Thankfully city councillors came to their senses and did not pass a bylaw requiring cats to be on leashes if they went outside.
Mayor Tory rightly acknowledged that such a bylaw would be impossible to enforce because outdoor cats are outdoor cats and don’t really care about the opinions of anyone, let alone meddling councillors. Full disclosure, my cat goes outside.
Passing unenforceable bylaws is a waste of time, but the reality is that the city passes many unenforceable bylaws, and the consequence is that they are routinely ignored. The three-hour parking bylaw across the city is likely the most flouted, closely followed by the idling bylaw.
The difference between the innocuous bylaw that can just be ignored and the cat confinement bylaw that was proposed by city council was the condescending tone that some councillors and environmentalists adopted in the name of protecting cats from their owners.
A former city councillor appeared before the committee in defence of the bylaw and declared that only owners who keep their cats leashed or indoors are responsible and love their pet.
That is lunacy.
Aside from the fact that there is a school of thought that believes letting cats go outside reduces cat anxiety, officials and people of influence should not be shaming cat owners as a result of their personal belief system. That is not the foundation for good public policy.
Governments at all levels need to be cautious about the types of laws that are passed in the name of peace, order and good government to make sure there isn’t overreach. Over the past several years, we have been witness to the strength of government and the control that it can exert on our lives.
For those who believe that the government is a force for good, the expansion of laws into people’s daily lives is justified. For those who have less faith in the ability of government to manage more than basic services, the reach of government is concerning.
In addition to the expansionist government, there has been a rise in cancel culture used in the name of social justice to regulate opinions and dictate behaviour where laws do not exist.
The combination of government overreach and cancel culture can leave some people feeling alienated and further distrustful of those who define policy and popular opinion.
All levels of government should be aware of the limits of their authority. City council in particular because the chamber is regularly termed dysfunctional and the province is about to give the mayor even greater powers.
Karen Stintz is a former city councillor, elected in 2003, and was a chair of the TTC. She lives in Ward 8.