Firing of Vancouver trustees part of broader effort by Premier Christy Clark to silence dissent

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      Education Minister Mike Bernier fired the Vancouver school board earlier this month on the very day it was going to balance its budget.

      This doesn't make sense to a lot of people, given that balancing the books was the province's chief demand all along.

      But Vision Vancouver trustees were often critical of provincial education policies, so they had to be dumped along with the rest of the board before the next provincial election.

      The B.C. Liberal government has also moved against another independent and critical voice.

      It came when a consultant, Bob Plecas, recommended stripping "oversight function" from the representative for children and youth.

      The representative, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, has often pointed out that kids in government care are dying in alarming numbers. That's because the province refuses to make necessary investments in child welfare.

      The government ostensibly hired Plecas to review a court ruling involving one child-welfare case. However, he ended up making major recommendations for changes to the Representative for Children and Youth Act, which would have the effect of muzzling Turpel-Lafond's office.

      This is Turpel-Lafond's final day on the job after 10 years. In an interview with CBC News, she said that she felt there was "a spirit of retaliation" against her.

      Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been a relentless advocate for children and youth.
      Peter Mothe

      In a similar vein, the B.C. Liberal government refused to subject the $8.8-billion Site C dam to independent review by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

      Instead, there was a narrower review by a federal joint review panel, which had a mandate to examine environmental, economic, social, health, and heritage effects of the project. But it did not have authority to conduct full integrated resource planning to see how the cost of Site C electricity compared with other options, including demand-side management. There was no discussion about simply not proceeding because domestic electricity consumption had flatlined for a decade.

      In effect, B.C.'s energy regulator was silenced from commenting on the most expensive hydroelectric project in B.C. history.

      As a result, the renewable-energy industry is howling about how it never had a chance to show that it could produce cheaper electricity without the need to flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River Valley.

      But with an election looming, Premier Christy Clark wouldn't allow a review by the organization with a mandate to determine if the Site C dam is a good deal for ratepayers.

      In this regard, Clark is starting to resemble former prime minister Stephen Harper, who had a habit of silencing independent watchdogs during his nearly 10 years in office.

      The former terminator-in-chief replaced the parliamentary budget officer, the veterans' ombudsman, the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, and several other critical and independent voices.

      We shouldn't be too surprised.

      This is what happens when arrogant politicians remain in power for too long. It's worth keeping in mind when B.C. voters go to the polls next May.