After suffering a somewhat tumultuous summer in terms of bylaw infractions, Tofino’s municipal council is already working on a plan for next year.
Coun. Duncan McMaster brought a motion to council last month to direct staff to review the district’s bylaws, specifically ‘Public Property Use Regulation Bylaw, No. 1098 2009, and bring back recommendations regarding how to better control nuisances and disturbances like illegal camping, noise, and littering.
McMaster explained he was frustrated by the lack of enforcement of Tofino’s bylaws over the summer.
“I don’t think there’s been a day this summer that I haven’t had a complaint from a member of the public whether it be an email, someone knocking on my door, or a phone call,” he said.
“I’d just like to get the bylaws sorted out so if we do want to enforce something we can do it. I’ve had lots of complaints about how many warning tickets have to be given out before we actually do anything.”
He suggested the Public Property Use Regulation Bylaw doesn’t put enough onuses on the district’s bylaw enforcement team to act.
“The tone of the existing bylaw is very much, ‘You as a member of the public should do this and should do this and then we as bylaw may do this,’ he said.
“I think as taxpayers, the public wants to hear a little bit more of ‘bylaw will do this’…I think we need to update this bylaw because I don’t want to see a Penticton happen in Tofino.”
District CAO Bob MacPherson suggested council can expect to hear staff request more resources towards bylaw enforcement during future budget deliberations.
“Certainly the content of the bylaw is one of the things we do need to deal with, but how we’re resourcing the enforcement, I think, is probably more important than what the words in the bylaw are,” he said.
“It was a very busy summer for law enforcement in Tofino and I think that everyone involved would like to have things to have been different than they were.”
He added district staff are speaking with local police about how bylaws can be better enforced.
McMaster said improvements must be made before the start of next summer’s season.
“I’m glad it’s happening now because we tend to sort of forget about these things over the winter and then suddenly when crisis hits in the middle of summer we all start to complain,” he said.
“I just want to get things sorted out now over the winter so we’re ready to go next May and I believe the RCMP’s got to be involved.”
Coun. Cathy Thicke agreed.
“I think this is the tip of the iceberg…This year’s escalated to real flagrant abuse in this town I think there’s a sense of entitlement that has not previously been seen and I think the quality of life of the residents is being seriously compromised here,” she said.
She suggested the district have a conversation with RCMP about the philosophy of policing in Tofino.
“It’s one thing to change a bylaw but perhaps parallel to that we need to discuss what is our philosophy on this because clearly what we’re doing is not being effective so I think we need to dig a bit deeper,” she said.
Coun. Greg Blanchette said some bylaw issues, particularly illegal camping, are symptoms of larger issues.
“I just want to point out that there’s other things involved in this equation other than bylaw and enforcement. I’m thinking in terms of the illegal camping we’ve seen,” he said.
“If you can’t point people to an alternative then really what can you do…I don’t want us to get into a problem that Victoria’s having where there’s homeless people camping in public parks and there’s nothing they can do about it.”
The district’s manager of corporate services Jane Armstrong, who oversees bylaw enforcement, said staff will look into the bylaw but added the bylaw crew is challenged with the task of catching offenders in the act and could use a boost to its resources.
She also suggested underlying questions must be answered as well.
“Regulation is really the last step. We need to be looking at some of the underlying issues. Why are we seeing this problem,” she asked.
“We can expand the tool box and we’re already looking at doing that from an administrative point of view.”
She said bylaw’s main goal is to achieve compliance rather than dish out fines.
“If officers are in the field and they are getting compliance and not seeing the same individuals then they feel they have accomplished the purpose of the bylaw,” she said.
“If they’re having problems issuing tickets when they’re in the field we need to further develop our relationship with the RCMP…It’s always important of course that there is always discretion in any kind of law enforcement.”
MacPherson suggested inviting the RCMP to an upcoming council meeting and council agreed to send out an invite.