EDITORIAL: The rule of law

It seems a fairly straightforward concept, but many in Parksville Qualicum Beach struggle with it

A certain phrase comes to mind when we watch and listen to the residents, bureaucrats and politicians of the Parksville Qualicum Beach region debate issues.

Rule of law: that individuals, persons and government shall submit to, obey and be regulated by law, and not arbitrary action by an individual or a group of individuals (duhaime.org).

Without it, there is anarchy.

By no means do we profess to be legal experts, but we believe this is a fairly simple and fundamental concept.

If a developer comes to a town or city and proposes something that is clearly in contravention to the rules of a bylaw or bylaws, the project can and should be rejected until such time a bylaw is changed, or a variance is granted, by a duly-elected body.

Conversely, if a developer comes to a town or city and proposes something that is well within the rules of the community, it is irresponsible to reject that project. In fact, it’s not only irresponsible, it can become expensive for taxpayers if the matter is pursued through the courts.

Even beyond that, if someone proposes something and is playing by the rules, it’s an affront to the rule of law to reject that proposal. Just like in business, municipalities should be straight shooters in all their dealings. The alternative is chaos and simply a terrible, immoral way to operate.

Councillors and mayors can retire, choose not to run again or lose an election. Different factions can take control of councils and make/change the law. That’s democracy, something many good Canadians have given their lives to protect.

However, the law today is the law today, period. If a municipal bylaw says all new buildings have to be painted purple, well, all new buildings have to painted purple — it’s the law until it is changed.

Thankfully, only elected people get to change the law in this country, whether it’s related to how much you can water your lawn or how much time must be spent in prison if convicted of murder. The alternative — unelected people changing the laws of the land without a mandate from the electorate — is scary. There are good people who are experts in their fields (planners, judges) who can suggest or even force he hands of the elected folk to make changes to the law, but in the end it’s up to those who were legally elected who should always have the final say.

— Editorial by John Harding