Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Newton’s law of municipal regulation is that for every bylaw there is an equal and opposite bylaw.   The Local Government Bylaw Notice Enforcement Act (which also applies to Vancouver) allows City Halls to profit from this law of nature by punishing people outside of the judicial system.

Under the Act, a bureaucrat called a bylaw officer is appointed. He issues the tickets called bylaw notices. If you pay quickly you can get a discount but if you are late you get a surcharge.

A bylaw notice popped in the mail is deemed to be delivered whether you got it or not. (s. 7(2). The ticket recipient in essence has two choices (1) he can either pay the fine if he is guilty, or (2) he can pay the fine if he is not guilty. The second choice involves requesting adjudication after he is presumed to have received the notice.

The City may also appoint a screening officer. (s. 10) Before scheduling adjudication he can enter into a compliance agreement. (s. 11) This is like a guilty plea. He can offer terms including a better deal on the penalty for agreeing to pay but he can also rescind it if he thinks it’s a good idea. He has to watch out because the screening officer, himself can be hauled before the City Adjudicator who can kick bureaucratic butt just the way the police do when they investigate each other.

The “legal rules of evidence do not apply.” Guilt based on rumors was good enough for witches and should be good enough for meter miscreants.

There is no appeal from an adjudicator’s decision. (s. 22)

It’s hard to find fault with such a perfect system but here are a few things:

Canada’s independent judiciary serves as an impartial adjudicator of cases. The Courts are separate from administration. They do not directly benefit from fines.  On the other hand, the proposed system is justice of the government, by the government and for the government. The entire system is run by and serves City Hall. Its purpose is to raise money. Don’t count on due process.

Judges must adhere to ethical standards of conduct and honesty. Decisions can be appealed. Judges are bound by the principles set out in earlier decisions. Everyone gets the same treatment. There are no special deals for fellow employees who want their tickets fixed. This is called “the rule of law.”

To view fines as a primary source of government revenue compromises the justice system. The politicians on Vancouver’s Council are deliberately creating a parking shortage by removing it from large sections of the downtown, installing meters everywhere else with extended hours, all as a crass money grab. Just wait until they send inspectors through your condo and fine you for disobeying an order by an inspector to remove something that was put in without permits by an earlier owner twenty years ago.

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