Last week, as I began to think of what I would say in my next MLA report, I thought I would talk about the importance of the Legislature to the democratic process. And I would talk about the ways the government has lessened the effectiveness of the Legislature over time.
But this week, as I actually put pen to paper, I have a perfect example of why the government has worked so hard to keep the Legislature from sitting; why this government wants to avoid the scrutiny of the Opposition.
You will likely have heard this story already. On March 12, the Justice Minister announced that a former BC Liberal cabinet minister would be paid $140,000 to co-chair a committee to review earthquake preparedness, in addition to a number of well-paid patronage appointments he has already received. As you can imagine, the Opposition cried foul as there is absolutely no benefit to the taxpayer with this appointment; this was simply a way to funnel taxpayers’ money into the hands of a BC Liberal friend.
Because the Legislature was in session, and the Premier would have to face the Opposition in Question Period, Christy Clark quickly cancelled the contract. It was clear that the only thing that caused her to backtrack was a vocal opposition using all the tools of the Legislature and direct access to the Legislative Press Gallery. If the House had not been in session, she would have got away with it.
So even though much has been done by the BC Liberals to remove themselves from the scrutiny of the Opposition, it was wonderful to see that even with a reduced legislative session the democratic system that elects both government and opposition members to the Legislature worked in this case.
And it proves that when we see injustice, we must not remain silent. As citizens, we are responsible for defending our democracy. We must speak out when the government takes action that is not in the best interest of the people they are supposed to represent.
Norm Macdonald is the MLA for Columbia River—Revelstoke.