A judge's decision is why some civic politicians have good reason to be nervous about lie detector tests
A couple of powerful court decisions came down in British Columbia last week. One got lots of attention, while the other managed to almost slip under the radar. The more high profile court case was that of Susan Heyes vs. inTransit BC and TransLink for the construction of the Canada Line on Cambie Street in Vancouver. Heyes won $600K in damages she claimed were a result of the construction zone that took place outside her maternity clothing shop for a couple of years.
The Heyes court case has sent shivers down the spine of most government officials as it has the chance of impacting the future direction of public projects henceforth. If a city rips up your street to put in a new water main and your business is impacted for months, rest assured there will be a lot more folks heading off to the courts demanding compensation.
The other case that I think deserves a lot more attention than it received is that of the White Rock, BC city councillor who was stripped of his post by a judge because he lied. The ruling has got most politicos talking about what the ramifications could be regarding the way politics is done in BC and beyond. The original story that led to the the court case was the result of some fine journalistic work by Peace Arch News.
If you haven’t read the decision of Madam Justice Gerow, she believed a councillor lied during the election campaign, and thus he was ineligible to hold office due to section 152 of the Local Government Act.
Wow. Who needs civic recall when all you need to do is prove that a city councillor lied, then get him/her to repeat the lie to a judge? If the judge can confirm the mayor or councillor was lying, then presto, instant recall.
This decision may help shed some light on the flip-flop decision by Councillors Tim Stevenson, Heather Deal, Raymond Louie, David Cadman and George Chow (or, The Polygraph Five as they’re known at CityCaucus Towers) to first agree to, then refuse a polygraph test regarding the investigation of the stolen Olympic Village documents.
Each of the five cited the advice of their lawyers in their decision not to take a polygraph test. Could part of this legal advice relate to section 152 of the Local Government Act?
Imagine if one or more had failed the polygraph. Could disgruntled voters then take the “Polygraph Five” to court post-election, and cite sections from the Local Government Act as the reason they should be turfed from office?
Justice Gerow's decision does open up a real pandora’s box for municipal politicians. Despite some speculation to the contrary, this case does not appear as though it will be appealed and therefore it will soon be considered as a precedent for future decisions. And, it will likely become the de facto municipal recall legislation that we wrote about here in an earlier post.
So while this court case didn’t get as much attention as the Heyes ruling, it is likely to have a much lengthier shelf life and help to shape the way civic politics is done for years to come.
What do you think? Did the judge make the right decision? Or is this simply a case of the courts reading the legislation too literally?