Editorial – Bylaws and bears

This week's editorial discusses bylaw enforcement within the City of Fernie.

When I turned on my computer Friday morning, I was greeted with the news that a bear was euthanized in Fernie. A friend of mine had posted her experience of seeing a black bear trapped in their neighbour’s yard and expressed her sadness over the situation.

It is a sad situation: sad for the conservation officers, sad for the people of Fernie and especially sad for the bears. They are enticed into the city by the smell of garbage, not knowing that it may be their demise.

This received a lot of attention, as it was the first bear killed this season. Last year, over 20 bears were killed in Fernie, with an additional dozen being killed throughout the Elk Valley. People are wondering if this is the first of many more for the 2016 summer.

The City has implemented an amendment to the waste management bylaw to hinder bears’ ability to access garbage, which will be enforced as of May 31. It is then that all residences in Fernie are expected to have garbage cans, and not leave plastic bags on the curb for pick up. This does not mean that plastic bags should not be used. To ensure that garbage isn’t easily accessible, it should be placed in a bag, and then in a can with a secure lid. This will also make life easier for Fernie’s friendly garbage man.

While I recognize that the City is taking a step in the right direction by legislating garbage cans must be used, I’m wondering if it will be enough. I have only covered the ongoings at Fernie City Hall for six months, but in that time it has become apparent that there is an issue with bylaw enforcement. In my experience, bylaw enforcement is the one issue that constantly gets people into the gallery, asking for City Council to do more. Whether it pertains to dogs, garbage or parking, people are wondering if the bylaw officer is doing enough.

It was at one of my first City Council meetings in November that the bylaw officer gave a quarterly report, detailing how many tickets he had issued and his activities for the months of August to October. Now, in May, I haven’t seen him give another report since.

While researching a story in April, I called City Hall, looking for information on bylaw enforcement and how many tickets had been issued this year in regards to waste management. I was sent numbers up to the end of 2015 but nothing for 2016 and was told he was a little behind in the paperwork. On the City’s website, the last bylaw report made available is for August to October 2015.

Finally, at the May 16 City Council Meeting, I asked when I could expect the next quarterly report from the bylaw officer. I had seen both the Fire Chief and the RCMP give their reports to Council in the last three months, but had not even seen the bylaw officer in Council Chambers. I was told that, yes he was behind on his reports, but they hoped it would be available at the next Council meeting. As of the afternoon of May 24, when this issue went to press, the bylaw officer was scheduled to address Council with an updated quarterly report at that evening’s Council Meeting.

This makes me wonder who is managing the bylaw officer and how it has been okay that six months have passed since he has last addressed Council. It also makes me worry about how many more bears will die because of garbage, a lack of enforcement, and a lack of compliance.