Premier Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberal government recently announced the cancellation of this year’s fall sitting of the Legislative Assembly.
Within days of the announcement, it was reported Clark had confided to a reporter that she thought Victoria was “sick.” The legislature, she continued, was “really unhealthy.” Then she made a confession: “I try never to go over there.”
Many British Columbians, especially those who care about the province’s finances, were shocked by the premier’s observations. B.C.’s Legislative Assembly, after all, is where decisions are made about how precious tax dollars are raised – and spent.
If the place is “sick” – if the Legislature does not work – then don’t we all have a responsibility to nurse it back to health, and to make sure it works?
In contrast to Christy Clark, I believe that a fall sitting of the Legislative Assembly is a good and necessary thing.
That’s because what we need is greater oversight and scrutiny of the billions – and billions – of taxpayers’ dollars that Victoria spends, year after year, after year.
At the BC Conservatives’ annual general meeting in Langley on Sept. 22, I announced that fall sittings under a BC Conservative government will be dramatically and fundamentally reshaped.
Under my proposal, MLAs will be mandated to review actual and planned line-item expenditures by government ministries and agencies; Crown corporations; and the so-called SUCH sector – schools, universities, colleges and hospitals.
MLAs returning to Victoria in the fall will be assigned to special committees and empowered to summon and question public officials about their actual and planned outlays.
Those officials would include deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers overseeing line ministries; presidents and superintendents at hospitals, universities, colleges and school districts; and CEOs and others responsible for Crown corporations.
In other words, these would be the people who actually decide how to spend your tax dollars.
We believe MLAs could find significant cost-savings and efficiencies through enhanced legislative oversight of public spending.
This innovative proposal illustrates just how different the BC Conservatives are from the two old-line parties that have dominated provincial politics since the early 1990s.
The NDP always argue that Victoria has to spend more money.
The BC Liberals say they believe in spending less – even as they have driven the province’s debt past the $50-billion level, and added another $96 billion in contractual obligations.
We, the BC Conservatives, are unique in British Columbia in that we believe the government has to spend smarter.
This proposal for a revamped fall sitting, with an emphasis on closer scrutiny of provincial spending, is just one of several ideas the BC Conservatives will present to voters in the coming weeks and months leading up to the next provincial general election.
We do not believe B.C.’s next government has to enact deep or drastic spending cuts. Nor do we think tax increases are necessary or desirable.
Rather, we believe that Victoria has to spend its scarce resources wisely, prudently.
And that means that B.C.’s next general election will be a battle between two stark choices: the “status quo” as represented by the B.C. Liberals and the NDP, and “change.”
In May 2013, the BC Conservatives will be the sole advocates of positive and substantive change.
John Cummins is the Leader of the BC Conservatives.