Ontario's Attorney General Yasir Naqvi told reporters Tuesday that the province has a plan to introduce anti ticket-scalping legislation by this spring, but that they still need the public's help in collecting data via a government survey.
Naqvi, who addressed a small room full of reporters and political figures at Toronto's Ed Mirvish theatre, was joined by Kingston MPP Sophie Kiwala—the leader behind a private member's bill introduced last September that aims to ban ticket scalpers and ticket-scalping bots from Ontario.
Kiwala told reporters that the issue of scalping has been one that has been growing in recent years, but noted that the issue reached a fever pitch after tickets for the Tragically Hip's Canada-wide tour—which became prolific due to lead singer Gord Downie's diagnosis of terminal brain cancer—began being scooped up and resold for as much as $5,000.
"Tickets sold out in moments," Kiwala said, adding that she and the Naqvi have been in talks with the Hip's Robert Baker since the crisis started. "I had people contacting my office from across [the country]."
In response, the Ontario government is now planning to introduce anti-scalping legislation by this spring. The details of the legislation are vague, but Naqvi told reporters that his team has been in steady communication with "all avenues" of the entertainment industry, and is now trying to reach out to citizens via a new survey to gauge what they'd like to see in the law.
"What happened with the Hip's [tour] really personally bugged me," Naqvi said. "Don't get me wrong: having the ability to go online to buy and sell tickets has given fans the opportunity to [see more shows,] but fans deserve a fair shot at getting tickets to see their favourite band or sports team."
The survey, which is open from February 28 to March 15, asks participants about a number of issues, including but not limited to: accessibility of tickets (how many tickets are actually available for public sale versus how many are being held back for corporate clients), pricing (too expensive from the get-go and/or resold too high), regulation (cracking down on resale websites), and enforcement (actually penalizing those who get caught scalping).
When asked by reporters how the government plans to enforce a potential ban on ticket bots, Naqvi acknowledged the issue is difficult—both because of how hard it is to actually track down and prosecute potential scalpers, but also because both the public and venues still want the ability to be able to resell and/or trade tickets.
"I don't want to sugarcoat or say that the problem is an easy one to solve…It's a very complex problem," Naqvi said. "We can't shut down the internet. When you talk to fans, they do want to go online to buy and sell tickets, they want that flexibility as well."
Both Kiwala and Naqvi will be holding at talk at Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone (DMZ) Wednesday evening at 7PM for anyone who wants to ask them more questions in person.
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