“Useless laws weaken the necessary laws.” Montesquieu. Laws still on the books . . .

 “Useless laws weaken the necessary laws.”


Laws still on the books . . .

Do you suppose Montesquieu is right? You begin to think as he does when you discover some of the laws apparently still on the books.

For example: Tickling a girl with a feather duster is illegal in Portland, Maine; a purple door gets you a fine in Kanata, Ontario, and it’s illegal to kick the heads of snakes that stick their heads up through the sidewalk in Sacramento.

In Ottawa they go after people’s eating habits. It’s illegal to eat ice cream on Bank Street on Sunday, which is not a surprise, considering the thousands of policy and regulation wonks living there.

They’re the same folks who came up with section 331 of the Canadian Criminal Code, which tells people it’s illegal to send a telegram, or a letter, threatening a bird.

It would seem our eating habits are of concern to lawmakers continent wide. South of the 49th you’re fined if you carry an ice cream cone in your pocket in Lexington, Kentucky, and their Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, of 1930, was resurrected recently when their department of Agriculture received a ruling that an earlier ruling which had declared French fries were legally classified as fresh vegetables, also covered battered potatoes.

Animals are a bother too, as we in the Yukon know all too well. Advice given to a new Whitehorse city councillor from a retiring one in the 1970s was: “You’ll deal perennially with three things: dogs, garbage, and how to get more money from the feds.” How right you are, Jim.

Horse bylaws to wonder about, we’re told, are still on the books in Montreal. When staying at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel the hotelier must feed your horse freely when you rent a room.

I don’t think dogs were included, but if memory is correct, one of Quebec City’s hotels housed and fed Gene Dubois and his dogs when he arrived there after his epic dogsled run from Dawson City to Quebec City in across Canada in 1982.

“It was the longest one-man mail run carrying the mail the full distance with the same dogs,” Dubois told the Klondike Sun when he came home.

I cite our southern neighbour’s peccadillo’s in the law-making game to show the foolishness is continent wide, actually it’s world-wide.

In Rother, Sussex, England council decreed upright cemetery grave markers were unsafe. They bylawed them down, insisting on flat tombstones.

A lady constituent, frustrated when she learned someone had tripped on a flat one, so her council put up another $20,000 to make them flush with the ground, gave us universal comment applicable to oh so many laws, by-laws and regulations dreamt up, and enacted into law by committees where common sense has obviously fled the scene:

“They were deemed dangerous standing up, and now they’re dangerous lying down. Surely that would have been obvious to the village idiot?”

She’s in John’s league. He’s the senior member of the town’s planning committee, and always finds flaws in the ambitious plans of the Big Thinkers, and Big Spenders on council.

One finally blew it at a meeting, and hollered, “Blast it John, do you have to throw cold water on everything?”

 “Cold water,” John replied calmly, “just naturally results when a lot of hot air gets on thin ice.”

But let’s be fair, eh? I’m proud to be paying taxes in Canada. Mind you I could be twice as proud paying half the taxes, and I’d be even happier if all tax spending committees would heed this 55-year-old: “I’ve learned you shouldn’t have a $3,000 meeting to solve a $300 problem.”

Oh, and if you travel south this winter be careful out there. I mean it’s still illegal to kill a Sasquatch in BC. Guelph, Ontario, is a no-pee zone. You’re fined if you climb trees in Oshawa, and don’t get lovey-dovey in Wawa on Sunday. It’s a no no to show affection.

A tip of the hat to John, the lady from Rother, and every person on every committee with common sense. May those who possess it in spades, become members of every committee in the land.