The suggestion by Montreal Executive Committee President Benoit Dorais that the city is considering a by-law to outlaw Public-Sac distribution is another damaging example of arrogant dogma replacing common sense in public policy. Again, instead of concentrating on getting public services right, here is government substituting prohibition for progress

Dorais used two reasons to buttress his argument. The first was environmental. Protection of trees. The second was to accomodate those residents who didn’t want commercial material at their doors. Neither reason stands the scrutiny of facts.

Trees are a renewable resource. Indeed the forestry industry has a commendable record in making sure that more new trees are planted than are cut.Additionally, the Publi Sacs are recyclable. They damage nothing. As for delivery of commercial material at one’s door, the city already has a regulation that forbids such delivery where there is a sticker indicating the household does not wish it.

Perhaps more troubling is the total lack of consideration that this supposedly “progressive” administration has for the harmful effect of such a suggestion on working men and women and indeed on those of marginal income. What will happen to all the workers whose jobs will be eliminated due to such a regulation? The printers, graphic artists, copywriters, drivers, sorters and the delivery people who supplement their incomes — or depend completely on the incomes — from this work. Great Christmas present. Did the city even give a thought to how many will be out of work?

Furthermore, this administration seems to forget the many people on low and fixed incomes. They count on savings in the coupons to make ends meet. They compare prices in order to survive. Half of Montrealers do not use computers. Many seniors are not tech savvy. Others are too poor to afford internet service in a city with 34% of households below the poverty line or working poor.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, this is not only another intervention into private business and people’s freedom of choice, it is an intervention on the printed word. Is the city going to use the same excuses to stop newspapers from being delivered? Does that mean that people without computers lose the right to be informed? The essence of a free society is the freedom to choose. Government has no right to decide on how people get their information. Nor to curtail their access to it as our provincial government did when it let municipalities post notices only on the web. A lot of people are left in the dark and that is a very bad thing.

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