EDITORIAL – Drugs-in-parks bylaw is all about appearing to do something

(Image: Mel Rothenburger)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

JUST BECAUSE something is right, should there be a bylaw for it?

As Kamloops City staff begin working on a major amendment to the City’s parks bylaw, it’s a question worth asking.

The amendment, proposed by Coun. Katie Neustaeter, would coattail on similar initiatives in a number of other B.C. municipalities — namely, to ban consumption of illicit drugs “at any city facility, highway, park, or public space.”

There are several hoops the change must go through before becoming reality, including consultation with Interior Health, Health ministry approval and three readings and adoption by council.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, it’s a good idea in principle — the public should have the right to enjoy public spaces without being interrupted by people inhaling or injecting illicit drugs just because the province has decided small amounts of them won’t be prosecuted.

But, as I also wrote, such a bylaw is almost certainly doomed to fail because of the challenges involved in enforcing it. And, so far, council seems to concede the point.

As Neustaeter puts it, it’s more about “social expectation” than necessarily getting something done. She also insists there’s no price tag on it.

That can only be true if there are no lawsuits and if there’s no enforcement, because there would have to be a huge investment in enforcement for it to work.

So why raise expectations if those expectations can’t be met? How will the public’s confidence be raised by a bylaw that doesn’t fix anything?

Coun. Dale Bass, who opposes the bylaw, compares it to another bylaw already on the books that says you’re not allowed to idle your vehicle for more than three minutes. To anyone’s knowledge, it’s never been enforced in the five years since it was adopted.

At the time, council knew it wasn’t enforceable but hoped it would send a message and that drivers would encourage each other to do the right thing. Of course, the message was short-lived, and nobody pays any attention to how long they should idle.

The proposed drugs-in-parks bylaw has the same look about it. It’s certainly well-intentioned but it has the earmarks of desperation to do something, anything, or at least to have the appearance of doing something.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He has served as mayor of Kamloops, school board chair and TNRD director, and is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9634 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: