Party politics a problem for province

Osoyoos writer says time to stand up for ourselves in B.C. and not let democracy is slipping away.

If the battle we had to fight the HST taught us anything, it proved that with enough people standing together, good organization and the right tools (Initiative and Recall Act and the computer), citizens could force government to change their unpopular policies and think twice before ignoring the electorate again.

In light of the upcoming provincial election, we need to address the most critical issues we face. Some will say the main issue in the upcoming election is the economy (jobs), others will say the deficit, health care or the environment.

Of course, all of these are critical issues. But we are missing the point if we fail to see that the greatest issue has to be the protection of our democracy.

We have been led to believe that we live in a democracy, and that, in B.C., we exercise our democratic right every four years in May. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The underlying problem is the current party system. MLAs can promise all they want before an election. They’ll listen to the concerns of their constituents and vow to “represent” us upon election.

That all goes out the window because MLAs are forced to vote along party lines or be ousted. There is no room for independent thought in the party system, and that is the flaw. That is where democracy is abandoned.

Candidates may swear on their integrity and honour on the way in, but that integrity and honour crumbles under the party system, leaving the constituents abandoned.

Incredibly, candidates know this, and so do we, yet they still accept their nominations and we still go to the polls to vote. Just how much character do new candidates have when they jump at the chance to join a government that has proven itself to be inept, corrupt and deceitful?

British Columbians are largely fed up with politics and a majority are cynical of candidates entering the race. We wonder at the motives a candidate has in putting his or her name forward: Money, a big pension, perks, prestige and power?

According to a recent study by the Retail Council of Canada, one main reason we have higher prices for products in Canada is simply because we are used to paying higher prices. Do we have poor politics in B.C. because we are used to having poor politics? Whose fault is that? Ours.

Without proper, independent oversight and true transparency, governments have the green light to act irresponsibly with no accountability. And governments are often re-elected despite their poor records, so where is the incentive for political parties to change? There is none.

Lobbyists with their bottomless wallets have more influence over governments than taxpayers because we accept this lying down. It’s time we had a powerful citizens group to lobby for the rights of taxpayers. Strong public will and good organization can make this happen.

We have to remember that we “hire” our governments, so why do we allow them to forget this? They demonstrate no foresight and have no accountability and still get hired for the job. And we can’t fire these employees for four years? They can do a lot of damage in four years, eight years, 12 years.

Who else can waste or mismanage the company’s funds? Who else has unsupervised expense accounts? Who else can enter into contracts and then choose to ignore them? Who else can sidestep regulatory commissions in order to satisfy ‘big money’ corporations? Who else can – almost daily – practice deception or invent facts to suit themselves? Who else can skirt the law with impunity?

To add insult, the next party about to be elected can ask: “If we want to, can we do all the destructive things our predecessors did and more, and still get re-elected?” The answer, sadly, is “Yes we can.”

Unfortunately, it can take two or three terms in office before a bad party and terrible leadership go down with the ship aptly called the “SS Finally.” Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Demand accountability from the next government. Stand up for yourselves and your democracy. It’s slipping away.

Paul McCavour and Julie Turner

Osoyoos