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Some points on the ALC free parking day

Yesterday, Council voted to approve the rental of 100 parking spots as a promotion by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. I voted against it because I believe it is bad parking policy and bad public health policy. I would like to clarify some points and would be interested in your perspective.

  1. Let’s start with parking policy. The reason we charge fees for parking is not to raise revenue, but to ensure that people use a scarce resource, downtown parking spaces, effectively. Allowing the ALC to give spaces away for free undermines this policy, encouraging people to park all day at a meter. Nowhere on the decision note did it state that 2 hour timed periods were going to be possible, in fact it stated the opposite:
    1. “It was also suggested, by staff, that the meter covers have a maximum time limit that a motorist would be permitted to park to prevent someone from staying at one of these spaces for a prolonged period. HAYLO indicated that the meter covers that are printed for this promotional event will be recycled through other participating municipalities and they would not be able to adhere to this request.”
  2. So our note indicates that the City asked for timed limits on the parking spots but the ALC refused, citing the fact that they would be printing the covers for multiple cities and would not be able to accommodate this request.
  3. Thus, from a parking perspective, when you’re taking a small amount of money from the ALC ($1500) in order to reduce the turnover of parking spaces downtown for a day, This hurts downtown business and the majority of people that frequent the downtown on that day.
    1. Edit: I will further clarify the fact that 71 of the 100 meters are not operational, which leaves 29 meters that are in fact operational. In my opinion, however, this means that those meters are even more important because of the scarcity of operational on-street metered parking. 
  4. From a public health perspective: there are some specific points I would like to make. While lots of people are casual buyers of a scattered scratch ticket or a few break opens at Bingo, a lot of people and families in this province have been hurt by problem gambling. NL spends more per capita on lottery activities than any other Atlantic Canada province $769 per person vs. $421 in NB, $383 in NS and $375 in PEI.
  5. Of all the ways to pay for public services, gambling is one of the most regressive. It takes not only from low-income individuals, but even among them, from those who are particularly vulnerable.
  6. At its root, the purpose of this marketing campaign is to promote gambling, to help the ALC meet their targets. They were openly disappointed in a CBC interview in 2018 that they took less money from NL families in 2018 than they expected, to a tune of 4.6 million dollars less than was projected.
    1. This campaign is tied to increased opportunities for gambling as provided by the ALC. As is stated in the below article, “Earlier this year the Interprovincial Lottery Corporation announced it would bring a breath of fresh air to Lotto MAX with an additional Tuesday draw. Up until now, Fridays were special for lottery enthusiasts, as they were able to make some of them very rich… in addition to that, the jackpot cap is also going to increase to CA$70 million, a significant change to the current CA$60-million one. As for the balls in action, right now the lottery game features the numbers from 1 to 49 but come May 14 the number 50 is also going to be added to the overall amount of lottery balls. Now the lottery corporation wants to promote the changes with free parking spaces in downtown St. John’s.
  7. In Halifax, a 2 hour parking limit seems to have been proposed. “The subject proposal will roughly triple the municipality’s average parking meter revenue for the day, generating an approximate total revenue of $11,820 representing approximately $7,092 in additional revenue, while offering the public benefit of free parking,” Horne wrote. The report proposes a limit on the free parking of two hours.
  8. The bottom line is there is a big difference between passively collecting taxation from lottery users, and encouraging further sales through feel-good promotional marketing campaigns like this one. Because gambling hurts people and families, I don’t think we should contribute to the promotion of it at all.

I haven’t delved deep into some broader questions such as how does the ALC profit distribution work? That’s not a municipal issue, but I am interested in any perspectives on the economic and social policy implications of lottery corporations in our country. 

Council agenda can be found here:

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