An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
ACCOUNTABILITY IS a precious cornerstone of our democracy yet it can be slowly eroded if we aren’t careful.
Here are a few examples. The federal government’s Bill C-11, a revamped version of Bill C-10 that died last year before it could be proclaimed, aims at regulating online streaming platforms.
Detractors say the new bill is an improvement but still gives the Canadian Radio Television Commission too much power over content generated by users.
Meanwhile, in B.C., the NDP rammed through changes to Freedom of Information rules last year including charging fees for FOI applications. The change takes the “free” out of freedom of information and erodes what was once the best FOI legislation in the country.
And now, we have changes to the way in which municipalities approve housing developments. The NDP government claims they will make it easier for B.C. cities to address the housing crunch by streamlining the process. But making it easier includes removing the requirement for public hearings on proposals that fit with official community plans.
The rationale is that the public has already had input when OCPs are adopted so doesn’t need a say on each proposal. Well, the OCP in Kamloops is called KamPlan, and I defy anyone to tell me three things that are in this complex and multi-faceted document, then take those three things and apply them to a specific development proposal.
Short-changing public hearings is not something the City should go anywhere near.
Not that the City of Kamloops is without fault. The policy of restricting public input during council meetings to “matters arising from the agenda” puts a real crimp in the public’s ability to connect with the government that is often touted as being “the closest to home.”
What we have is a drip, drip, drip of small measures that add up to a potentially big problem. If we, the public, don’t call governments to account, nobody will.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.