Hold it: Some NCC porta-potties only open on weekends

GottaGo! campaign wants reliable network of public toilets in Ottawa

CBC News, Jul 16, 2021
Matthew Kupfer

When nature calls on a weekday, don’t count on using the purple porta-potties you see along two National Capital Commission parkways.

The portable washrooms along the Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Etienne Cartier parkways will be padlocked in your moment of need because they’re only open on weekends, the NCC says.

Meanwhile padlocked toilets on other paths are only for staff, it says, which would be indicated by signage.

People can’t hold it until weekends – Bessa Whitmore, GottaGo! Campaign

No signs were visible at the Blair Road boat launch when cyclist Doris Schoeni came upon a padlocked portable toilet.

“What’s the use of having one if it’s locked? … Then we just have to go in the bush, I guess, or hold it until we’re home again,” Schoeni said.

“Do they really think during COVID times the bathrooms are not being used?”

Potties tied to programming
The federal agency, which manages some significant parks and amenities in the National Capital Region, has added eight portable toilets to accommodate people taking advantage of its weekend bike days and parkway closures.

The toilets along the two parkways are only open on weekends and they are considered a safety hazard during the week because they’re too close to the road when vehicles zoom by, the NCC said.

The porta-potties on Colonel By Drive, however, are open 24/7 for the summer, according to a statement.

The GottaGo! campaign, which has advocated for a network of public toilets maintained by the city and the NCC, said the new facilities are a step in the right direction, but people need reliable options seven days a week.

“Good news is there’s more porta-potties around. Bad news is sometimes they’re locked, people can’t hold it until weekends,” said Bessa Whitmore, a GottaGo member.

The advocacy group has made the case public toilets allow people more freedom to move through the city, no matter their age or any health conditions.

“It’s hard to know where people will find open porta-potties and general public toilets at any given time,” said Whitmore, who wants the public toilet issue considered as part of the City of Ottawa’s upcoming official plan.

Lucky to find one
Maria Edna Salazar, who visited Ottawa with her son Carlos Dermith’s family from Vancouver, was able to find relief during a walk along the Rideau Canal.

“She was looking for it anxiously,” Dermith said — translating from Spanish — along Colonel By Drive near the Clegg Street footbridge.

Salazar and Dermith both said accessible public toilets are important and should be open as long as possible.

“Every now and then she has to go. This, for us, was very lucky,” Dermith said.

Open porta-potties a necessity for tourists and residents alike, visitors say