Public irritation with, and distrust of, existing provincial and municipal governments has quite likely never been greater.
I’d like to see any party run a campaign on cleaning up the mess in governance, from the pervasive corruption at the provincial government elected level, through senior and middle-management public service, right down to the foul odour of bias emanating from some municipal governments.
Democracy, and the expectation of equality for all citizens in the eyes of the law, are chronically suffering from the proverbial “death by a 1,000 cuts.” A recent medical report reveals an astonishing 50 per cent of Canadians are suffering from some form of hypertension. And no wonder, self-serving government, disintegrating accountability and growing inequality are hurting people.
Cleaning up the mess (down south the solution has been labeled “drain the swamp”) could start with this partial list of priority issues:
1. Clean up the mess that is choking honest, democratic municipal government. Reform the Local Government Act so it protects the rights of citizens, not the power of local government. Direct cities to have publicly endorsed (by vote) City Charters (basically a city constitution); give citizens the legal tools to limit/control council, mayoral and administration spending, authorize citizen driven initiatives, permit recall actions and prohibit management meetings and collusion with lobbyists. In Penticton, for example, we could easily decide 20 issues by referendums for the cost of what many citizens consider the frivolous “revitalization” of just one city block!
2. Enact sunshine laws, at all levels of government, that broaden public access to information and require the public service to make public (within 30 days) any and all documents they prepare.
3. Eliminate – down to zero – corporate and union donations to provincial and municipal politicians and political parties. Permit only citizen donations and put an annual cap on that. This alone will go a huge way toward cleaning up the mess we see choking the life out of honest social, economic and environmental decision making.
4. Eliminate the steady drain on taxpayer dollars by non-profit organizations who’ve maneuvered deals to deliver government services. Put provision of public services back in the public realm. Corporations and non-profits are not informally or legally accountable to the public. Its time to clean up the mess created by political outsourcing of money and authority (and then crowing about cutting the cost of government) for what often amounts to personal and private agendas.
A powerful theme runs through these thoughts — it is long past due that citizens be guaranteed equal access to administrative and legal tools to shape government decisions and spending. We are having our pockets picked by special interests, the entrenched bias of public servants and elected MLAs and councillors. Too many have become far too arrogant and comfortable with our money. Their immunity to public direction has seriously undermined and distorted what should be our democratic process.
Dr. Brian L. Horejsi