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Better ways to address issues than bylaw

Posted on March 18, 2015 by Taber Times

I have been a resident of Taber since 2005 and although I keep myself apprised, for the most part, of the trends and issues facing our community, I generally steer clear of local gossip and controversy.

But as a person who may occasionally swear in public, and can sometimes be found assembling in a group of three people or more, the new Community Standards bylaw has my attention. I understand that this bylaw has been created for a reason.

Or at least I certainly hope it has, since it will have significant impact on community culture, tourism and economy. I hope it was drafted with good intent. Still, as the famous saying goes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and I fear this is where Taber’s new bylaw may be headed.

The impact of the bylaw on Taber residents has been criticized and censored throughout our town, province, country and, indeed, in various forms around the world.

Our town is, at best, a joke, and at worst, likened to infamously oppressive regimes like North Korea or Hitler’s Third Reich.

In a community where local businesses struggle, that has many empty buildings, and homes that have been for sale for years, can we really expect new business and residents to feel welcome if the messages being presented are: we don’t trust our children, we don’t trust our resident’s ability to parent, we don’t respect our citizens right to self-govern?

Moreover, will current residents choose to stay in a town when it feels like everyone is under a microscope?

If the Community Standards Bylaw has been created as a solution to a problem in our community, perhaps it would be wiser to build services to address the root of the problem. Rather than punishing, or using a Band-Aid solution, maybe our town council should take an active approach.

In the past Taber has rallied to bring increased addictions and mental health services to town, to create drug-free zones around schools, to build a women’s shelter, support our food bank and so much more.

Our community leaders have been our champions and we look to them for creative problem solving. Our town is better than this bylaw suggests.

I have to admit that when writing this letter I balked a bit at using the word hell in the saying I quoted above. I wondered if it was considered a swear word, and if I could end up being fined. That led me to wonder: Will the town be releasing a list of banned words? Who will monitor people’s usage? In this new 1984-esque era, will we all be looking over our shoulders, paranoid to speak and assemble freely, lest we get reported for bylaw violation? I’m being silly and facetious, of course, but then again, so is the town with the implementation of the Community Standards Bylaw.

JENNIFER PAYNE

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