Advice for BC's Political Parties

Dermod Travis
By Dermod Travis
December 24th, 2016

2016 is almost a wrap and – safe to say – one for the books.

In keeping with the spirit of the season, though, it’s time for a few New Year’s resolutions for B.C.’s political parties to consider in their on-going quest for self-improvement.

1.   Anticipate more, scramble less

A line from Carly Simon’s Anticipation sums this one up: “We can never know about the days to come, but we think about them anyway.”

B.C. auditor general Carol Bellringer has a slightly less lyrical take: “(Government) needs to see far enough ahead to avoid hazards. And the slower you are to react and adjust, the further ahead you need to look.”

The B.C. government would be well-advised to do far more thinking about the days to come than they’ve done in the past.

Some of the issues they should have put more thought into, include: could rising home prices lead to an affordability crisis, is it possible that an opioid crisis will lead to increased demand for addiction treatment and is there a chance that a regional foreign-buyers tax will simply move the problem on to another region (hello, Victoria)?

2.   Don’t develop policy on the fly

It took all of about 30 minutes for most economists in the province to conclude that the government’s plan to provide $37,500 interest-free loans to first-time home buyers isn’t such a bright idea.

Economists in near total agreement — a feat in itself.

As University of British Columbia economics professor Tom Davidoff put it: “We’re telling people we want you to stretch to buy a property. That puts the buyer at risk potentially.”

And that puts taxpayers at risk.

Granted, property developers don’t seem to be complaining.

3.   Banish doublespeak

Case in point, the government’s recently announced four-point plan “to address homelessness in Maple Ridge.”

Point one? Scrub plans for a permanent-supportive housing facility. Points two and three? Implement improvements to the operation of the temporary shelter and then make its closure a priority.

Point four? Host a town hall meeting in late January.

Try as you might, that’s not a plan to address homelessness.

4.   Don’t hold the most in need hostage to election cycles

Finance Minister Mike de Jong recently hinted that people with disabilities may see a hike in their assistance rates in the upcoming budget.

Why wait?

Mr. de Jong may recall this pledge from the B.C. Liberal party’s 2013 election platform: “We believe that British Columbia should be the most progressive jurisdiction for the people and families living with disabilities in Canada. But there is much more that we can, should, and will do.”

Words to live by.

5.   Don’t spin humiliating defeats as victories

When you set a policy that ends up getting tossed by the Supreme Court of Canada in near record time, it doesn’t play well to try and take credit for the court’s decision, as Premier Christy Clark attempted to do with the landmark ruling in the B.C. Teachers’ Federation case.

Hubris, perhaps?

6.   Sources please

With fake news playing a starring role in this year’s U.S. presidential race, this one goes out to all of B.C.’s political parties: let voters satisfy themselves that your numbers are on the up-and-up by linking to the source material.

And avoid the temptation of using percentages when they’re more impressive than real dollars or alternating baseline comparisons in the same announcement, as the Insurance Corporation of B.C. likes to do.

7.   Don’t make election promises you don’t plan to keep

Just ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau how well those cash-for-access events are going down, after campaigning on a promise that “There should be no preferential treatment, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.”

Bet the government would have found those 500 new addiction treatment spaces mighty helpful right now, if the follow through had been there after making the promise in 2013.

Just a few resolutions for B.C.’s political class to ponder in the final days of 2016.

Dermod Travis is thre executive director of IntegrityBC. www.integritybc.ca

Other News Stories