There oughta be a law – or maybe not

By IAN ROBINSON, CALGARY SUN

Sometimes when it comes to the City of Calgary, I’m left practically speechless.

Which in this case, I suppose, is their goal.

Last fall, city administrators brought forth suggestions that if you wanted to protest in front of city hall, you’d have to book your protest in advance and agree to stand in a certain place and not use bullhorns.

Apparently, you’d still be allowed to wear what you wanted.

For now, at least.

But if city bureaucrats want to force you to protest in whispers, can a dress code be far behind?

Will your tie have to match the lettering on your picket sign?

Of course, if those standards had been in place a long time ago in a country far, far away, the Berlin Wall would still be standing, but then the point here in Calgary is hardly the destruction of tyranny.

It’s the construction of it, apparently.

Ald. Gord Lowe, whose mastery of the Orwellian turn of phrase is so adept that he could be a speechwriter for Fidel Castro, told the Sun: “It’s not an issue of protesting, it’s an issue of security at city hall.”

And Lowe also suggested that because the creation of a bureaucratic machine to regulate those protesting the bureaucratic machine would be expensive … if you wanted to protest at city hall, you’d have to write a cheque to the city to be allowed to protest.

Lowe actually thought we should have to pay for the privilege of expressing our anger with government.

I already pay a fee that gives me the right to be angry with these Clown College drop-outs.

It’s called the “property tax.”

Led by Ald. Ric McIver — who almost got this right — the committee hearing this proposal last week told its administrators to go back to the drawing board.

Administrators will return with a new bylaw proposal in December.

And, by the way, can you imagine working in any private enterprise where turning around such a minor matter would take 11 months?

You want to know why it seems as though your tax dollars are swirling down a urinal? That’s because they are — and this is why.

But returning the bylaw for fine tuning is, unfortunately, where Ric and his committee got it all wrong.

They should have sent these junior fascists back to their cubicles with their tails between their legs.

Bylaw enforcement boss Bill Bruce told the Sun that technically, a reading of the fine print already on the books shows that protesting at city hall is illegal but tolerated.

If that’s accurate, then that fine print ought to be permanently erased.

There are already laws against any bad thing a protester can do in the city hall plaza.

And we’ve already got cops and bylaw enforcement types to deal with them.

The purpose of any bylaw of this nature is to attempt to minimize and regulate dissent — and this in a city in which celebrating hockey fans have proven a greater threat to the public peace than political protesters ever were.

Well, not this year. But back when local hockey fans had something to celebrate.

Is there no one at city hall who recognizes that assaults on the very underpinnings of democracy are just plain immoral? That the right to free assembly and protest are part of what separate us from — and protect us from becoming — the kind of banana republic where people disappear in the middle of the night?

Now, do I expect Gord Lowe to turn up at my house wearing a Che Guevara beret to torture me by reading aloud the PlanIt Calgary report in its insipid entirety?

Certainly not.

But I am sick unto death that the first reaction of every pocket Mussolini with a pet peeve is to try to get a law or bylaw passed to build, brick-by-brick, a variety of politically correct fascism.

I swear. There oughta be a law.

Oops. Maybe not.

ian.robinson@sunmedia.ca

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