Jane Sterk: B.C. Greens call on parties to commit to classier politics

The B.C. Green party is challenging other political parties to make the legislature more accountable to the people of B.C. We also ask them to run campaigns during the provincial election that reflect that commitment. Greens believe British Columbians are tired of the hyper-partisanship that seems to have replaced a commitment to effective governance.

Premier Christy Clark recently called the culture in the legislature “sick”. Many were shocked by her admission. Others have acknowledged that the legislature, the place that is supposed to be the best expression of our representative democracy has stopped functioning as a house of thoughtful, respectful debate, if it ever did.

Question period is the most visible illustration of what’s wrong. This daily opportunity for the official Opposition to ask questions of the government has the positive intent of allowing the Opposition to hold the government to account. But the two sides often speak to each other with barely concealed venom. Each seems intent on getting an evening television sound bite. Instead of being meaningful, it becomes an exercise is gamesmanship.

The government rarely answers the questions and often shows disrespect for the role of the Opposition in their answers. Meanwhile, the Opposition, a willing participant in the unhealthy dance, asks the same question repeatedly and disguises criticism of the government as a question.

Both NDP Leader Adrian Dix and Clark say politics and the legislature need to change. The B.C. Greens’ challenge and suggested solutions provide an invitation to them to commit to reform and to making the role of the individual member of the legislative assembly (MLA) more meaningful.

During the election, B.C. Greens challenge the other parties to:

• Commit to running positive, issues-based campaigns;

• Promise to have their candidates attend debates (B.C. Liberal candidates were often no-shows in the 2009 campaign); and,

• Require that candidates sign a code of representative conduct similar to that of the Green Party of B.C.

Once the election is over, B.C. Greens suggest parties reform the functioning of the legislature and the role of MLAs with the following improvements:

• Abide by the legislative calendar (mid February to the end of May and the beginning of October to the end of November). This means the governing party will not to cancel the fall session;

• Allow adequate time for full debate or delay legislation to the next sitting;

• Abide by the code of representative conduct (one specific to MLAs could be developed);

• Use existing rules designed to make the legislature function effectively, such as the provision to use a secret ballot for the election of the Speaker;

• Implement the recommendations contained in the 2000 report Towards Greater Efficacy for the Private Member: Possibilities for the Reform of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly commissioned by Jack Weisgerber and written by Jay Schlosar, available in the legislative library; and,

• Commit to finding mechanisms to engage citizens and to consider and act on their wishes.

Jane Sterk is the leader of the Green Party of B.C.

Comments (10) Add New Comment
Astro
It would have been helpful if Ms. Stark demonstrated what she meant in her article instead of slagging her opponents.
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Michael Barkusky
We would do well to put a Green MLA or three in the BC legislature. Elizabeth May is worth a great deal more than just another Liberal or NDP backbencher, and in my mind, is worth more to the electorate than vitually the entire CPC cabinet. The intellectual lights went off there when Jim Prentice resigned.
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Barney Fife
I didn't know that they still had a legislature in BC anymore.
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mikedonovan
"Commit to running positive, issues-based campaigns." That still means parties fighting over who is right. Wouldn't it be better if every MLA realized that neither they nor their party has a monopoly on truth, and instead adopted deliberation and consensus-building? BC's newest party believes so: unparty.ca
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Nelson
HAAAH-HAAAAAH!
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iSheep
The People need to hold ALL Politicians to account.

Push for change in Pensions and other Laws to make them more Accountable.

Politicians should be held to at least the same disclosure rules as Public Companies.

A full platform with SPECIFIC Balanced Accounts.

A Hard Timeline on Actions such as implementation of stronger Environmental Laws.

Laws against making Contracts with the Private Sectors longer than 5 Years such as the PPP Guaranteed above Market Power Contracts by SCAMBELL the Drunk Driver!

Until we the people hold Politicians to account backed with stronger Laws we will simply be voting Parties in and out like Sheep.
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hey_now
"But the two sides often speak to each other with barely concealed venom."

This is what pisses me off about the Greens. They are more into "being polite" thank standing up for justice. They are just getting up on their sanctimonious high horses in order to pander to the public, and as a result, the substance of these heated battles gets lost.

Civility is not always the answer, it maintains the status quo. I wish the Greens were as passionate about justice as they are about being polite.
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James G
@ hey_now

A good start in assessing where the Green Party stands but short of a total epiphany. Consider the question again but against the following backdrop;

both federally and provincially there are two electoral options for voters that exist to maintain multinational corporate hegemony. There are slight differences between these parties with some favouring ever smaller government and less regulation but these differences amount to a matter of degree. There is only one electoral option that encapsulates the aspirations of social movements and progressives against that hegemony. Started 50 years ago by labour unions, farmers co-operatives, progressives and coming to embrace the anti-war, women's, gay, civil rights and environmental movements that grew up alongside of them in the 1960s. That is the NDP. Whatever you think of that party, this is who they are.

The idea that breaking this alliance by singling out environmental issues for prominence is self-defeating. It isn't that the issue isn't of vital importance -- the fact that it is that important makes the very existence of such a party unsupportable. Think of the major 'motherhood' issue on which there is a real need for consensus. Is there a World Hunger Party, a Women's Party, a Party of Education, one more just to support the Medical System, an anti-Racist party, an LGBT Political Party and let's say an Anti-Censorship Party all running against the incumbent government? All might hope to win one seat each. Meanwhile, the Conservatives and Liberals would continue their locked two-step dance to the tune of the international corporations.

Pretending to be neither left nor right in a situation where money talks fools some. My own sister, a resident of Fort McMurray, proudly told me she voted Green in the last federal election. I asked her why. She said that she wanted to express her support for the environment. That is a good thing, and unusual in her riding but I probed a little deeper. She could not remember the candidates name or anything about the party platform. She wanted a choice she could vote for without thinking and this 'motherhood' issue and name does appeal to those who don't want to think too hard. Of course anyone can start and belong to any political party. The Social Credit Party once used its' left-sounding name to rally people in direct contrast to their interests as did the Reform party thereafter.

Not thinking leads to problems. Let's not forget the Green Party was launched by neophytes and has all the hallmarks of a fringe group. The attempt to appeal to the powerful, to kiss up to crocodiles has brought in some unusual members. Where ever would disaffected members of the defunct Progressive Conservatives be if not actively working for the Greens? The links are pretty substantial, starting from Elizabeth May's claim to have become politically active from disgust over the defeat of Joe Clark's minority government to May's predecessor as leader of the Green Party, former Tory Jim Harris. Of course, later there was more co-operation with the Liberals, notably when led by Stephane Dion. It makes no difference, this is the party of eco-capitalism.

What happens when the need for profit conflicts with environmental protection? Ask the ruling party of B.C. Didn't considerable numbers of Green Party members join them, albeit temporarily, to support the cause of Christy Clark only to find her a champion of fracking? I am no fan of the Enbridge pipeline project but if anyone thinks they can vote Green to stop it, they should put down the crack pipe and think again. The party itself is self-negating. Even if they were to win, by attempting to be all things to all people they could only ever be owned by who have actual political and economic power already.
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hey_now
I agree 100% with what you say. I wasn't shooting for an epiphany, I was criticizing the criticisms of an out of touch, bourgeoisie party that is focusing on incivility of government officials when the house is on fire and Harper and the Cons are doing so much damage, and are trying to turn Canada into another US. Politeness in debate is fine in culinary and esthetic matters, but this is our lives we are talking about. "Barely concealed venom."? Good! I want the the NDP to give a damn and be angry at what has been done.

Greenpeace has even said that the NDP has a better platform and I do not have enough time to go into the problems of the Greens and their single issue focus.


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Argulion
I'd like to see classier politics with responsible politics too. I want to see politicians that speak for constituents first and the party second. I want election campaigns based on what YOU, the candidate, intend to do and not your claims of what other candidates will do. I want the open and transparent government that all politicians seem to champion while continually failing to achieve.

But, IMO, many politicians no longer represent constituents. They represent political parties and the interests of their supporters. The 'elected representative' in the current trend of political party based politics is becoming nothing more than a voice for the party executive who in turn are working for the party's funders.

And, since some MPs have yet to comment on THEIR constituent's concerns perhaps this may be a question to ask; Does a $4.5 million dollar promotion for a 200 year old war provide greater public worth than operating a Coast Guard base for over four years? I think, a responsible politician should have an answer and a party seat holder will remain deaf and/or mute until they are told what to say.
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