So when I got back from vacation, I heard that you cancelled the regular fall sitting of the Legislative Assembly because it was reported you stated that debating issues in the Legislature was nothing but 'busy work'.
Well Gord, that “busy work” might actually include a discussion about the fact that homelessness throughout BC - but especially in Vancouver and Victoria - is a bit of a problem. These irritants like homelessness and the collapsing social safety network along with logging in Clayquot Sound and a variety of other issues can be annoying I know, but I’m guessing as long as the Olympics and VanOc are trucking along, I can appreciate how you could feel there’s no need for the Legislature to meet to discuss these bits and pieces. After all, why go to work if you don’t have to? You still get paid. It’s called LTD – long term disinterest!
I must admit though, having been elected under the banner of “democracy”, I did anticipate that you and your Ministers might occasionally submit yourselves to that bane of all political aristocratic ideologues – question period. This exercise in democracy does give us, your subjects, and the members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, a chance to offer another point of view and to hold you and your government to some level of accountability. Frustrating I’m sure, but it provides the appearance of responsible and accountable government.
While we’re on the subject of question period and the Legislature, there are a few issues that I think need to be raised for debate and discussion. Specifically, this TILMA (Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement) deal with Alberta. It feels like a provincial version of “Free Trade.” This deal takes NAFTA principles and applies them to virtually every regulation in existence (NAFTA at least has some exceptions) - making democratic governance almost irrelevant.
Now Gord, I personally like parts of Alberta – and some of my best friends are Albertans – or recently from that great land of Klein – but there is a reason that there are mountains between here and there. This little version of free trade has the potential to reduce the capacity of British Columbians and the British Columbian government to make local and/or provincial decisions that are in the best interest of British Columbia. This whole urge of governments and corporations towards globalization (or “westernization” even on the inter-provincial level) – well Gord, I’m not sure it’s necessarily a good thing. Recall how effective NAFTA has been with that little softwood lumber deal! Gord, even Mexico is questioning the wisdom of “free trade.” Have you really thought this one through?
Gord, I realize that this is a “done deal” and is scheduled to come into effect next April. I’m thinking (hoping) that before this deed is truly done, a referendum might be in order. Maybe we could also include a few of the other current issues that seem to plague us and excite you - things like new coal mines in northern BC; logging in Clayquot Sound; drilling for offshore oil near Haida Gwaii; privatizing BC Ferries; selling BC Rail; the TILMA deal with Alberta; fish farming; cutbacks in low cost housing; and other exciting ideas that have been raised or implemented by your government. It might be a good thing to ask “the people” what they think – a radical idea to be sure, but perhaps worthwhile!
Now before you respond by telling us how expensive referenda are, consider the cost to all British Columbians of you and your government making decisions without any input from the loyal opposition or many of the people of BC. The attitude that you were elected and can now govern as you see fit just doesn’t really hold water – although if it did, I could use it to line my depleted well and conserve water!
Gord, on my vacation, we spent time in Switzerland. I had the chance to talk to some of my family members about their country’s version of democracy. It seems that they have referenda on damn near anything of importance on a regular basis. The standing joke is that they have at least one per month. The truth is that the Swiss decided about 700 years ago that democracy meant that any significant decisions would be made by the people and not simply by their elected minions – a radical thought I know. However, there may be something to be learned from one of the oldest democracies in the world. They have about 600 years on us and seem to be doing rather well from what I could see. (One of the neatest things is that their President only holds office for one year. Just consider that one!)
So what I’m suggesting is that before you and your government make any decisions on these above noted issues, it might be a good idea to check with the people of British Columbia and see just exactly how we feel about a few of these things. After all, these decisions will affect us and our children for years to come. We should have a say.
We’ll chat again soon – whether you call the Legislature together or not!
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