Even more interesting: any debate that the HST was something that has planned by the BC Liberals before the May 2009 Election can be put to rest. According to Lekstrom:
“[A]s a member of Caucus and Cabinet, I can confirm that the HST was not contemplated before the May 2009 election.”
So, what is going to happen now? Watch for the BC Liberals to start painting Lekstrom as a maverick, opponents of the BC Liberals to start saying that this is proof that the BC Liberals are collapsing, and anti-HST local Peace River South Lekstrom opponents to point out that Lekstrom did actually vote in favour of the HST.
Sure, there is always room for a coalition agreement after an election for the purposes of better serving Canadians, making Parliament work, and enacting parts of a New Democrat agenda, but anything beyond that, such as some agreement to not run New Democrat candidates in certain ridings or a merger should be very much out of the question.
There has been plenty of speculation lately that the BC Liberals want to make changes to the governance of education in BC, speculation based on vague platitudes from the throne speech and the report of the comptroller general in regards to the Vancouver board’s fiscal situation, which came down hard on the elected officials for not acting like an executive broad of a crown corporation.
The question is: how would the BC Liberals change education governance? One approach can come from the School Centred Leadership/Shared Business Systems document that the Ministry of Education produced in 2006, in which the government would amalgamate most infrastructure and staff to larger bodies than the current Boards of Education, while covering up this amalgamation by giving more ‘autonomy’ to schools (read: giving money to schools on a per-pupil basis, while forming school-based “School Planning Councils”).
But a recent report released by the Alberta Government, Inspiring Education, provides a different approach.
Inspiring Education suggests that Alberta School Boards transfer their governance from elected boards to Governance Teams, which would be composed of representatives from a number of local stakeholder groups: parents, educators, municipalities, cultural groups, First Nations, business, non-profits, and so on. Most of these representatives would be appointed.
The theory behind this Governance Team structure is that it would make school boards more responsive to student and local demands. Two examples the report suggests on how this would happen: 1) a board with a growing number of immigrants could appoint more immigrants to a Governance Team in order to get relevant input; 2) a board with a large student demand for vocational training in tourism could appoint a person who owns a tourism business to work on ways to provide the training.
However, I don’t think that this is what would happen in practice. I believe that appointing people to Boards of Education would result in: 1) mostly those with connections to the government being appointed; and 2) a system in which Boards of Education would only be accountable to those who appointed them, not local citizens. That is, after all, what happened when the BC Liberals scrapped elected health boards for appointed ones. Furthermore, I would suggest that Boards of Education could be made responsive to student and local demands using committees rather than replacing the entire elected board with a Governance Team.
But if the BC Liberals did actually want to get rid of elected Boards of Education and replace them with appointees, the Albertan Inspiring Education report could certainly be an inspiration for both a structure and spin in which to do so.
The Conservative Party of Canada has “[a] belief that a responsible government must be fiscally prudent and should be limited to those responsibilities which cannot be discharged reasonably by the individual or others.“
Then why the heck is a Conservative government wasting taxpayer dollars on a fake lake that is walking distance from one of the biggest lakes in the world?
Well, one could say that no individual or corporation would build such a fake lake, so the government has to, but I’d suspect that’s stretching the original intent of the principle.
Last Friday, the Local Government Elections Task Force, a body designed to examine local elections in BC, released its report. For the most part, I think this report, if implemented would be a step forward in improving the state of local democracy in BC, but I think there were a few things that needed to be addressed in the report that the authors decided not to.
Campaign Spending Limits: This was probably the most needed reform to local elections in BC. Currently, there are no limits to local campaigns, which has resulted in campaign spending spiraling out of control in some places and therefore making running for office something that only well-to-do people could really do. Hopefully, placing spending limits will help level the playing field to all candidates. The limits have not been set as of yet, but the recommendation is to create a new Act dealing with local campaign finance rules.
Standardization of Financial Returns: Something that I think that most bloggers and journalists will like is the standardization of campaign financial returns, and the centralization of said returns at Elections BC. Currently, every BC local government has a different system of recording campaign finances which are stored at the local government building. This makes obtaining the financial records for each local municipality hard and direct comparison even harder. Under the recommended system, all one would have to do to get campaign finance information is to go to Elections BC, thus making access much easier and the system more transparent.
Implementing Controls And Limits On Third Parties: There is no use in implementing campaign spending limits on candidate if such limits can be circumvented by unlimited spending on third parties. The report recommends that third parties be required to: 1) register to advertise to local elections; 2) disclose all advertising; and 3) only spend to a certain limit.
No Corporate Vote: Another one of the Task Force’s duties was to examine the implementation of a corporate vote. To their credit, it was recommended that the corporate vote not be implemented. This is good: only individual citizens should vote in election, not a group of people that formed to create an legal artificial person.
Expanding Local Government From 3 to 4 Years: I don’t mind if a person elected to local government serves 3 or 4 years, but the trend, from local referenda, to Union of BC Municipalities resolutions, to moves on other jurisdictions, seem to point to four years.
Not Implementing Campaign Donation Limits Or Restrictions: The most disappointing thing about this report is that is does not place limits or restrictions on campaign donations. This means that anybody can donate as much as they like to a campaign, which in the most extreme form, could result in a few people funding an entire candidate’s campaign. As well, this means that corporations and labour can still donate to local campaign, which I think should not be allowed because I believe that only those that are allowed to participate in voting, the individual citizen, should be the only ones that are able to participate financially by donating.
Not Implementing Public Financing: Less of a disappointment by its omission is the lack of public financing for local campaigns. One can get a tax credit for donating to provincial or federal campaign, so I don’t see why citizens shouldn’t get the same incentive for donating locally. Then again, I can understand the Task Force’s reasoning for not implementing this: the other changes will already cost a lot of money to implement, and this would only increase the bill.
Not Even Considering Voting Reform: Something that was not even considered at any point during the process was a change to the voting method. I think this is an opportunity lost, especially since our current local voting system discourages citizens from voting for all positions available on a local government board, as by doing so one could give a candidate they sort of liked the one vote needed to defeat the candidate they really liked.