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Call to revive program to incentivize businesses to open up washrooms to public

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A report in front of a City of Winnipeg committee recommends reviving a program to incentivize downtown businesses to open up their washrooms to the public.

The program would call on the city to collaborate with non-profits and businesses to offer public access to their existing washrooms or to host a temporary washroom on their property.

In return, participating businesses and organizations would receive funding for staffing, supplies and maintenance.

The public service would also help develop safety plans, train staff and create capacity for the washrooms.

A similar program was outlined in the city’s 2021 public restroom strategy coined Places to Go. It offered incentives to businesses through money raised by advertising in temporary washrooms, but it never happened.

The report recommends public funds now be used to revive the program.

Committee chair Evan Duncan says so far, business partnerships and temporary facilities haven't worked.

He instead would like the province to help with more permanent facilities, like the one the city opened on Main Street in 2022.

“The one that does work with the main infrastructure at Main Street there and the social services being provided at that site - it does work, and now we need a partner with the provincial government if we're going to put more of these throughout Winnipeg,” he said.

The report notes the program will enhance access to public washrooms in areas of high poverty and the downtown core with minimal budgetary impacts.

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham says many businesses are already opening up their washrooms to the public, but the city wants to be working in cooperation with them.

“Ongoing dialogue needs to happen with our business partners, as well, but this is just a further expression to treat people with dignity, but then also to make sure that we’re recognizing the needs of our business owners, also.”

The report recommends the city’s standing policy committee on community service approve the development of the program by the public service, and report back with recommendations in three months.

The committee will vote on the recommendation at a meeting on March 6.

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