money. The coupons can then be redeemed for food and other necessities by the panhandlers.

Many people are reluctant to give money to panhandlers because the money is often used to support addictions.

While there are many good things that council is doing, we don’t think this is an area that needs a whole lot of concentration. Especially when it’s pretty much doomed to fail anyways.