Another View: A hopeless wish list for 2014

Tom Fletcher is Black Press's legislative reporter and columnist

B.C. Views

 

Here are a few things I’d like to see in B.C. political life in the coming year, but won’t.

An orderly schedule of legislature sittings, one in the spring and one in the fall.

I canvassed this topic with Premier Christy Clark in our year-end interview, and got the usual runaround about how it’s always been optional since old Gordon what’s-his-name set the schedule of sittings and elections more than a decade ago. Spring is for the budget and MLAs sit in the fall if they need to discuss legislation.

They need to all right, but what governments want to do is ram it through as fast as they can, so that’s what they do. The last couple of years of this have been a sham worthy of a South American banana republic, with three chambers running simultaneously and opposition members trying to prepare as they run down the hallways.

It leads to mistakes in new laws and adds to the public’s cynicism about the whole business, but it gets things done with minimum exposure of the government to criticism. Stephen Harper would approve.

A political debate about real issues, rather than just a competition to score points in an endless election campaign.

I appreciate that this is hopelessly naive, but setting aside enough time to consider issues could, at least in theory, lead to that happening occasionally.

Certainly the hastily staged mock combat of our legislature today isn’t winning new friends for any political party. The main growth area today is people who have given up on the whole thing.

An opposition with ideas.

The B.C. NDP will have another leadership contest in 2014, and they’d better bring more modern policy to the table than they had in the last one.

Remember the big issues in that pillow-fight? Me neither. I had to look them up. Health care? Local organic carrots into the hospital food. Forest industry? A job protection commissar to force the mills to stay open. Resource development? They’re for it, unless you’re against it.

These guys need a Tony Blair-type makeover. They need to be for something, and they need to leave the past behind.

Media that care about more than conflict.

News organizations are in bad shape these days, and the competition for a rapidly fragmenting audience is having some ugly effects.

One thing that needs to go is obsessive coverage of who’s winning and who’s losing. If the news media are going to be interested mainly in the gaffes and gotcha moments, is it any surprise that’s what politicians try to provide?

The Canada Post announcement that it has to wind up home delivery offers a recent example. Is it really so outrageous for the CEO to suggest that walking to the corner is good exercise? When there’s a 24-hour news cycle to fill, it’s a scandal!

How many people know that Canada Post’s unfunded pension liabilities amount to $6.5 billion, as it continues to pay a dwindling workforce to hand out mostly advertising flyers? Should they just keep doing that until they run out of cash? Are taxpayers really expected to maintain another two-tier service that’s only available to selected urban people?

Facts to go with opinions.

Whether it’s the government’s fantasy figures on job creation or the opposition’s arithmetic-challenged child poverty claims, serious problems can’t be understood, much less solved, without defining them accurately. Submitting government advertising to scrutiny by the Auditor General to make sure it is accurate and non-partisan would be a good place to start.

 

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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