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POLITICS – Can B.C. put integrity and effectiveness ahead of petty politics?

Halls of power – the B.C. Legislature. (Image: Mel Rothenburger.)

By ROSLYN KUNIN

IT’S TIME to give advice to the newly-elected B.C. government, even if we’re not sure who that will turn out to be.

Right now, British Columbia doesn’t have a clear winner as a result of the May 9 election. Nor are we likely to have one for weeks – or even months. Even then, the government is likely to be a minority.

Roslyn Kunin.

Decisions will be few, time consuming and difficult with no one party able to call the shots. Adjustments and compromises may often defeat the effectiveness of bills. The newly elected representatives will devote much of their time and energy to politicking in the legislature rather than serving the people, to whom they all promised that they would deliver good things.

We should be able to put the nasty election campaign behind us. But can we?

Minority governments often get defeated early, leading to another election. No one seems sure how the B.C. law on fixed election dates would affect this. Do we go back to the polls once a government motion is defeated in the legislature or do we have to muddle through for four years regardless?

Andrew Weaver, the leader of the Green Party, will likely become the kingmaker. He has said that he will demand a change in the electoral system to some form of proportional representation. Proportional representation almost always leads to minority governments, so we might have to get used to this.

A government will be formed even if we don’t know exactly when or how long it will last.

Since we don’t know who will be in that government, here’s some advice to all B.C.’s elected officials, whether they end up governing or in opposition:

Can B.C.’s newly elected MLAs make something positive out of the minority government mess that appears to be awaiting the province?

You’ve all said or implied that you hoped to be elected in order to make B.C. a better place and to improve the lives of British Columbians. No one would have elected you if you had said you wanted to get and keep power no matter what it took. Remember this when you’re in a position to make a decision.

Unfortunately, in the past, faced with a noisy problem, elected leaders take quick action that appears to solve the problem and gets it out of the headlines. Often, these short-term solutions lead to long-term problems.

One federal example was when a few bad employers exploited and underpaid foreign workers. The short-term reaction was to decree that no cheap foreign labour would take jobs from Canadians. That meant access to foreign workers was made more difficult for all employers. But Canadians were unwilling or unable to fill the jobs that foreign workers had held, and businesses and the overall economy suffered.

A more considered examination would have shown that foreign workers contribute to the economy and that the problem was with a few bad employers. Having inspectors check on workplaces using foreign workers (none were in place at the time) would have been a much better solution.

So, as B.C.’s members of the legislature struggle to make a government work, they should take a long, serious look at the issues they’ll act on. Let the big picture and the long-term impact inform any decision. Short sound bites can work well in getting elected. Once in power, the short, the simple and the simplistic can be disastrous. Complications abound and situations are hard to explain on bumper stickers – the only thing, one wag said, that the electorate reads.

Here’s a wild idea: Perhaps some research or cost/benefit analysis should be done so long-term impacts can be known before taxes and other policies are changed, or limited funds are spent.

It’s government’s job to deal with all the complexities and consequences of its actions. The civil service has or should have the resources needed to do this. It’s difficult enough to do the job in a majority government. In a minority government, the temptation is strong to opt for short-term and politically-expedient solutions, even when it’s bad policy, rather than the longer-term solutions that are more difficult to explain.

Let’s wish all of B.C.’s newly-elected MLAs the calmness and patience to deal with the uncertainties, and the courage, knowledge and strength to do what’s right for the province.

Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.

© 2017 Distributed by Troy Media

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About Mel Rothenburger (4444 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on POLITICS – Can B.C. put integrity and effectiveness ahead of petty politics?

  1. tony brumell // May 15, 2017 at 11:40 AM // Reply

    Lets start adopting the precautionary principle in all legislation.If anew law is enacted without it’s effect being know then there should be a time limit on it.If the effects of the law are then found to be beneficial the law could be extended indefinetly,but if not, it’s term would run out and things would return to what it was before and await a new effort from all.

  2. “Here’s a wild idea: Perhaps some research or cost/benefit analysis should be done so long-term impacts can be known before taxes and other policies are changed, or limited funds are spent.”

    Yeah, that *is* a wild idea! It would require acknowledging the use of actual science and economics in making decisions though, instead of simply making those decisions based on whether they’re likely to better the benefactors who paid for your election. Other than electing 3 Greens this time around, I don’t see much of a trend towards the use of logic, science and economics in making decisions in the legislature. Maybe just the opposite.

    It’s extremely unfortunate (and actually quite stupid) that we elect people with little actual knowledge or experience relating to the work they’re about the be tasked with. Decisions based on ‘feelings’ rather than facts rarely work out well. For the most part, they’re well-versed in the workings of the government machine, but without much practical experience. Horgan has a degree in history? Clark flunked out of university? How does that help them to make good decisions on things like Site C and Kinder Morgan and overdose and child care and…and…? Apparently, not much better than the average man/woman on the street!

    Simply doing things for the right reasons in Victoria would be a huge step in the right direction.

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