Mayor promises action after survey suggests more public washrooms needed in Edmonton’s core

A file photo of a toilet.
A file photo of a toilet. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Edmonton’s mayor says he will seek both short- and long-term solutions to the city’s public washroom shortage after a recent survey suggested there is a need for more of them in the central part of Edmonton.

There are currently 51 public washrooms in the downtown core communities. For example, Central McDougall and McCauley both have seven facilities, Oliver has four, Queen Mary Park and Stony Plain Road each have three while Boyle Street has two.

Out of the 51 facilities in the downtown core, only 14 are open after 9 p.m., none are open after 1 a.m. and generally none are open earlier than 6 a.m.

“Opportunities for public washroom use diminish further away from the core,” the report, done by the city, reads.

The matter was discussed at the Community and Public Services Committee on Monday. Mayor Don Iveson acknowledged the growing need for public washroom facilities. He said while a comprehensive approach will take some time to develop, he’s hoping to have some interim solutions right away.

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“I think looking at an overall strategy for this makes sense but in the interim, we may need some temporary measures – certainly with the (NHL) playoffs coming – places for people to go on a temporary basis.
“With all of this downtown vibrancy that we’re creating by having the arena and the associated events down here, we don’t want to inadvertently create an unintended consequence of a bad smell every morning after a lovely evening the night before,” Iveson said.

“I think what we’ve seen is it’s not without challenges to have these facilities but the alternative of just leaving people to do their business on the street, particularly vulnerable people, is also unacceptable. So, we’re going to have to bite the bullet. We’re going to have to add some more facilities, certainly downtown.”

The survey found respondents said there was a greater need for others to use a public washroom than their own need.

The following are the three main themes of the survey’s comments:

  • Convenience – such as for parents with children, seniors or those with health issues, free to use
  • Dignity – such as businesses that restrict use, inadequate housing, human rights
  • Design – such as size, accessibility and running water
  • The survey suggests there is a need for more washrooms in the following neighbourhoods: downtown, Boyle Street, McCauley, Stony Plain Road, Central McDougall, Queen Mary Park and Oliver.

“There’s no doubt that for people who are living on the street, for the most vulnerable among us, that not having a place to go and take care of your most basic need is just one more challenge to deal with and it leads to difficult consequences for people in terms of having to do their business in a back lane or something like that and that creates social disorder as well,” the mayor said.

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Iveson said while washrooms in the city’s core were a high priority, more public washrooms in city parks and throughout the river valley were next on his radar.

“It has made a huge difference in Old Strathcona to have a place for families, festival goers and vulnerable Edmontonians.”

City administrators will report back to the committee in early 2018 in order for councillors to begin considering long-term solutions.

“The other thing is we really need people to be conscientious about is going and doing their business before they leave a restaurant, Rogers Place – wherever,” Iveson added. “So that, to the extent possible, they’re using the facilities that are there for them.”

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