Skip to content

Staff seek clarity on New West council’s plan for public toilets

Should New Westminster hold off on a public toilet plan until it tests out “robust” signage?
Residents of the Interurban opposed a plan that would allow a public toilet to be built on Begbie Street.

City staff will get to work planning how they’ll approach a citywide public toilet strategy, but two councillors think New West should flush that work for now.

At the July 8 meeting, staff sought clarity on a recent council motion related to a comprehensive public toilet strategy.

Discussions about plans for public toilets have been hot topics of conversation at recent council meetings.

At a June 17 workshop, council supported a recommendation directing staff to proceed with the installation of a permanent free-standing toilet on Begbie Street. At its follow-up meeting on June 24, council approved a motion to develop a citywide toilet strategy before proceeding with the pilot project in the downtown.

The toilet topic was back on the agenda at council’s July 8 workshop, when staff sought confirmation of council’s most recent motion.

A July 8 report stated that before proceeding any further, staff felt it was “prudent” to confirm their understanding of the council motion. Areas of confirmation included the need for a 24/7 toilet downtown and the inclusion of public engagement to determine toilet locations and options for different service levels.

“What we want to make sure of is we had an understanding of all of it before we came back,” said Lisa Spitale, the city’s chief administrative officer.

At Monday afternoon’s workshop, council voted 4-2 in support of a staff recommendation confirming staff’s understanding of the direction from council.

“If city staff’s understanding of the project scope is accurate, the next step is for the project team to provide council with the report outlining the workplan and budget requirements to undertake both the citywide comprehensive public toilet strategy and the installation of increased signage for all publicly funded toilets,” said the report.

At its June 24 meeting, council also approved a motion directing staff to immediately begin the installation of increased signage to increase awareness of all publicly funded toilets.

Although the staff report confirmed the direction given by council at its June 24 meeting about a citywide toilet policy, Coun. Daniel Fontaine said it wasn’t something he could support. He questioned if work has begun on developing signage that directs people to existing public toilets throughout New West.

“The signage is yet to be done,” said Tobi May, the city’s senior manager of civic buildings and properties. “But that work will be scoped and executed as soon as possible. I think that direction was clear from council. The purpose of this report was really to clarify the rest of the direction.”

Citing the workload of city staff, Fontaine said he’d prefer the city start with improving signage to existing public toilets and see if that achieves the desired outcome being sought by council.

“I'd prefer that we were to undertake a robust program of public signage on existing public toilets, test that out,” he said.