In advance of today’s Bed Bug Project Update in Toronto, Joe Fiorito, the Toronto Star journalist who I am quite sure has written about bed bugs more than anyone else in the mainstream media, anywhere, weighs in.
His questions and comments give a sense of how complicated a matter it is to solve a city’s well-established bed bug problem. Fiorito writes,
I have my own little Q and A in advance of the report:
Do most people know where and how to get help if they have an infestation? No. Does Public Health offer help and advice? They offer more advice than help. Is there any kind of help available right now? Not much, and it doesn’t come fast.
Can we compel landlords to spray an infected apartment? Not at the moment. Do landlords know that, for spraying to be effective in an apartment building or a rooming house, it ought to include the units above, below and to the side of the affected unit? Most don’t.
Can a tenant be compelled to submit to spraying? Not at the moment. Do bugs spread quickly if left unchecked? Yes. Should tenants be allowed to refuse help? Not in my opinion.
Does anyone have to power to compel such intervention? Not really. Should the city pass a bylaw to compel compliance? In my view, yes. But compliance ought to be compelled with a gentle hand; in some cases, help must be delivered with a dollop of social and psychological services.
Fiorito knows these are serious questions. He has interviewed countless bed bug sufferers and public officials about bed bugs in Toronto.
I will judge the report according to how it answers these and other questions.
I have a final thought, perhaps for inclusion in the report: We require restaurants to post notices assuring us we may dine safely here or there; why do we not require landlords to post similar notices indicating buildings are bedbug free?
Since bed bugs can appear at any time, it would have to be as quickly-changed as the “vacancy” signs in a roadside motel.
What a different world we would be in, if landlords had to declare their buildings’ bed bugs for all to see.