Hearings have started at the City of Montreal on whether or not to ban Publi-Sacs or change the manner of distribution. There has been so much wrong information from those opposed to Publi-Sacs that even Projet Montréal’s councillor in charge of the process, Laurence Lavigne Lalonde, came out and made it clear that “all sides must be considered and a reasonable compromise found.” She is to be saluted for not indulging in dogma and recognizing common sense.

This matter started in dogma with the suggestion by Montreal Executive Committee President Benoit Dorais that the city pass a by-law to outlaw Publi-Sac distribution. Instead of concentrating on getting public services right, this was another example of government substituting prohibition for progress. Dorais opened the door and Charles Montpetit walked through it, organizing a 15,000 signature petition that obligated the city to hold hearings. Montpetit has been repeating the misinformation Dorais started.

Two reasons were used to buttress Publi-Sac opponents arguments. And those are the subject of the hearings now. The first was environmental. Protection of trees and recyclability. The second was to accommodate 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. Nobody disagrees with that.They damage nothing. As TransContinental Vice-President François Olivier stated, “Not one tree is cut down to print the flyers and bags. All are from recycled materials.”

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. Opponents’ suggestion that this be replaced with stickers indicating the household wants deliveries is silly. A lot of hard work for nothing. Changing four quarters for a dollar.

Perhaps more troubling is the total lack of consideration that Publi-Sac opponents have 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?

Furthermore, opponents 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.

Once again, Councillor Lavigne Lalonde is to be commended not only for understanding the issues of workers and vulnerable seniors, but actually commenting that these two sectors of our community should not be hurt by the city.

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. It is an intervention on the free flow of information. Is the city — or M. Montpetit — 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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