Desperation breeding worthy reforms in B.C.

VICTORIA — The crisis over the harmonized sales tax and subsequent leadership contest have shaken up the B.C. Liberal party and produced some serious suggestions for reform.

VICTORIA — The crisis over the harmonized sales tax and subsequent leadership contest have shaken up the B.C. Liberal party and produced some serious suggestions for reform.

For the post-Gordon Campbell B.C. Liberals, accountability is an unavoidable theme. Shuswap MLA George Abbott led the way last week with a package of initiatives, including restructuring the way the legislature works.

Abbott proposes moving the annual throne speech, where the government sets out its priorities for the year, from the spring to the fall. Hardly an exciting reform, but it leads to a couple of important changes.

First, it implies that there will actually be a fall legislative session, something Campbell first instituted and then proceeded to truncate or cancel most years to avoid opposition questions.

Abbott also wants to move the scheduled election date to the fall, as early as 2013 if the opposition will agree. Both parties have noted that May elections disrupt the spring budget process, resulting in delays and uncertainty for voters at the most critical time.

Longtime observers will recall the circus that resulted from the ruling party controlling not only election timing but also the legislature schedule. Governments could (and did) table reams of complicated legislation at the end of the spring session to ambush the opposition, which would react with delay tactics that dragged into the night and into the summer. It was a travesty.

Campbell deserves credit for imposing a sane schedule on the legislature, although it was easy when his government held all but two seats. He then squandered that progress by retreating from the legislature when faced with his first substantial opposition. Whoever wins the leadership should restore that commitment.

Christy Clark has taken up the cause raised by independent MLAs, to restore the proper function of legislative committees. To the average person trying to pay the mortgage, this is also about as exciting as watching a mailbox rust, but it too is important.

Campbell tried this once in 2005. Stung by the loss of north coastal seats, he created a committee to hold hearings on fish farming and gave the NDP a majority. But the tradition of partisan warfare dies hard, and the opposition members ended up demanding a ban on open-pen fish farms in five years, whether closed containment is feasible or not.

Still, hearings were held in affected communities and a genuine debate ensued. Clark is proposing these touring committees become the norm, and whoever wins should follow through with that as well.

Kevin Falcon caused a stir last week with his suggestion for merit pay for teachers. Falcon cites Australia’s program, with bonus payments offered outside union contracts.

Here in B.C., teachers load up on post-graduate degrees because they guarantee wage increases. Whether these master’s and PhD qualifications actually improve classroom performance is difficult to say, since the union fights any effort to assess teacher performance.

Again, whoever replaces Campbell should proceed with this idea. It’s similar to what the Obama administration in the U.S. has embraced, despite political backlash from its unionized teachers.

This week the B.C. NDP contest starts to take shape, after the entry of three fringe candidates who haven’t done much to address the policy vacuum at the heart of the anti-Carole James revolt.

Just as the B.C. Liberals got arrogant after nearly a decade in power, the NDP grew dangerously dependent on the anti-Campbell theme that brought them back to life.

If the political upheaval of 2010 results in new leaders for both parties actually committing to serious debate about ideas, it will be worth it.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and

Just Posted

VIDEO: Whale and sea lions at play near Mitlenatch Island

It was a spectacular sight Sunday evening near Mitlenatch Island for Thomas… Continue reading

Mainroad prepares to clear North Island roads this winter

Mainroad North Island Contracting LP’s road servicing contract began Sept. 1

Hamir brings agriculture to the Comox Valley Regional District forefront

Air quality also high on priority list for new Area B director

NIC to host Robert R. Brown, author of ‘Wealthing Like Rabbits’

What do zombies, Star Trek and rabbits have in common? Find out at NIC’s Comox Valley campus

Three strong earthquakes reported off Vancouver Island

The quakes, all measuring more than 6.0 on the richter scale, were about 260 kilometres west of Tofino

Canada Post strikes leaves small shops in the lurch as holidays approach: CFIB

Rotating strikes began in Victoria, Edmonton, Halifax and Windsor

Comox Valley gives back

A look at some of the organizations and individuals who help out in the community

New monitoring of vessel noise impact on endangered whales announced

Federal government to monitor underwater ship and mammal noise in B.C.’s Salish Sea

Used election signs could serve as emergency shelters, B.C. candidate says

Langley Township council hopeful wants to build one-person foul weather shelters for homeless

Liberals write off $6.3 billion in loans as part of money never to be collected

That includes student loans and a $2.6 billion write off that came through Export Development Canada

Trudeau, McKenna to announce compensation for federal carbon plan

Provinces that don’t have a carbon price of at least $20 per tonne of emissions will have Ottawa’s plan forced on them

UPDATE: American rapper killed in skydiving accident

Man, 34, dies in skydiving accident Saturday near Westwold, between Vernon and Kelowna

Man who died at BC Ferries terminal shot himself as police fired: watchdog

Officers didn’t commit any offence, says police watchdog office

Voter turnout at 36% in B.C.’s municipal election

Vancouver saw 39% turnout, Surrey saw 33%

Most Read