MLA REPORT: Working towards a better democracy

B.C. Legislature needs to work on being more democratic.

I think we can all agree that we need to make improvements to the way our government works. Many British Columbians feel that our government does not represent them, and that government does not function in a way that makes life better for regular citizens.

People point out the fact that the Premier rarely attends the Legislature, the Legislature rarely sits, and so-called consultation by government rarely results in anything meaningful.

As a member of the Legislature for the last 10 years, I have been extremely disappointed by how much our democracy has eroded. I am hopeful that British Columbians will begin to take democratic reform seriously, and will ensure that they only support political candidates and parties who have made a strong commitment to improving the democratic process in this province.

The Opposition has put forward a number of ideas that we believe will make our democratic system work better. We support proportional representation, a method of electing MLAs that is fairer, and more accurately represents the will of the people. We support the removal of all corporate and union donations to political parties and candidates so that political parties are no longer controlled by big donors. And we have put forward legislation that would protect whistleblowers who provide information in the public interest.

I also believe that we need to improve the committee system of the Legislature allowing for meaningful consultation and development of legislation; using MLAs from both sides of the Legislature as well as passionate and knowledgeable citizens to make real changes to the way we live. At present, most legislative committees do not sit, and rarely are reports written by committees taken with any seriousness by government.

I believe that we need regular fall sittings of the Legislature to ensure that proper time is spent debating legislation before it is passed. British Columbia’s recent record of the number of sitting days of the Legislature each year has been amongst the lowest in Canada.

And I believe that we need to employ a system, similar to the federal government, where Private Member’s Bills are actually voted on by members. In British Columbia, a bill brought forward by an individual member can be entirely ignored by the government.

I think that people really care about their democracy, and support these changes to make things better. I would invite you to take the time to learn more about some of these ideas, and then make sure that the Premier knows how you feel. Send an email to premier@gov.bc.ca.

Norm Macdonald (NDP) is the MLA for Columbia River–Revelstoke