COMMENTARY: Cornwall picks and chooses its liability

Walmart Logistics in Cornwall, Ont. is into showing the spirit of Pride outside its distribution center. The City of Cornwall staff are not so keen on this idea for the city citing liability issues. (Supplied via Newswatch Group)

A number of Eastern Ontario communities including Prescott and Kemptville have rainbow crosswalks but stodgy old Cornwall is a stick in the mud when it comes to the idea of doing the same – at least this year. It’s pushed off to 2022 budget but there’s no guarantee it will see the light of day.

A report from the infrastructure and municipal works department points to guidelines from the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) and liability should there be an accident where the crosswalk could be seen as a contributing factor. You, the taxpayer, even paid for a legal opinion on this.

Meantime, other municipalities with far smaller budgets to cover litigation and lawyers, have been okay with installing them, assuming that liability risk. Even the town of Cap-Pele, New Brunswick believes the TAC guidelines are just recommendations, not the law, and it has a rainbow crosswalk. Even Walmart Logistics in Cornwall stepped up to the plate and put a giant rainbow across the front of its parking lot where people walk every day.

The Cornwall report also pushes the narrative that the crosswalks are “being implemented at lower volume and lower speed intersections.” The Town of Prescott’s rainbow crosswalk is on probably one of the highest traffic count streets in the town – King Street – also known as County Road 2.

It’s pretty rich for the City of Cornwall to cry liability when it’s the same administration and council that approved a winter toboggan hill in Lamoureux Park. A toboggan hill that only separates a child from going into the St. Lawrence River by a few bales of hay. Toboggan hills have been through the liability test with a landmark case against the City of Hamilton in 2013. There is no such liability test or prior court cases on rainbow crosswalks.

I guess that’s what you call selective liability. It makes you wonder if it’s really liability that’s the issue or some within the municipal works department who either don’t want the trouble of a pride crosswalk or don’t want to have $50,000 pulled from their budget and will use liability to achieve it.

I’m Bill Kingston.

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