Could Alberta Report Inspire BC Liberals To Scrap Elected School Boards?

June 8, 2010 Comments off

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.

Conservative Founding Principle Bullet Point #12

June 8, 2010 Comments off

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.

Categories: Conservatives, Federal

BC Local Government Elections Task Force A Step Forward, But Still Disappointing

June 1, 2010 Comments off

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.

The Good

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.

The Neutral

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.

The Bad

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.

A Closer Look At The BC New Democrats’ Campaign Finance Reform Act

May 25, 2010 Comments off

Last week, the BC New Democrats introduced their Campaign Finance Reform Act to the BC Legislature. This is the second time such legislation has been introduced by the BC New Democrats; the first time was in 2008.

So what will the Campaign Finance Reform Act do if passed, one might asked?

The first thing it will do is modify the Elections and Income Tax Acts so that only individuals, not corporations, labour, or non-profits, can donate in BC political parties.

Now, one might say that this modification might come from the self-interest of BC New Democrats. After all, around 2/3rds of BC New Democrats donors are individuals, while around 2/3rds of BC Liberals donors are corporations. That might be true, but I believe that misses the greater moral argument: that in our democracy, only real persons are able to vote. Artificial persons, such as corporations and labour, can not. Therefore 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.

If corporate and labour donations were banned, what would help replace that revenue stream for BC’s political parties? Greater tax credits? Public financial based on the amount of votes received? Matching donations? Nothing?

This is would the second thing that the Campaign Finance Reform Act legislation would address. Well, sort of. What would actually happen is the formation of a Campaign Finance Review Board that would be lead by the Chief Electoral Officer. It would be responsible for reviewing:

  1. the provisions of the Election Act that relate to the financing of the political process;
  2. matters related to campaign and election financing, including political contributions and expenses, election contestant expenses, and election communications and advertising; and
  3. alternative financing structures, including public financing.

This review board would also have to consult the public and make any results available to the public.

Overall, I think that the Campaign Finance Reform Act could be a good start for a public debate on campaign finance reform. Could be. But do keep in mind what happened to the 2008 version of the Campaign Finance Reform Act? It was ruled out of order by the Speaker, and the bill didn’t get past first reading.

Wishing Won’t Make Third Party Appear In BC

May 11, 2010 Comments off

A subject that seems to be in the BC media narrative as of late is the theoretical emergence of a significant third party that is not BC Liberal or New Democrat. Heck, even a poll was published by Angus Reid has declared that a theoretical centre-left third party would win government and a centre-right one would win official opposition.

However, pining by columnists and polls does not a third party make. In reality, significant third parties don’t come out of nowhere; they come from years of organizing, fundraising, and outright hard work, most of which is ignored by the vast majority. So, keeping that in mind, let’s look the organizations in BC that are most likely to germinate a significant third party.

Let’s start with the centre-left, you know, where the theoretical third party that’s supposed to win government in the next election.

First of all, we have the BC Greens, which are at present, currently are the third party, though arguably not significant. The funny thing is, the polls have them nowhere near government. Why? My opinion (which one can take with a grain of salt): because the Greens have terrible branding (Green parties are known all over the world for environmental policy, and that’s all, even if that is untrue) and terrible messaging discipline (My experience: get two Green candidates into a roon, get three visions of a province lead by the Greens).

Also mentioned is the possible resurrection of the Progressive Democratic Alliance, a political party that was lead by former BC Liberal leader Gordon Wilson until he crossed the floor to the New Democrats. However, the problem with that is that has already been tried by a group of people, who finding financial obstacles resuscitating the PDA name, formed the Democratic Alliance, which merged to become Democratic Reform BC, which then died off.

On the centre-right, we have the BC Conservatives, which, at present, doesn’t have much of an organization, but is to a degree using the anti-HST petition to try to establish one. Which is rather ironic, considering that the BC Conservatives were for the HST in the last election. Oh, and the BC Conservatives also don’t have a leader (and the frontrunner for the position, from my limited view, seems to be Chris Delaney, yesterday’s news as the former leader of the Unity Party).

Personally, with my current information, I have a hard time seeing these political parties getting seats, let alone becoming official opposition or government.

In the end, despite all of this talk about third parties, out of the two major political parties, the one that has its partisans go into a panic first will lose the chance to be government in the 2013 election.

The Most Underrated Exciting Current Event In BC Politics: Our Province, Our Future

May 4, 2010 Comments off

It is an exciting time in BC politics at the moment, but what excites me the most is not the H.S.T., or the Site C Dam, but the BC New Democrats “Our Province, Our Future” initiative.

What is Our Province, Our Future, one might ask? It’s a consultation process between the citizens of BC and the BC New Democrats, focused on a discussion of how BC’s economy should be managed by a social democratic government.

Let’s repeat that: a public discussion on the economy being lead by the BC New Democrats. It’s about time! Especially since the BC Liberals have been proving over and over again, from having a deficit way over the promised $450 million to the HST, that they have no clue how to manage the BC economy.

While the first big event of Our Province, Our Future was a “Leader’s Summit” held on April 30th, what’s more interesting is the website itself.

The website contains many different reference resources about BC’s economy that one can read, including the main discussion paper “Looking Forward: The BC Economy at a Crossroads,” which serves as an overview to the current state of BC economy. After all that reference material has been read, it is possible for one to sign up to participate on the website’s forums, and participate in the discussion itself.

All in all, I’ve got to say that the use of participatory web technology for a public discussion on the economy is a really good foundation for the hard work that the BC New Democrats will have to do in order to win government in BC. I’ll probably be posting more on the Our Province, Our Future initiative as it develops.

Don’t Distribute The Milk Cartons With My Face Just Yet!

May 4, 2010 Comments off

As you have been sure to notice, I haven’t updated this blog in about 2 months or so.

Now, there’s a really good reason for that. You see, my computer has been going through the repair from hell. Since the beginning of this year, my computer has been in the repair shop for 7 and a half weeks!

But enough about this blog’s past, I’m sure readers* would prefer to know what’s going to be happening in the future.

First of all, I’m going to be changing the focus of this blog from federal politics to provincial and regional politics. This is because I’ve been finding lately that most of the things I really care about are on those levels.

Second, I plan to start publishing a post on a weekly basis. I have yet to figure out the schedule, but the general idea is to allow me to think about events for a couple of days and then, theoretically, publish a higher quality post.

Finally, I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog. While I am attached to the name “Northern BC Dipper,” the reality of it is that I choose it when the “geographic location + political affiliation” formula was popular for blog names. Besides, what if I move out of Northern BC? Therefore, I’m in the process of finding a new name that fits my blog and personal quirks.

*Population: 2

Categories: Blogosphere