Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday September 8, 2016
Children and Youth Services Minister Michael Coteau is urging city council to end Hamilton’s bylaw ban on road hockey.
“Road hockey bans are commonplace in municipalities across Ontario, but they don’t need to be,” the minister wrote in a Sept. 6 letter to council that notes Toronto and Kingston have already bucked the municipal trend.
“I am hoping that your council will be next. A vote to overturn the prohibition and let kids play will challenge other municipalities to abolish similar road hockey bans in their own communities.”
Coteau made headlines in July when he publicly urged Toronto’s council to end its own street hockey ban. Council did so over the objections of its own legal staff, but proposed conditions limiting game time to daylight hours and on streets with slow traffic speeds.
The move prompted Coun. Sam Merulla — who fought unsuccessfully to kill Hamilton’s bylaw as far back as 2002 — to ask city legal staff to revisit the local ban. A report is expected later this year.
Merulla said he spoke to Coteau about the value of street hockey in the summer and was “heartened” by the minister’s enthusiasm.
But he added the province could help by adding language to the Highway Traffic Act that would head off municipal concerns about liability.
“With a stroke of a pen, they could help all municipalities feel more comfortable overnight,” he said.
Municipal lawyers in several cities, including Hamilton, have in the past suggested the strict language in the Highway Traffic Act doesn’t provide the legal leeway needed for cities to allow sports in the street.
In any event, Hamilton would only enforce its street hockey ban in response to a complaint. But municipal lawyers have argued the rule helps protect the city from lawsuits in the event of an injury.
Coteau said in a brief interview he hasn’t heard from municipal leaders other than Merulla that provincial rules of the road are an impediment to changing local bylaws.
“If (the act) is a barrier … I’d love to have a conversation about it,” he said.
But the minister added, while he is keen to advocate for a “common sense approach,” he isn’t intending to enforce rule changes on any city. “Local policy-makers … have to make those decisions on behalf of the people they represent.” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)