“Advice and consent” not legislative reality

The introductory statement on every piece of legislation presented in the Legislature reads: “Her Majesty, with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, enacts as follows” (emphasis mine).

Problem is: MLAs don’t get to give “advice” or “consent.” Very few MLAs actually get to see legislation as it’s being crafted. Only the ministers responsible for a bill are involved in the actual drafting process – and this isn’t always the case either. MLAs only get to vote for or against a Bill based on the politics of the legislation and the orders of their respective Caucus Whips.

Worse yet, few British Columbians get to participate in the drafting of legislation. There are occasions, like the public consultation on the new Water Modernization Act, when there is a reasonable attempt at public consultation, but those are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Bottom line: The process of creating legislation, making the laws that govern this province, is not a very democratic one. Even for MLAs!

The lack of consultation with stakeholders,

too often results in poorly conceived laws, that then have to be amended, sometimes over and over again.

This week two bills were tabled in the legislature: The HST Referendum Act and a Trade Agreement with Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In the case of the trade agreement, the government proved they’d learned nothing from the backlash against the Trade, Investment, Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) with Alberta. These agreements with the other provinces undermine our ability to engage in Regional Economic Development opportunities and to favour local contractors and businesses over those from other provinces.

The HST Referendum Act is only being presented because of a massive backlash against the HST – a classic example of what happens when a law is made without consultation with the public, especially a tax law.

Other Parliaments require legislation to go through a Committee process where witnesses can be called, interested people can make presentations, and MLAs from all parties participate. We need this kind of process in B.C. Hopefully, it may be part of the legislative reforms the Premier promised – whenever those reforms are revealed.

 

But, in order for Committees to work well, partisanship must be parked. That will require the leaders of both parties to put the interests of British Columbians ahead of the political interests of their parties.

 

– Bob Simpson, MLA, Caribou North