Sanction Ezra Street parties or stop complaining

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graphic by Gina Hsu

This city hates its golden goose. Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge is home to Canada’s eleventh-highest median income, in no small part because of its universities.

But every year the groans grow louder over students partying on Ezra Street in the unsanctioned St. Patrick’s Day block party. 

City council drew up a report saying “Costs are increasing to unsustainable levels,” ignoring that students bring millions of dollars into the city and the event costs less than $800,000 to police and clean up. 

The same report screams bloody murder about the safety of students as they drink in the street, while suggesting police and fences as the only precaution. 

Many countries and jurisdictions around the world manage block parties just fine, but it’s enough to make Waterloo’s city government faint in horror. 

It’s only in a place like Waterloo that 30,000 people having a good time is seen as a problem and not an opportunity.

If the municipal and regional governments truly cared about student safety, they’d sanction the event and institute the same procedures used the world over. 

Provide water stations, roving paramedics and employ student party leaders who watch over the event from the inside. 

But that’s the more expensive option. 

What’s cheaper is pitting long time residents against students, who are unlikely to vote in municipal elections. 

Students are used as a boogieman to the rest of the city, as they dare enjoy the streets they live in. 

And the media buys it. 

Ludicrous headlines in the opinion section of the Waterloo Region Record range from “Schedule exams for morning after St. Patrick’s Day party on Ezra” to 

“Make students pay for their March 17 party on Ezra Avenue”.

These failures in nuance do the divisive work of politicians for them while informing students that their point of view isn’t welcome. 

What the geniuses at The Record haven’t figured out yet is students already pay for their parties and a good deal of other municipal projects too. 

Years of contributions by students through property taxes, spending money and going on to found numerous startups in this city is what pays for the roads and waterways. 

“Post-secondary institutions need to shift the party culture to one of community respect,” the city’s tone-deaf report reads. 

Respect goes both ways and it’s about time students started getting their fair share. 

Students grow up, and if this city’s elites in media and government aren’t lucky, students might remember how they were treated. 

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