EDITORIAL: Changing laws requires leadership

The people who are elected to office — not municipal staff — are supposed to set direction

It really is a shame how governments get stuck on past practices, seemingly unable to react to new realities.

Bylaws, and laws in general, are in place for good reason. However, they can also become outdated, foolish or even downright discriminatory.

There was a time when women couldn’t vote. There was a time and place when slavery was legal. These were laws that needed to be changed.

It should not have to take street marches or civil war to change outdated bylaws in Vancouver Island communities. And sometimes — imagine this — exceptions should be made to deal with unforeseen circumstances.

Reference reporter Candace Wu’s story on page 5 Tuesday. Does anyone believe it’s a good idea that a perfectly good $80,000 Nanoose Bay cottage should be thrown into the dump because of some Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw?

This kind of exception-to-the-rule talk makes some bureaucrats nervous. They treat bylaws like Moses brought them down from the mountain. (Actually, considering how often those 10 Commandments are broken every minute of the day, these bylaws are treated with more respect than those stone tablets.)

Perhaps more accurately, bureaucrats and the weaker politicians who follow the lead of staff without question, make every move with liability and precedent in mind. Yes, insurance companies and lawyers do rule the world.

This kind of logical, practical, thinking-on-your-feet kind of governing is not likely to come from city, town or regional district staff. And perhaps it shouldn’t. There is something to be said for consistency and a black-and-white approach by bureaucrats.

This kind of leadership needs to come from the people elected to lead municipal staff. Sadly, we currently do not have that kind of leadership in municipalities here. Too often, smart, experienced, practical people like RDN chair Joe Stanhope and Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre defer to staff.

The voters of this region did not send people to council and board chambers to be yes men and women. They believed in these people, put their X beside the names of candidates they believed would be good leaders, good stewards of the community.

It’s time for municipal politicians in these parts to lead, not defer.

— Editorial by John Harding

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