Toronto’s ball hockey fix called for interference
By Don Peat ,City Hall Bureau Chief via Toronto Star.
TORONTO – Left-wing and right-wing councillors were quick to check the idea of wrapping Toronto’s ball hockey players in red tape.
Councillors of all political stripes weren’t jumping over the boards to support the bureaucratic fix to the city’s ball hockey ban being championed by Councillor Josh Matlow.
The Ward 22, St. Paul’s councillor is heralding the news this week that after almost a year city staff will be coming back to the public works committee in June with a plan to lift the ball hockey ban on some streets.
Matlow’s says the proposed plan would allow residents to apply for a ball hockey exemption on their streets and they’ll get it if 80% of residents are OK with it, a traffic study is conducted, the street carries less than 1,000 cars a day and their local community council approves it.
Councillor John Parker, a member of the public works committee, shook his head at Matlow’s ball hockey breakaway.
“Look, I love my colleague Councillor Matlow to bits and I would never suggest that anything he brings forward is for the benefit of gaining public profile and the odd cheap headline,” Parker said Wednesday. “But I think the city has done just fine by way of accommodating road hockey on our streets without the benefit of a whole lot of study by city staff and committees.”
Matlow said questions over whether the new red tape was needed for a bylaw rarely enforced is a “fair argument”.
“I don’t think it is going to be overly bureaucratic,” Matlow told reporters. “I’m just glad that we’re taking an incremental approach to allow kids to not feel like, it’s not literally criminalizing, but they feel like they are being criminalized for playing a sport that they know is a Canadian tradition.”
Matlow stressed he believes the ball hockey ban bylaw is “archaic” and “far too paranoid of liability issues.” He suggested parents could take their kids through a “sort of a civics class” as they navigate the bureaucracy to free their street from the hockey bylaw.
“If they are on like a cul-de-sac and there are very few cars there and the sightline is appropriate and the whole street agrees then it should be no big deal,” he said.
Matlow doubted the initiative would be costly.
Traffic studies alone cost the city around $350. The bureaucratic cost of a similar process, getting speed humps added to a street, is around $1,700 a pop.
Public Works chairman Denzil Minnan-Wong wouldn’t predict what will happen at committee but said he believes Matlow’s idea should go “in the round file”.
“I think Councillor Matlow’s helmet is on a little too tight,” he said.
Left-leaning Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and right-leaning Councillor Doug Ford both balked at the thought of ball hockey bureaucracy.
“We should allow the kids to just play,” Wong-Tam said. “I think it works fine the way it is to be quite honest.”
Ford agreed the city should “just let the kids play”.
“I agree with what (Matlow) is doing but I disagree on the format he’s doing it,” he said.