Friday, April 11, 2014
Sorry, No Say
Liberals" push bills through with little debate
Released by Dermod Travis,
BC Liberals may have taken a little inspiration during last year's
election campaign from former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell
when she bluntly stated in 1993 that "an election is no time to
discuss serious issues."
British Columbians could be forgiven for thinking that they missed
something during the campaign after seeing some of the legislation
introduced during the current session of the B.C. legislature.
Heck, in some cases, “Today's BC Liberals” didn't even communicate
some of their plans through a Monty Python "Know what I mean? Nudge,
nudge. Say no more" sketch.
And if they were forced up against a wall in the campaign and had no
choice but to stake out a position, many of those lofty words run
directly counter to what they're now doing firmly ensconced back in
Here's what “Today’s BC Liberals” told Metro Vancouver last year
about the Agricultural Land Reserve: “In 2011, we reaffirmed our
commitment to the ALR with amendments to the ALC Act and $1.6
million in additional one-time funding in order to strengthen
compliance and enforcement and provide additional resources.”
Nothing there about creating a two-tier land reserve.
Trawling for votes in B.C.'s coastal communities, this is what
“Today’s BC Liberals” had to say about BC Ferries: "...we need to do
more to ensure coastal communities have access to a high quality
ferry service that affordably meets the needs of the travelling
Not a hint about service cuts, scrapping free senior travel or
putting a glorified tugboat on the Discovery Coast ferry route for
the nine-hour trip to Bella Coola.
Even February's Speech from the Throne opted for boredom over
setting out the government's agenda.
In the eight, four-day weeks that the B.C. legislature has sat so
far this year, the government has tabled 26 pieces of legislation,
most of them not having garnered a single syllable in that February
One bill would create that two-tiered Agricultural Land Reserve.
Another bill allows research in B.C. parks, for what and by whom is
still a mystery.
Another piece of legislation will freeze the status of 17 provincial
ridings ostensibly because of their rural nature, but in a bizarre
twist the two ridings that make up Prince George and the two that
make up Kamloops suddenly became vast, remote ridings and are thrown
in as well.
The Local Elections Campaign Financing Act – fails to tackle the
principal recommendation from the 2010 Local Government Elections
Task Force: campaign spending limits. After one white paper, one
discussion paper and four years of procrastination the government
tables two bills on local elections in one day with a total of 101
sections in one, 213 sections in the other and the campaign spending
elephant is still in the room.
And all of these bills – despite their significance to the
province's future – are being debated and passed in a matter of
hours. Eleven have passed third reading.
It's not a stretch to imagine that there was more debate among MLAs
on the fallout over Speaker Linda Reid's $733 muffin and snack rack
than there was over the Park Amendment Act.
Which leads to the obvious question: why the rush?
The Agricultural Land Reserve has existed for more than 40 years. If
the government's plans for a two-tier land reserve are as innocuous
as their talking points make them out to be, a few months of
consultation won't upset the apple cart.
The Minister responsible, Bill Bennett, has already apologized for
the lack of it, saying: “I know that we could have done a better job
of consultations and I take my mea culpa.”
That's nice, but why not fix it with an all-party committee of the
legislature and public consultations across B.C. with the goal of
going to second and third reading in the fall session of the
At the end of the day, no one expects that an election campaign can
touch on every issue, but when it does and the party that wins
completely reverses course, voters might feel like they were taken
But then maybe it is the fault of B.C. voters for not fully
appreciating that the B.C. Liberals might have been quite literal
when they used the term “Today's BC Liberals” throughout the last
Dermod Travis is the
executive director of IntegrityBC.