Deepening Democracy: Questions on Accountability

Issues Related to MLA Empowerment, Oversight and Influence

One of the core purposes of our legislature is providing oversight of government spending and holding government to account. For MLAs to play this key constitutional role, they must have access to reliable information and have sufficient opportunity to scrutinize budget plans. In addition, they must be accountable to the voters who elected them, who need to be able to trust that MLAs are not being influenced by special interests (especially those with significant financial resources).

16. Increasing Legislative Oversight of Spending: Do you support increasing MLAs’ legislative oversight by requiring less ‘bundling’ of spending votes and greater consideration of individual spending proposals?

Spending oversight votes have decreased from roughly 250 per year in the late 1970s to about 50 per year in recent years, largely due to increased bundling of spending measures into omnibus bills. This has resulted in less detailed review by MLAs of significant portions of the provincial budget.

17. Legislative Budget Office & Officer: Do you support establishing an independent legislative budget officer?

The work of Canada’s recently retired Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, has been widely acclaimed, and he has issued public calls to strengthen this form of parliamentary oversight. BC currently lacks such an office.

18. Campaign Finance Reform: Do you support eliminating union and corporate donations to provincial parties and candidates?

BC currently allows union and corporate donations, as well as donations from outside the province (including foreign countries), and does not limit contributions from individual donors. Many have expressed concern that this provides significant opportunities for monied interests to gain preferential access to the government. Currently, union and corporate donations are banned federally, as well as in Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and the city of Toronto.

19. Campaign Finance Reform: Do you support banning donations from entities outside the province to provincial parties and candidates?

Currently, the only provinces that allow foreigners to contribute to provincial parties and candidates are BC, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, PEI and the Yukon. Saskatchewan allows out-of-province contributions. Internationally, over two-thirds of countries prohibit foreign political contributions, including Canada, the US, the UK and Ireland (see http://www.idea.int/political-finance).

20. Campaign Finance Reform: Do you support implementing contribution limits?

In Canada, only BC, Saskatchewan, PEI, Newfoundland and the Yukon don’t have contribution limits. Federally, the individual limit is $1100 per year; in the provinces, the limits range from a low of $100/year in Quebec (though Quebec also provides a per-vote subsidy) to $15,000/year in Alberta.

21. Local Government Election Task Force Recommendations: Do you support implementing the majority of recommendations of the LGETF?

The 2010 LGETF made over 30 recommendations for improving local government elections, including banning anonymous contributions and implementing expense limits (see http://www.localelectionstaskforce.gov.bc.ca). The five main areas of focus were: ensuring accountability, enhancing transparency, strengthening compliance and enforcement, increasing accessibility, and expanding education and advice.

22. Local Government Election Task Force Recommendations: Do you support revisiting, through a broader public consultation, some of the negative recommendations of the LGETF and issues they did not consider within their scope?

Although the LGETF made numerous positive recommendations, there was also criticism that it failed to consider some issues that many considered important (e.g., the voting system) and that the exclusion of opposition members and the absence of representation of ordinary citizens and NGOs on the task force may have resulted in a bias against making some recommendations that many do support (e.g., donation limits).

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