Premier Doug Ford and his government are once again facing criticism over proposed legislation they claim will “cut red tape” and “spur business development,” but this time it is over the section of Bill 66 that deals with pawn shops.
The government is proposing repealing the Pawnbrokers Act as part of the legislation without replacing it. The law sets standards and a framework for pawnbrokers across the province. It includes regulations on what information should be recorded when someone pawns an item, how long that information should be kept, and rules for reporting stolen property.
While many, including the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP), have been pushing for changes when it comes to the outdated legislation, they say the government should have a plan to replace it.
“Simply repealing it isn’t frankly going to help us that much,” said OACP spokesperson Joe Couto.
“Our concern is the message that it will send out. Without clear, consistent rules that are 21st century solutions, that’s the wrong message to send out to people that would steal stuff.”
Couto added a province-wide database is needed in order for Ontario police services to more effectively track stolen goods.
“Something that is digital that allows police to search a database so that if your merchandise in the city of Toronto is stolen and it winds up in the city of Hamilton, then the police in either jurisdiction can search for that merchandise,” he said.
In a statement to Global News, the Ministry of the Attorney General said the act “duplicates existing municipal bylaw-making and licensing authority.”
“This change would remove a layer of red tape, making pawnbroker businesses subject to local by-laws, just like any other business,” the statement said.
But Couto said consistency is needed across Ontario.
“Those by-laws will be helter-skelter all over the province,” he said.
NDP Community Safety and Correctional Services critic Kevin Yarde had a blunt response when asked about the issue.
“By scrapping the Pawnbrokers Act, Doug Ford is making it easier for criminals to steal from you, and ‘fence’ your stuff,” he said.
“Ford is cancelling the responsibility of pawnbrokers to keep basic records about who sold them the goods — records that are a tool for police investigating crimes. It’s wrong for Ford to take that tool away from police officers, which could lead to increased burglaries and more work for already overloaded police services.”
Matthew Shortt manages McTamney’s & Co. Pawnbrokers on Church Street in Toronto. The business was founded in 1860 and has been at its location since the 1900s. Shortt said he is neutral when it comes to the repeal of the Pawnbrokers Act, but believes the industry will be able to self-regulate.
“I believe that we already lead with honesty and integrity on how we do our business and I don’t foresee change happening on a grand scale moving forward even if legislation is repealed,” he said.
In Toronto’s Canary District at Gears Bike Shop, manager Michel Cranwell is more skeptical. Cranwell previously held a pawnbrokers licence and said he is concerned about how the changes will impact bike thefts in the city.
“This is a serious issue and the potential for abuse of it without a pawnbrokers licence, it just makes it that much easier for them, doesn’t it?” said Cranwell.
“If a pawnshop is not going to take down you information you can sell them anything, there’s no accountability. If there is no accountability, then how do we know that the bike is legit?”
Bill 66 is set to be debated when MPPs return to Queen’s Park in late February.