Parking at Royal Inland Hospital CAN be free

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
September 13, 2017 - 5:00am Updated: September 13, 2017 - 3:55pm

KAMLOOPS — Every time paid parking at Royal Inland Hospital comes up, the answer from the bureaucracy and the politicians is basically — too bad, so sad, gotta be that way.

But does it really? A new hospital officially opened in Campbell River just a few days ago and, guess what? Parking is free.

That’s because the City council there passed a zoning bylaw prohibiting the health authority from charging people to park at the hospital.

That’s not the only place where hospital parking is free. Delta has the same deal. So do Courtney, Duncan, Port Alberni and Mission.

The means for doing this comes through zoning. Bylaws are amended to ban pay parking in the zones where hospitals are located.

The council in Delta approved it years ago. Mission followed suit. And then others.

So why hasn’t it been done at Royal Inland Hospital? Why doesn’t Kamloops City council tell the Interior Health Authority to stop this awful practice of charging people to park when they’re already in stressful situations?

The actual legality around using zoning bylaws to regulate against pay parking at public health facilities is somewhat murky. Some argue that City councils have no such authority.

Others say pay parking contravenes the Canada Health Act because user fees — otherwise known as a tax on the sick, which is what paying for hospital parking amounts to — deter people from accessing health care.

But in Campbell River and Delta, for example, the health authorities contemplated legal challenges and then backed off, possibly due to concerns about the costs of paying lawyers to fight it, and the heap of bad PR that would be reaped from it.

Kamloops City Hall tells me it’s doubtful that banning pay parking would stand up to a legal challenge. But then, there’s the thing about

everybody getting along and whether a drawn-out court case would be worth it.

So, is anyone at City Hall willing to try? Does anyone in the upcoming civic by-election have the stones to take it on as an issue?

We shall see.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.