New Brunswick

People who steal shopping carts could be fined under proposed Moncton bylaw

A proposed bylaw in Moncton would allow the city to fine people for taking shopping carts from downtown businesses, something two councillors worried would see the city fining homeless people.

City says draft bylaw would force businesses to take more responsibility for carts

Someone pushes a shopping cart filled with items after a homeless tent camp was dismantled in downtown Moncton last year. (Shane Magee/CBC)

A proposed bylaw in Moncton would allow the city to fine people for taking shopping carts from downtown businesses, something two councillors worried would see the city fining homeless people.

The draft bylaw would allow the city to issue fines between $140 and $2,100 to people who remove a shopping cart from the premises of the business that owns the cart.

The bylaw, drafted because of a potential "blight"of abandon carts, could also fine the businesses whose carts were taken.

Coun. Paul Pellerin said he can't support the bylaw as drafted because homeless people who use carts to move personal belongings or empty bottles could be fined. Deputy Mayor Shawn Crossman echoed that concern. 

"I'm not saying I'm totally against this idea," Pellerin said. "I am totally against the possibility of charging a homeless person a fee."

Coun. Paul Pellerin says he can't support the bylaw as proposed if it could result in the city fining homeless people. (Shane Magee/CBC News)

City staff say the bylaw is meant to shift some of the cost of collecting the carts to businesses and encourage them to keep their carts on-site. 

"The intent is not to criminalize many of these people who may put all of their worldly belongings in a cart and probably don't have means to pay a fine," Nick Robichaud, the city's solicitor, told councillors at a committee meeting Monday.

Bruce Tait, the city's acting general manager of community safety services, said the bylaw focuses on abandoned carts.

"We would not be undertaking, as I said, to empty a person's shopping cart," Tait said.

Nick Robichaud, Moncton's general manager of legal and legislative services, says the proposed bylaw is intended to force businesses to take more steps to collect abandoned shopping carts. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Crossman also voiced concerns about provisions of the bylaw, including how the city would be authorized to go onto private property to collect the carts.

Other councillors voiced support for the premise of the bylaw. There was unanimous support to move the bylaw on for first reading at a future meeting. 

Carts abandoned downtown have become an "issue of concern" for councillors and the public, a city staff report to council about the proposed bylaw states. 

Carts a hazard

Carts left on public and private property are "a visible blight in a neighborhood," the report says, which can create hazards or obstacles for people with accessibility issues. 

The staff report says the city has been collecting the carts, a practice it describes as unsustainable. On one day this year, the report says, staff collected and returned 20 carts.

The bylaw would only apply to stores within a downtown zone that includes large retailers such as Sobeys and Superstore. Staff told council the zone may be expanded in the future. 

An abandoned shopping cart in Moncton. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

It would require stores within that zone to "implement an approved cart management system" and have the store's address and contact information on each cart. 

Carts removed from a store's property would have to be retrieved at the store's expense within 24 hours of notification that they've been located. 

Those not collected by the store will be impounded by the city and only released after a $50 payment. The city would be able to "dispose" of a cart if not collected by a store within a week. 

Charles Savoie, director of strategic planning and policing support services, told councillors each cart is worth about $100 to $200. He said some businesses reported losing $10,000 worth of carts per year.

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

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