A commentary by a former MLA for Victoria-Hillside.
These days one can’t help but wonder what has happened to accountability and reasoned decision making within a “democratic government” in British Columbia. It appears that, simply put, it has disappeared and gone.
Just look at housing, health care, mental illness, education, environment, transportation, drugs and addiction, ICBC, WorkSafe, law enforcement, courts, the rule of law, treaty rights, property rights, municipal authority, and on and on — virtually every file and area of government responsibility.
Evidently the mantra of government these days is to announce public policy to address serious deficiencies within society without any thought to reason, accountability or unintended consequences, because at all costs, we must look like we are doing something — “that will help us stay popular and appear virtuous, in power and electable” today — then another issue tomorrow and another “solution” that doesn’t work.
But never mind, no matter, as it keeps the public (you and I) off balance, divided and unfocused and after all, we are doing something, or so they say.
This government reels from issue to issue, making announcements without accountability for outcomes, no thought to consequences intended or otherwise of decision-making and seemingly with only one thought driving them — how can we momentarily appease the public by offering “solutions, any solution” to serious problems, knowing full well that they will not solve the issue and will raise more questions than answers. But governments know that the mantra is to be seen to be doing something, even if that something has no tangible positive results or deliverables.
Health care in crisis. All we get is platitudes, statistics, accolades and a “job well done” speech to health-care workers. No new doctors, nursing shortages, all the while allowing nurses to work in for-profit private agencies at higher hourly rates paid for by the public health care system — but let’s ignore that, and continue to roll out announcements that do not work and are not thought out. Meanwhile, emergency rooms continue to close and patients have to use their own resources to get needed care and procedures elsewhere.
Disasters. It took two years for a washout on the Malahat to be repaired. Abbotsford is still waiting for flood relief. Lytton is still waiting for rebuilding after fires. Our ferry system is dysfunctional — but don’t worry, when cancellations occur the government will effectively fine itself — boy, that will really teach the ferry corporation a lesson! — and will be sure to look like it is doing something.
Housing. Missing Middle, the Victoria lab experiment with you and I as the lab rats, didn’t work, so let’s just take zoning responsibilities away from municipal government and rid the province of single-family zoning. Throw out community plans and get rid of pesky public input and hearings. Let’s support developers building “affordable housing” at unaffordable prices and at hugely reduced square footage living spaces. Let’s take away property rights and community planning from citizens. Oh, and let’s build some “worker housing” for service workers to rent. Sounds like a company town, or worse, to me.
Drugs and poverty. Opioid overdoses and deaths are in year seven. The solution? Provide illicit and dangerous addictive drugs to those who want them, give little or no thought to rehab, and let’s fund non-profits to deliver drugs, housing and mental health services. Non-profits in these sectors have become a growth industry, with their own bureaucracies, with highly paid directors, investment strategies, and most non-profit workforces now enjoy collective agreements, wage, and benefit clauses, lay-off provisions and of course pension plans.
Provincial and municipal funding support is at record levels for non-profits in this sector and sadly the government has institutionalized poverty. Funding is now a line item in municipal and provincial budgets. This is not a solution to these serious societal problems. We have, however, created a new industry that relies on these problems continuing without abatement and without solution — and seemingly, government agrees.
Crime. The solution seems to be to underfund and cut funding for policing, and ban police from engaging youth in our schools. Fewer police will result in less reporting of crimes and less law enforcement. Talk about changing catch and release but do little to change this. Make sure that we say our streets are safe even when it is obvious that they are not — and berate and belittle and shame those who call for tougher law enforcement, or even enforcing existing laws, as being dispassionate and uncaring of the plight of those less fortunate.
It just goes on and on. Pick an issue that is important to you and your family and see if our government’s “solutions” are working for you.
Are things getting better? Talk to your neighbours, friends, family and coworkers. See if these “solutions” are concerning to them.
But be careful and realize that in the context of government these days, any comments contrary, questioning, or critical of these “solutions” will be deemed by government, and sadly some in the public, to be shameful, uncaring, or right wing and not in keeping with a kinder and caring society. You will most likely be ignored or shut down, discounted, vilified or worse.
When we can freely communicate, discuss and debate passionately on all sides of issues, when we can speak without the real fear of our opinions being shut down, cancelled, ridiculed or publicly vilified, only then will society have any hope of opportunity for real solutions through true democracy within our society and government.