Mar. 28, 2020

Details are lacking in role of municipal bylaw officers

HAVING SERVED in political office, one of the most frustrating things was the passage of measures that we not enforceable. It was usually a chest pounding of “well, we did something about it, we passed a bylaw.” 

When citizens seek enforcement of such bylaws nothing ever happens because there is no enforcement aspect.

That’s what raised my interest when the province announced that it would depend on municipal bylaw officers to enforce rulings from the provincial medical health officer. Attorney General Mike Farnworth stressed these orders are not suggestions, “they are the law.”

"To that end we will be enabling municipal bylaw officers to be redeployed to help ensure compliance with the provincial health officer's recommendations and orders. Orders which could carry fines or even jail time."

That sounds like a full police force hitting the streets. That’s news to my sources at city hall. They believe the AG’s order does not give authority to levy fines or detain peoiple, only to monitor, warn and provide information to health officers in respect of potential contraventions. It basically orders bylaw officers to assist. 

Nanaimo’s bylaw department is already stretched with homelessness issues. And the bottom line so far, there has been no extra funding offered to municipalities.

In a quest for clarity, I have placed a number of requests to government information offices, waiting for a response. It’s simple questions – what authority will bylaw officers have, and is the province kicking in funding to help municipalities with this extra burden. Shouldn’t be difficult to answer. 

A clear set of rules and money is needed. It’s early, and a lot of these action are made on the fly, so more details may flesh out the order and even provide some funding.