Fix BC’s Democracy Deficit – Van Dongen

By February 9, 2013Provincial Politics

Submitted. Three of B.C.’s Independent MLAs today announced a collaborative agenda for democratic reform which they hope to see implemented when the Legislature opens next week.

“Our shared experiences in the Legislature have taught us all one thing: centralization of power is not healthy for our democracy,” said Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington. “We need to start taking steps during this sitting of the Legislature to renew our representative democracy and revitalize the role of individual MLAs.”

“People want MLAs to represent their constituents, not special interests or party leaders,” said Bob Simpson, MLA for Cariboo North. “When British Columbians look at politics they see unrestricted donations, irregularities in leadership races, and MLAs who are forced to toe the party line. That has to stop.”

Abbotsford South MLA John van Dongen agrees. “We want to present simple reforms that are supportable by all MLAs. These initiatives have been proposed before for B.C. or implemented successfully elsewhere,” said van Dongen. “From a good government perspective, these are positive, common sense changes.”

The Independent MLAs will introduce legislation to move B.C.’s fixed election date from the spring to the fall, starting in 2017. “We can’t keep disrupting the budget cycle every four years, and we shouldn’t allow the governing party to use every fourth budget as an election platform,” said Simpson. “People wanted to change the date after the 2009 election, but the government didn’t get around to it. We must make that change now for 2017.”

Elections BC oversight of party leadership contests is also part of their reform agenda. “Party leaders can become premiers, so we need assurances that their selection is beyond reproach,” said van Dongen.

In addition, the three MLAs are looking to update B.C.’s election finance rules. They plan to introduce legislation to ban corporate and union donations and institute a residency requirement for political donors. The agenda also includes a return to a secret ballot vote for the Speaker; improvements to legislative committees; and more free votes in the Legislature, changes the Independents believe will improve the role of individual MLAs.

“We’re calling on the Premier, the Opposition leader and legislators of all stripes to take our proposals and work with them,” said Huntington. “These aren’t controversial changes. We all know what the problems are, and we can start fixing them this session.”

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