What is Premier Christy Clark's government all about?
People make their judgments based on their personal impressions of the woman or on the policy announcements she makes.
But the legislative package her government has introduced in the current session gives another look at what the B.C. Liberals under her leadership are trying to do.
It's a grab-bag assortment of ideas with no discernible theme so far. But that's no particular reflection on her.
The legislative agenda is nearly always a mishmash of ideas from all over the map. The bureaucracy always has a list of problems that need fixing. Politics drives a few more ideas into law. And circumstances dictate still more.
The bills that Clark and her cabinet have introduced so far fall into three categories. There are a few popularity plays fulfilling earlier promises.
There's a handful of bills that fix previous government initiatives that either never worked or stopped working properly. And there's a big package of routine bills that make various adjustments to the big $40 billion-a-year machine that is government.
Following is a breakdown:
Promises, promises. The most obvious play for votes is the Family Day Act. It's a classic attempt to solve a First World problem by easing the desperate plight of British Columbians who have to suffer more than 90 consecutive days without a paid holiday.
She pitched it during her leadership run and is now following up on it, leaving room for a family argument on exactly which Monday in February it will be.
Also introduced was the creation of an auditor general for local governments. It was designed as another crowd-pleaser, although there was some debate about whether it will be worth the effort.
A few of the law-and-order amendments look like they were designed with the election in mind, too. There's more power to seize assets from criminals, which usually goes over well with the majority. And there's another push to clear minor cases out of the courts, with new ways to resolve small civil disputes and traffic tickets. Easing the caseload goes part way toward dampening concern about the fact criminals are evading justice because the system is so overloaded. But it buys more problems for people who want their day in court.
Fixes. In 2009, the Liberals changed the sales-tax system to spur economic growth and make the system fairer and more efficient. Everyone hated it; they rose up to vote it down. And it drove former premier Gordon Campbell from office.
So it needs a little ... tweaking.
The next chapter in the HST saga is the bill, introduced Monday, to reverse the whole nightmare and restore the old sales-tax system. The bill will make it abundantly clear once again that it's a lot easier to make a mistake than it is to correct it.
Also on the do-over list is a bill to address the belated discovery that authorities have no power to collect fines from SkyTrain scofflaws.
There's also an amendment to a key element of B.C.'s energy plan. The Liberals are relaxing the requirement for B.C. Hydro to be self-sufficient, a major policy change.
Last year's new approach to impaired driving - which puts more emphasis on immediate administrative penalties, rather than criminal charges - also gets a modest makeover, on instructions from a judge.
There's also a fairly major reversal of pharmaceutical policy. An earlier attempt to curb the cost of prescription drugs covered by Pharmacare by way of a contract with the companies didn't work. So the next effort is a bill that simply dictates the price the government will pay.
Run of the mill. Drinking in theatres. More powers for the SPCA to protect animals. New limits on civil liability. Pension-law reform. More opportunities for kick-boxing tournaments.
The rest of the package is the kind of random assortment of items that is always flowing through the pipeline that leads to the legislature.
The one insight into Clark you get is not in the content of the bills. It's in how the package was managed this spring. A last-minute jumble saw a big chunk (12 bills, with more to come) introduced in the last month. There's no hope to scrutinize them all in time, so there will be a huge argumentfilled scramble before the house adjourns.
Which is pretty much how she and her government roll.
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