Sarnia, Ont., council approves Toys for Tickets pilot project

FILE. Megan Turcato / Global News

Sarnia city council has approved a pilot project in partnership with the United Way of Sarnia-Lambton to allow those with pay parking tickets to help children in need.

A Toys for Tickets program has been held in different cities across Canada and will run as a pilot project in Sarnia from Dec. 1 to 15 after being approved at the city’s Oct. 5 council meeting.

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According to city staff, anyone with a parking ticket during that time can pay the fine amount by instead donating a new children’s toy or gift cards of equal or greater value.

The United Way will work with Inn of the Good Shepherd and St. Vincent de Paul during their Christmas hamper programs to distribute the toys to those in need, the city says.

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“I think it’s outside-the-box thinking and in a strange year, to say the least, I think it behooves us to be as creative as possible and try and find ways to give back,” said Coun. Brian White, citing the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“And for this particular cause and this particular issue, I have zero hesitation in supporting this idea.”

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Coun. Terry Burrell, however, argued that city money should be doled out during the budget process.

“I guess I’m going to play Grinch. I think it’s a very bad idea,” he said.

“There is a process we have for budgeting and they can come at budget time where they can compete against everybody else to get the city dollars. It’s so easy during the year when there’s not the pressures of budgets on us to just dole out money to various wonderful causes.”

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Burrell suggested that approving the motion could encourage others to request funding outside of the normal budget process.

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General manager of community services Stacey Forfar explained that city staff actually initiated this push.

“I’ve worked in several other municipalities where it’s a fairly common program to do at the end of the year so I’m familiar with it. And our team certainly had a lot of enthusiasm to bring this to the city this year,” she said.

“It was meant to just be really a good news story at the end the year and give back a bit to the community.”

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Coun. Bill Dennis joked that he may even rack up tickets just to take part.

“What a fantastic idea. Toys for tickets, being able to put a smile on a child’s face — especially after this year,” he said.

“It’s seemingly small but creative ideas like this that build up our city and show what kind of community spirit and heart we have. I might actually end up getting quite a few tickets in December just so I can participate.”

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Staff estimate the impact of the program at between $7,000 and $12,000. Accessible parking violations are exempted from the program.

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