Notebooks: Laws and Regulations
( display item 16)
Setup: 17-Jun-2012 by Belinda Cole 
In our experiences, bureaucracies take on rule-making roles in a number of different circumstances. Sometimes, our elected representatives - at the municipal, provincial and federal levels - grant decision-making powers to government staff.
Other times, staff act on the mistaken or possibly mistaken understanding that they have rule-making powers.
What discussion and participation do we want to have in decisions about how our local public facilities are run and maintained?
A shift of decision-making powers from our elected officials to bureaucracies often has significant and far-reaching effects on civic life, democracy and public spending. With one's elected official, we, as citizens, have immediate, ongoing access to express both our appreciation and our dissatisfaction with his or her decisions. At election time, we can choose to support our representative, or, seek someone who better represents our views and priorities .
Unlike elected officials, staff decision-makers within bureaucracies are often: hard to identify or reach, frequently have no connection to - or familiarity with - the neighbourhoods for which they make decisions, nor any personal accountability for their decisions.
Staff decision-makers are rarely required to respond to community concerns or questions, attend public forums, or provide information outside of a formal freedom of information process, nor can citizens vote to keep or replace staff representatives.
Other “remedies” or avenues of complaint often require time-consuming and onerous steps, often with little response or change. For example, a city staff member of an occupational health and safety who makes a fundamental, last minute change to a community rink design in the name of "safety" has no obligation to explain or account for his decision....
"Public safety" was also the motivation behind one city staff member's new rule forbidding the long-time practice of fishing on the waterfront. One public official - reacting to "about half a dozen complaints ... in recent years" has the power to make a new rule affecting an estimated 10,000 anglers, all across the city City council rescinded the fishing ban, but has not addressed the underlying problem - that city staff seem not to have the legal authority to make these kinds of far-reaching rules, in the first place.