Dartmouth Cole Harbour MLA Andrew Younger has pulled off something remarkable: He has outflanked the most populist politician in the province on an issue of populism.
Earlier this week, Younger challenged Transportation Minister Bill Estabrooks to use his ministerial powers to lift HRM’s hated overnight winter parking ban, implemented last month by fiat of the city’s unelected, unaccountable traffic tzar.
The response from Estabrooks, normally one of the most adroit and citizen-connected politicans in Nova Scotia, sounded uncharacteristically stuffy:
I’m not going to interfere in the winter parking ban. I’m going to wait to see what the councillors advise me and what they expect from me. It involves new legislation, if we’re going to change some of these things it will be with legislative changes made in the spring session of the legislature. This is not something that at the snap of a finger can be corrected.
But a quick perusal of the relevant legislation shows that it can be corrected with the snap of a finger—Estabrooks’s finger. If unelected municipal officials were slapping $50 tickets on windshields in Estabrooks’s Timberlea-Prospect riding, the minister’s fingers would be veritable castanets.
The blanket ban is a classic case of over-reach by the nanny state. Yes, the community has a shared interest in snow clearing, and on-street parking can interfere with that process. A parking ban limited to times when snow is actually being cleared would be a reasonable accommodation of another shared community interest: the availability of parking spaces for residents and back-shift workers not rich or lucky enough to have access to private, off-street parking.
But traffic tsar Ken Reashor evinces no interest in reasonable accommodation. Because an intermittent ban, limited to periods when snow is actually being cleared, means that some car-owners will neglect to remove their car during snowstorms, Reashor finds it convenient to punish the entire city with a blanket, four-month ban. To justify this, he invokes a specious claim of public safety, when the real goal is bureaucratic convenience.
Estabrooks says he’s waiting to hear from HRM council on the matter, but councillors in districts singled out for selective enforcement of the ban have long protested, just as Estabrooks would protest if anyone tried to enforce it in his district. Worse, provincial legislation establishing traffic authorities has been deliberately designed to shield these bureaucratic entities from municipal oversight—or political oversight of any kind.
This anti-democratic structure empowers Reashor to enact whatever parking rules please him, and HRM council is powerless to interfere. Indeed, Estabrooks is the only democratically elected official with the power to curb Reashor’s abuse. Waiting ’til spring to end a ban that will be over by then doesn’t cut it.
For heaven’s sake, Bill, exercise the common touch that has made you a democratic icon. Voters trust you to protect citizens against crap like this. Snap your finger.