British Columbia has been internationally characterized as the “wild west” of modern democracies for its lax, ineffective and non-existent regulations relating to the influence of special interests on government. The BC Green Party believes that government must be free from potential conflicts of interest, which undermine its duty to represent the people of British Columbia. At the heart of this issue is the role of government and its fundamental accountability to voters. The following platform commitments outline the BC Green Party’s initiatives to protect the government of BC from the corrupting influence of special interests and “big money”.
A BC Green government will introduce legislation to modernize and strengthen the province’s lobbying regulations to restrict undue influence from special interests.
Senior Public Office Holders include:
- Ministers of the Crown or Ministers of State;
- Political staff in the offices of Ministers of the Crown or Ministers of State; and
- Senior executives such as Deputy Ministers, Chief Executive Officers, Associate Deputy Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers and others of similar position and rank.
Former SPOHs would be prohibited from:
- Working as consultant lobbyists;
- Working for an organization and carrying out lobbying activities on behalf of that organization; or
- Working for a corporation if lobbying constitutes a significant part of their work on behalf of the corporation.
Penalties would include:
- Financial penalties;
- Bans from work in the lobbying industry;
Political finance reform
A BC Green government will introduce legislation to modernize and strengthen the province’s electoral finance laws to prevent the outsized influence of money in our democratic institutions.
This commitment specifically addresses cash-for-access and pay-to-play practices that are currently rampant in British Columbia.
- Many analysts say that the “first past the post system” reinforces feelings of disempowerment amongst citizens, because it is possible for a party that receives 40% of the vote to form government, and a party that receives 30% of the vote to get few or no seats.
- This feeling of disconnection leads to low voter turnout, and a lack of trust in politicians and the system. Democratic reform will enhance representation, and encourage collaboration between political parties.
- Consultation will take place on the exact form of proportional representation to be adopted.
- Studies indicate that those who vote the first time they are eligible to do so are more likely to continue voting throughout their lifetime than those who do not vote the first time they are eligible.
- Lowering the voting age to 16 will mean that youth may be able to vote when they are still in high school and taking civics courses that will educate them in politics and our parliamentary system of government. They will be more informed and engaged in our democratic process the first time they vote. Schools may also coordinate their own “get out the vote” program for eligible students in conjunction with existing “mock votes” and debates for ineligible students.
- Moving the election date to October will enable the budget to be passed and be a more efficient use of public sector resources.
- The Budget Transparency and Accountability Act fixes the third Tuesday in February as the date when budget estimates must be tabled.
- Since the budget estimates debate often lasts until June, the budget tabled in the February immediately prior to the fixed election date of the second Tuesday in May does not receive royal assent prior to dissolution.
- This has several ramifications:
- The government must run on interim supply until the new government is able to introduce and pass a new budget;
- Public servants’ time and effort is wasted preparing a budget that will never be passed;
- The incumbent government is able to use the budget as an election tool which signals their platform for the upcoming election.
Transparency and accountability
- Government has a need to communicate with the public about its programs and services, and about how public money is being used.
- In the period before an election, there is the risk that government will use this advertising for partisan purposes. This happens because it is difficult to define in legal terms what is and what is not “partisan”.
- The public watchdog will act as a neutral body that reviews government advertising and communications to ensure that expenditures are reasonable and serving the public good, as well as review complaints about advertising.
- The annual performance scorecard will chart the government’s performance in transparency, accountability, the management of the assets and the business of the province.
- The annual performance scorecard will give the public an independent assessment of how the government is doing and how it can improve the representation of and delivery of services to British Columbians.
- The Provincial Budget Officer (PBO) would be modelled after the Federal Parliamentary Budget Officer, and would be accountable to the Legislative Assembly.
- The PBO’s mandate will be to provide independent, authoritative and non-partisan financial and economic analysis. The PBO will support MLAs and legislative committees with objective research and analysis on fiscal and economic matters.
- The PBO will be appointed for a term of seven years.
- The PBO will have access to relevant information within departments, agencies as well as Crown corporations to better inform the economic and fiscal analysis provided to Parliamentarians and Parliamentary Committees; and
- The PBO will cost election platform proposals at the request of political parties to provide a non-partisan assessment of a party’s fiscal plans.