Problems arise when population reaches 1,000,000

Prosperity aint all it’s cracked up to be. From today’s Globe and Mail:

Calgary may be the envy of the rest of the country [because of its vast oil revenues], but lately the city is looking a little grubby, and frankly, people have forgotten their manners.

Civic officials have had it with people spitting on the street. They’re sick of people relieving themselves in public. Fighting in plain view has also become a blight. And propping feet up on public benches and artwork is creating a mess.

Yesterday, sweeping new etiquette rules designed to punish that sort of misbehaviour cleared a major hurdle at a city hall committee, which is now asking city council to approve the new bylaw — something council usually does as a matter of course.

“I think it’s very unfortunate we have to regulate civilized behaviour,” said Alderman Barry Erskine, who supported the bylaw.

Officials say social misconduct has arrived along with Calgary’s prosperity. As the city has grown to a million residents, complaints about people publicly spitting and relieving themselves are pouring in, but city hall has no way to deal with them.

The new bylaw would provide for fines — and possible jail time — depending on the level of revulsion attached to each act.

Carrying a knife in public (other than for religious or work purposes) is an offence that would cost $50. So is standing on or putting your feet up on a public table, bench, planter or sculpture. Spitting in public would cost $100. (Councillors were told that any projectile that comes out of someone’s mouth — tobacco, phlegm, sunflower seeds or gum — would bring the penalty.) Loitering in a public place or obstructing someone would cost $250.

Urinating or defecating in public would be the worst deeds, leading to a fine of $300. (Failing to clean up after your dog, by comparison, would cost $250.)

Other cities have enacted similar bylaws, but in a one-off fashion. Public fighting is banned in Edmonton. Vancouver has fighting and loitering rules. Saskatoon has spitting, urinating and defecating regulations.

But Calgary’s proposal is perhaps the most far-reaching.

I’m reminded of Proverbs 14:4 (a personal favourite): “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”

In other words, all those oil revenues bring some problems in their wake … but other Canadians might still be willing to trade places with prosperous Albertans.

At least it isn’t as bad as Paris, where the streets are notoriously full of dog shit.

Five tonnes of dog shit are dropped onto the streets, pavements and parks of Toulouse every day of every week of every year.



7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. juggling mother
    Nov 04, 2006 @ 11:04:15

    I think all those are national statutes in the UK:-)

    we have regionalised alcohol free zones, and local police forces decide on their own “zero tolerance” programmes, but as a country we have little time for uncivilised behaviour – hence the immorality & nudity laws!

    Unfortunately, we still have surly teenagers, rude old people & arrogant yuppies, but on the whole figting & urinating etc is kept to dark alley’s.


  2. Stephen
    Nov 05, 2006 @ 10:11:09

    Canada is a federation (as I’m sure you know), and most of the powers to regulate civil society are vested in the provinces rather than the federal government. The provinces delegate some of their powers to municipalities, as here.

    We’re probably one of the most decentralized governments in the world. Given the vast territory we inhabit, and the sparse population, decentralization probably makes sense — not to mention the issue of Quebec as a distinct society which routinely wants to go its own way.

    Regulating manners and consideration of others is unlikely to succeed. For one thing, you have to actually enforce the laws for them to mean anything. I find drivers are increasingly inconsiderate of others on the road, and I’d love to see the police ticket them for it … but presumably the police are busy with more important matters. It’s a sad fact of life, but rude behaviour seems to increase geometrically as the population increases.


  3. 49erDweet
    Nov 05, 2006 @ 13:10:41

    Calgary’s reputation as the last of the CA’s ‘wild west frontiers’ has finally caught up with itself. Thus comes ‘civilisation’. Probably overdue. The cusp period will probably last another generation, but afterwards the city and province – will likely become an evan much more pleasant place in which to visit – or live. Congrats on maturing.



  4. 49erDweet
    Nov 05, 2006 @ 13:13:26

    As for Paris, just another reason for me not to visit during our next UK holiday.


  5. juggling mother
    Nov 05, 2006 @ 15:02:08

    I quite like the idea of de-centralised gov & federations, but then again, i rather approve of the national statutes that preserve a antions culture too. A dichotomy that I’m not sure i can solve:-)

    However, laws regarding social behaviour & cultural attitudes do not do the job on their own – but they do set a standard! I often cite the UK’s theocratic laws as an example of how a law means noting without the social & cultural back-up of the population, but equally I could cite the race equality laws as the legal system pulling an unwilling population into a social change!

    Policing is a completely different subject:-) But minor offences make a good training ground for officers!

    49er – you do know Paris isn’t in the UK I take it;-) I never understood the Paris as city of romance thing. It’s dirty, smelly, mostly ugly and populated by rude, arrogant xenophobes! London at least has much of it’s historical architecture intact:-)


  6. Stephen
    Nov 06, 2006 @ 08:12:44

    • 49er:
    The cusp period will probably last another generation, but afterwards the city and province – will likely become an even more pleasant place in which to visit – or live.

    That’s an encouraging perspective. Let’s put it down to growing pains … a transition phase.

    • JM:
    I often cite the UK’s theocratic laws as an example of how a law means noting without the social & cultural back-up of the population, but equally I could cite the race equality laws as the legal system pulling an unwilling population into a social change!

    I’ve noticed the same thing: you can change the laws all you want, but if society is unwilling to follow a certain path, the laws are impotent to effect change. On the other hand, law sometimes catches the leading edge of a wave, taking a progressive movement within society, and making it the norm for all. Law can be an effective vehicle for social change in that situation … but first there has to be a pocket of support within society.


  7. 49erDweet
    Nov 08, 2006 @ 10:38:00

    Yes, JM, I do. Its just that we have headquartered ourselves in the city and have been urged by many friends (here and there) to “pop over” for a day visit to Paris by means of the chunnel.

    I totally agree with you, though. I have no interest in visiting an historic city which is smelly, dirty, inhospitable and whose occupants are rude. The historic places (and the Brits) we have seen in the UK are the exact opposite, so next spring we are giving the Scots – with a day drip to Edinburgh – a chance to either impress or distress us.

    Its probably because we watch too much Craig Furgeson on late, late night TV in the US.

    Cheers to all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: