Green bins, Presto cards and our over-reliance on corporations

A few months ago, I wrote about Presto cards. Now, I like my Presto card. It’s very handy. But it was really a pain to get it. There was nowhere nearby, so I had to pick one up when I was at the Rideau Centre.

In my column, I noted that this was a problem. Tickets could be purchased just about anywhere, but the city was phasing them out. There are only a handful of places to get a Presto card.

A comms person for Metrolinx objected, saying that they were working on a deal to get Presto cards sold in Shoppers Drug Mart locations.

Well, Metrolinx has some great news for us. Now you’re going to be able to buy and top up your Presto cards at Shoppers and at Loblaws! (The two stores are now owned by the same company, you see, so they both get the perks.)

This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t sufficiently address the problem.

Do a search for Loblaws and Shoppers locations. Check the maps. There are a bunch of them, but there are also a whole whack empty spaces. Not everyone will be able to get out to these locations.

The old way—having tickets and passes sold at a variety of stores—was far more useful and far more accessible.

Why are we farming out our public services to a private corporation, only one, no matter how limiting it is?

***

I live in an apartment building, meaning I don’t get to participate in the city’s green bin program. (For some reason, we don’t think people who live in multi-home buildings produce waste or something.) But, y’know, I figured if I could get a green bin, I’d just start using it. I’m not at the top floor of a high-rise, I’m on the ground floor of a walk-up, and there’s space around behind the garbage cans, anyway.

So I went to the city’s website to see about getting one. There are coupons! I could just download a coupon and go get my own green bin without even worrying about a landlord or anything. But wait…

The coupons are for Canadian Tire. I don’t live anywhere close to a Canadian Tire. I, generally, don’t drive, so getting to a Canadian Tire and getting a green bin home is prohibitively difficult.

I do, however, live a few blocks away from a Home Hardware. A few more blocks and there’s a Loblaws. But, no, I can’t get green bins at either of those retailers, only Canadian Tire.

Again, I ask, why do farm out our public services to private corporations, and why only one corporation per service? Surely, there’s a way to get other retailers on board. Maybe we could set something up where there are regular (if infrequent) times when there’ll be green bins at your local community centre, or library, or school. Is it really so difficult?

Relying on the corporate world to provide these sorts of services can be useful. Hell, sometimes, it’s the best way to do it. But when we offer certain corporations a monopoly on delivering public services, we set up significant, unfair and unnecessary barriers to many residents who need those services.

Really, just give me a damned green bin.

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