Legality of legislation by Cultus Lake Park Board questioned

The fact that the Cultus Lake Park Act is outdated is well known, but the province not interested in touching it.

Questions are being raised again about the possibility of Cultus Lake Park Board violating its own bylaws.

But it’s nothing new, said the Park Board Chair.

The majority of park board commissioners voted last month to approve an updated Sunnyside Campground Bylaw, which included a $250 fine for anyone using “excessive” amounts of electricity.

Some leaseholders are concerned about that, points out Cultus Lake Park leaseholder Rick Williamson, since any bylaw with accompanying fines of more than $50 is technically illegal according to a section of the Cultus Lake Park Act.

Several have been approved with fines exceeding $50, which is in direct contravention of the terms of the Act, he argued.

This is not the first time the question of legality of the CLPB legislation has come up.

A number of leaseholders have submitted complaints to the B.C. Ombudsperson’s office in recent years when they felt the Park Board was going against its own bylaws in a way that inhibited democracy, such as the move to cancel public question period, which was later reinstated.

Former Park Board commissioner Terry Woodrow was one of those lodging an official complaint about that, along with Williamson.

“I made the complaint because I think the public needs some relief from this decision that the park board made in camera to violate their own bylaws,” said Woodrow in an interview with the Progress last October.

At the March 13 Board meeting, the Sunnyside Campground Bylaw was approved, even though it includes the $250 fine.

CAO Ron Campbell stated at the March 13 meeting, in reference to the fine: “We all know that our Act does not allow us to do that legally and it is challengeable.”

Park Board Chair Sacha Peter said he agreed.

There is nothing really new in what they did, he explained, and in fact it speaks to some of the bigger governance issues facing Cultus Lake Park and the park board.

“It’s all about what’s challengable in the courts,” the chair told the Progress last week.

“The word illegal has been used recently, but ultimately it’s up to the courts to decide the question of legality.”

In terms of the Sunnyside Campground bylaw, it’s one that is typically refreshed every year, said the chair.

“It essentially is a guide that tells campers what’s prohibited.”

The Sunnyside bylaw was one example cited, but there are several with fines that go past the $50-dollar-mark.

Violating a campfire ban in the park, comes with a $500 fine, for example, he said.

“It’s very rarely used, but it’s on the books,” said Peter.

The fact that the Park Act is outdated is well known.

“But still the provincial government has made it clear they won’t be touching the Act.”

The Park Act hasn’t been challenged in court to date either, except in the case of the Cultus Lake Water Park expansion and the green space debate, said Peter, and “that did not really test any specific provisions of the Park Act.”

Trying to deal with the province on these issues has been “frustrating” for the Park Board.

“We want the provincial government to update the Cultus Lake Park Act to reflect the modern reality.

“We also want it to be updated to give commercial and residential lease holders as well as other stakeholders in the park, greater certainty and stability.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

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