(1) 250.472.8528
andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

Democratic Reform

Addressing delegates to the AVICC annual convention

Today I was afforded the opportunity to address delegates at the 69th annual convention of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities. As noted on their website:

The Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) is the longest established area association under the umbrella of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM). The area association was established in 1950. It now has a membership of 53 municipalities and regional districts that stretches from the North Coast Regional District down to the tip of Vancouver Island and includes Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, the Central Coast and the North Coast. The Association deals with issues and concerns that affect large urban areas to small rural communities.

Below I reproduce the text of my speech.


Text of Speech


I am delighted to be here this morning with all of you – and I think we share an essential trait as politicians, even if we are not always aligned in policy or vision.

Each of you, I expect, can identify the issue or the passion that motivated you to run for local government. It may have been an environmental issue, as it was for my colleague Sonia Furstenau, or it may have been a desire to see a project in your community to move forward.

And it is passionate leadership at the local government level that sees so much positive change come forward in our province.

Look at the Town of Gibsons – the first in North America to pass a natural asset management policy, showing extraordinary leadership in recognizing the indisputable logic of including natural assets in financial planning.

In Cowichan there is the Cowichan Watershed Board, laying the foundation for watershed co-governance with First Nations, and taking tangible, necessary steps toward reconciliation in the process.

Recognizing that healthy and happy communities – as Charles Montgomery so eloquently points out – have social connection and collaboration in their fibre, Oceanside and Mt. Waddington’s Health Networks are models for bringing people together to create long-term positive health outcomes.

It was my own commitment to action on climate that motivated me to run for MLA in 2013, after I had seen our province go from a climate leader under Gordon Campbell to a climate laggard under Christy Clark.

As a climate scientist, I had long encouraged my students to engage with decision makers – or become decision-makers themselves – if they wanted to see politicians take action on climate. I realized that I too had a responsibility to participate in the building of political will to act on climate – not as a voice of doom, but as a voice for the extraordinary possibility and opportunities that lie before us in this challenging time.

So much of the conversation around climate and the transition away from a fossil-fuel economy is backward-looking, focusing on the economy of the 20th-century.

Look at the hysteria and rhetoric around the kinder morgan expansion – the shocking doubling-down on a pipeline that would export heavy oil – diluted bitumen – out of Vancouver. In every way, this is the wrong direction for our economy, our environment, our relationship with First Nations, and our climate.

Now take the potential that lies in new technology and innovation. Shell has recently announced that it has the technology to extract vanadium from bitumen, and use the vanadium to build steel that can be used to manufacture battery cells that have the capacity to store energy.

Consider that potential! Rather than dumping yet another raw resource as quickly as we can into foreign markets that reap the rewards of jobs and revenue as they process it into a usable and far more valuable commodity, we could be looking at using this resource to develop and support steel manufacturing, innovative energy storage technology, and the renewable energy sector.

We could massively increase the return to our citizens and our economy, and we could be actively building the future energy systems that will sustain our children and grandchildren.

We sell ourselves short by looking backwards – when transformation and innovation are happening more and more rapidly, it is the worst possible time for us as a province or a nation to double down on the ever decreasing returns in a race to the bottom of early 20th-century economics.

And it’s smaller communities – like the ones that many of you represent – that could benefit immensely from the emerging economy that’s rooted in education and driven by innovation and technology.

Consider the potential of Terrace as a centre for manufacturing – we as a province should be reaching out to Elon Musk and encouraging him to see the potential benefits of a Tesla plant or battery manufacturing plant in Terrace, where shipments to Asia are easily accessible through Prince Rupert’s port, and shipments to Chicago are at the end of a rail line that runs straight through Terrace.

Here on the island, Victoria has already earned the moniker “Techtoria” – and the Cowichan Valley is situated perfectly to be the next destination region for an industry that is growing by leaps and bounds.

BC’s own digital technology supercluster was recently awarded $1.4 billion in federal funding – an investment that is expected to produce 50,000 jobs and add $15 billion to BC’s economy over the next ten years.

And the work being done will make the lives of British Columbians better – including creating a health and genetic platform that will allow medical specialists to create custom, leading-edge cancer treatments that are personalized to the unique genetic makeup of each patient.

This work – hi-tech innovation, research, education – this work can happen anywhere in our increasingly connected world. It’s the connectivity highways that we should be investing in – these will allow all communities to reap the rewards of the 21st-century economy.
At a reception for the BC Tech Association last week, I met Stacie Wallin. Her job is to nurture tech companies that have hit the 1 million dollar level in revenue to scale up to the 25 million dollar level.

And she is so busy that she has nearly a dozen people working with her to keep up with the work that’s coming her way. When pipelines and LNG plants crowd out our conversations about BC’s and Canada’s economy, we miss what’s actually happening – the exciting, innovative, emerging economy that is reshaping our communities.

And there’s so much more. The film industry, tourism, education, professional services, value-added forestry, innovation in mining, renewable energy – our potential in this beautiful province is as boundless as our stunning scenery – and squandering time and energy to prop up sunset industries is the wrong place to be putting our precious efforts and money.
And if governments double down on 20th-century carbon-based economics, it’s your communities that feel the impacts and pay the prices.

Floods, droughts, wildfires, damage from increasingly punishing storms, sea level rise & storm sureges – all of these cost your communities, and your citizens, more and more money.

Communities are hit with the costs of building infrastructure to prevent flooding during the melt season, at the same time as having to determine how to deal with depleted aquifers that won’t be able to sustain the residents who depend on them for drinking water, and another drought this summer will once again put Vancouver Island at severe risk for wildfires.

The impacts of climate change will continue to put severe pressures on all our communities – which is why it’s utterly irresponsible for our provincial government to be considering a 6 billion dollar subsidy of the LNG industry – including letting LNG Canada off the hook for paying their fair share of carbon pricing.

Consider that fact alone – that the potential single greatest emitter of greenhouse gases in BC would only ever have to pay $30/tonne for its carbon pollution, while the rest of us, including industry, will see carbon pricing rise by $5/tonne each year.

This is an unacceptable logic, and one that we can’t possibly support – and I urge you, as the elected representatives who will be seeing the costs and consequences of climate change in your communities – I urge you to also encourage this government to recognize that giving massive tax breaks to the LNG industry because it isn’t economically viable is not the direction BC should be heading right now.

Consider an alternative. Why not invest in the Squamish Clean Technology Association (SCTA) created to seek out leading edge ventures that will help create an innovation hub focused on clean energy. We could attract the best and brightest minds to come to BC to figure out how to harness the renewable energy that abounds in our province while encouraging the innovation that our world needs most right now.

In response to a question from the audience on Friday about how to get municipal staff to think beyond their standard frames of reference, I understand that Charles Montgomery pointed to new models for civic design, and suggested that politicians may need to “drag them kicking and screaming” into the 21st century.

This also applies to many of our provincial and federal representatives, who may say that they recognize our need to transition to the new economy, but then try to convince us that the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions … is to increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Doubling down with doublespeak – let’s not let this become a new Canadian tradition.

We need our provincial and federal politics to reflect the best of what we see at the local government level.
Informed discussion and debate, listening to people who present differing opinions, allowing for compromise as a path forward, working from a place of shared values and finding solutions that best reflect those values.

And while it may not always feel this way at your council and board tables, the reality is that your level of government is one that is generally far less driven by partisanship and ideology.

We have an extraordinary opportunity to bring our electoral system into the 21st century in BC with the referendum that is happening this fall. And while there will be many discussions on both sides of this debate over the next several months, it’s essential to begin with what are we trying to solve with electoral reform in BC.

Currently, under First Past the Post, elections are geared towards a “winner take all” outcome. And that winner almost never has the support of the majority of the voters.

40% is often the magic number.

40% of the popular vote in BC can generally deliver to one party a majority of seats in the legislature, and 100% of the power for 4 years.

Informed discussion and debate, listening to differing opinions, compromise, collaboration, finding common ground based on shared values – that’s completely unnecessary when your party has enough votes to ram through any legislation and any agenda you like.

Compare this to almost any other human endeavour, where collaboration, cooperation, and respect deliver the outcomes that have moved us forward throughout history.

Yes – let’s compete to bring forward the best ideas, the boldest visions – but let’s not make competition the only value that underpins politics.

Charles Montgomery points out that the infrastructure of our cities and our communities can be a source for unhappiness, through creating mistrust, a sense of disconnect, and a lack of sociability.

It seems that our political infrastructure – and in particular a first past the post system that delivers 100% of the power with a minority of the votes – can also create mistrust, lack of sociability, and unhappiness. In our winner take all system, inflicting knock out blows to the other side becomes a normal part of our politics – but how much does this damage our governance?
How many good ideas, brought forward by opposition MLAs or MPs have died sad deaths on the order papers under a majority government that can’t be seen to work across party lines?

Electoral reform – particularly electoral reform that would bring in a form of proportional representation – would deliver more minority governments to BC.

And some may try to convince you that’s a terrible thing – but I ask, is working across party lines a terrible thing? Is collaboration on policies and legislation a terrible thing? Is having more minds engaged on solving problems a terrible thing?
Or could this change in our electoral infrastructure actually bring us politics that contribute to more sociability – the one factor that Charles Montgomery said was paramount to our happiness.

Premier Horgan mentioned in his address that there has been conflict between our two parties.

There has indeed – and the media will always focus on these points of tension – but if you look at how much legislation was passed in the fall, how many initiatives have moved forward over the past nine months and then consider the ratio of collaboration to conflict, you’ll recognize that – much like at your own council tables – when you work from a place of shared values, it’s possible to almost always find a path forward.

Our current electoral model has its origins in the Middle Ages, and it has undergone significant change over the centuries.
It was only 100 years ago that women were given the right to vote in BC, and as we discuss and debate extending that right to 16 and 17 year olds, let us remember that the world around us changes continuously, and it’s up to us to ensure our institutions – particularly our democratic institutions – adapt to meet the needs of our society.

Happy cities, happy communities, happy politics. Let’s dream big.

Thank you.

Reintroducing a bill to lower the voter age in British Columbia to 16

Today in the BC Legislature I reintroduced a bill that would lower the voter age in British Columbia to 16. This is the third time I’ve introduced this bill. I’ve provided a detailed rationale for it here, here and here, and expanded upon it further in a Vancouver Sun article that was published today.

Below I reproduce the video and text of my introduction of the bill, as well as the media statement that we released.


Video of Introduction



Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to introduce a bill that, if enacted, would lower the voting age to 16 in British Columbia.

The voting age in British Columbia was not always 18. Federally, it wasn’t until 1970 that the Canada Elections Act was amended to drop the voting age from 21 to 18. In British Columbia we made the jump in two steps. First, in 1952 we dropped the voting age from 21 to 19, but it wasn’t until 1992 that we made the subsequent change to lower the age to 18.

Around the world, more and more jurisdictions are openly discussing the notion of dropping the voting age to 16, and, in fact, a growing number have actually done so. Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Scotland are but a few of the jurisdictions that have extended voting rights to 16-year-olds.

There’s ample evidence to suggest that the earlier in life a voter casts their first ballot, the more likely they are to develop voting as a habit throughout their lifetime.

Sadly, in the 2017 election, only 56 percent of youth aged 18-24 and only 46 percent of young adults aged 25-34 voted here in British Columbia. Compare that to the provincial average of 61 percent and to the 75 percent of seniors aged 65-74 who voted.

It’s also a common misconception that 16-years-old are not as informed and engaged in political issues as older voters. The research, however, says otherwise.

Sixteen- and 17-year-olds are old enough to drive, pay taxes, get married and sign up for the military. They should have a say in the direction our province is heading as they ultimately inherit what we leave behind.

Mr. Speaker: The question is first reading of the bill.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M205, Election Amendment Act, 2018, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Media Release


Weaver re-introduces bill to extend voting rights to 16 and 17-year olds
For immediate release
March 13, 2018

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, introduced a Private Member’s bill to lower the voting age to 16 in B.C. This is the third time Weaver has introduced the bill.

“Young British Columbians have the greatest stake in the future of our province; they should have a say in the decisions our politicians make,” said Weaver.

“Yesterday, Elections B.C. announced that only 56.24% of 18-24 year olds and 46.35% of 25-35 year olds voted in our last provincial election. Voting rights have been extended to 16 year-olds in Scotland, Argentina, Austria and Brazil. Evidence from those jurisdictions shows that enfranchising these young voters has led to substantially higher levels of political participation.

“Moreover, research shows that the cognitive skills required to make calm, logically informed decisions are firmly in place by age 16. Young citizens of British Columbia are old enough to drive, pay taxes and sign up for the military. They are also the leaders of tomorrow. They should have a say in the direction we are heading, as they will inherit what we leave behind. B.C. should take this chance to strengthen our democracy and lower the voting age to 16.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Do we trust British Columbians to determine the future direction of their democracy? Yes or no?

Yesterday in the legislature we continued debate on a hoist motion put forward by the BC Liberals on Bill 6 – 2017: Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Act. The motion was designed to kill the bill aimed at enabling a referendum on proportional representation in the fall of 2018. I have already spoken in support of Bill 6 at second reading.

Anyone who has watched the debates on Bill 6 will have heard the BC Liberal MLAs lining up to argue against the merits of proportional representation. At times it seemed that they were reading the same speech. What’s remarkable is that all Bill 6 does is enable a referendum on proportional representation. There is an ongoing consultation process designed to gather feedback from British Columbians.

In the speech reproduced in video and text below, I note that the entire debate on both sides, has boiled down to one question. That one question is this: do we trust the people of British Columbia to actually determine the outcome of how their democracy would like to be?


Video of Speech



Text of Speech


A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in the debate on the hoist amendment, hoist motion brought forward by the members opposite with respect to our discussions on Bill 6, Electoral Reform Referendum 2018 Act.

I’ve listened to the debate. Speaker after speaker after speaker raised issues. I wonder, after reflecting upon it, if they recognize that we’re actually debating a bill that’s designed exclusively to create the legal framework for conducting a provincewide referendum before November 30, 2018, representing a proportional voting system.

Now, what I’ve heard here, in reflecting upon the need for more time, is members opposite on the one hand arguing passionately against proportional representation for reasons and rationale that are based on them actually knowing the outcome of the consultative process that is ongoing now. On the other hand, I’ve heard people argue against proportional representation in general. Some of the arguments have gone so far as to be, I would argue, somewhat outlandish.

One member opposite stated, and I quote — I mean, this is so inappropriate: “By the time they realized what had happened, it was too late. You ended up with World War II. You ended up with the Holocaust. You ended up with a number of countries that had to rebuild — meaning all of Europe. Many of the people that come to Canada should know this, because most of your ancestors came from Europe.”

This is the member for Skeena who stood up and, in arguing against letting the people of British Columbia decide whether or not they would support proportional representation, evoked the fact that this could potentially lead to the rise of nazis and a holocaust. This is so profoundly offensive that I honestly believe that that member should stand and apologize to the Legislature for those comments.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: The member opposite said I was taking it out of context. I encourage anyone here to go and read the Hansard, because it was not taken out of context. It was there for all to see.

This entire debate, on both sides, has boiled down to one question. That one question is this: do we trust the people of British Columbia to actually determine the outcome of how their democracy would like to be?

This is not….

Deputy Speaker: Member, speaking to the amendment.

A. Weaver: Hon. Speaker, I do appreciate you saying that, but I’ve listened again to speaker after speaker give speeches without referring to the amendment a single time during their speech. I have referred to the amendment many times already in this speech, yet the previous speakers have not.

I will continue to speak to the amendment and the reason why we don’t need to have the extra time. But I do reflect upon the fact that I did not hear other members do that in speaking to the amendment.

Coming back to the amendment, coming back to the rationale, we’ve had this debate boiling down to one question, on this amendment, as well as the motion before that: do we trust the people of British Columbia? Members opposite don’t seem to believe that we can trust the people of British Columbia to actually determine whether or not they want proportional representation. They don’t believe that we can trust the people of British Columbia to determine the outcome.

Their arguments against proportional representation and the need to consult further are compelling to themselves and their groups and friends, perhaps. Then vote no, if there is a referendum. But we’re not debating proportional representation. We’re debating whether or not — this one question — we trust British Columbians to have a say. And do we need another six months to actually go through?

We know the reason why members opposite have turned this debate on whether or not British Columbians are entitled to a choice into a debate on proportional representation. It’s because fundamentally, to quote their future leader, Dianne Watts. On November 4, 2017, she said this. It’s because they said this: “Because you know what, if we do not defeat this referendum, there will be no majority. There will forever be a minority of B.C. Liberals.” She also said: “That is my number one priority, and I’m hell-bent in terms of making sure that we defeat that referendum.”

Now therein lies the problem. This hoist motion that’s before us is nothing about proportional representation. It’s about fear — fear that the B.C. Liberals will actually tear apart and actually British Columbians, who we’re here to serve, will have a better choice as to who they want to represent them.

You know, I have friends in the B.C. Conservative Party. I’ve got friends in the B.C. Liberal Party. I’ve got friends in the B.C. NDP There is an unhealthy tension over there right now, an unhealthy tension because there’s a struggle for voices by members within that party. The whole purpose of proportional representation is to not create artificial coalitions, but to allow society to be reflected in terms of the makeup of the people who represent them in government….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Again, the members opposite, who we sat patiently listening to, and it was trouble at some times, feel very uncomfortable when the truth is pointed out. The truth that this is only about whether we trust British Columbians or not.

They don’t. They don’t trust British Columbians. They need more time — throw a hoist motion forward, and in doing so, what you’re basically doing is killing the bill. We all know that a hoist motion is killing the bill. That’s the purpose of this. They want to kill the bill, because they don’t trust British Columbians to actually determine the outcome of what they think is best. They don’t trust British Columbians to vote yes or no on proportional representation because the B.C. Liberals know the answer.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Members opposite are hung up on process. They’re hung up on process. What is ironic….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: This is the uncomfortable nature of the discussion, because the truth hurts. Let’s talk about the process, in response to the heckles from West Vancouver–Sea to Sky. This is what the process is. There is a three-month consultative process ongoing right now. I encourage members opposite to do what the B.C. Greens are doing and to do, frankly, what the NDP are doing, and make your own submissions.

I’ve listened for must be two months now. I don’t know how long we’ve been debating this bill. Member after member after member already say what proportional representation is. I heard one member saying: “Its ranked lists don’t work.” Well your leadership convention is about to go through in terms of a ranked debate. I guess it works for B.C. Liberals, but it doesn’t work for proportional representation.

I’ve heard others talk about party lists, so you’re not actually voting for people, and “that doesn’t work.” But again, we don’t actually know what the question is.

So all this fear being put forward by the B.C. Liberals, and through their hoist motion trying to kill this, is basically fear of losing power, because the B.C. Liberals care about power — not about doing what’s right for the people of British Columbia.

The irony in this as well — as we’ve heard talk, time after time, about these so-called backroom negotiations that led to this — is that the same negotiations were happening with the B.C. Liberals, who agreed to have a referendum in the fall of 2018. So I’m not sure what’s….

Interjections.

A. Weaver: It’s interesting that none of these members who actually attended those meetings seems to know exactly what went on in the meetings, but I was at those meetings. Let me tell you. There was no difference in the discussions that we had between both parties about the importance of having a referendum on proportional representation, in light of the fact that this is something that British Columbians had told us was very important to them — as the Prime Minister did as well, federally.

Let me come back to this again. Here’s the irony. I sit through question period day after day, listening to the members opposite hurl abuse at government and say: “You’re not fulfilling a promise.”

Interjections.

A. Weaver: It’s hard to hear….

Deputy Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: “You’re not fulfilling a promise,” they will say. “This promise is broken. That promise is broken.” But here we have a promise being fulfilled — a promise that the B.C. NDP campaigned on. They campaigned in the last election on actually having a referendum on proportional representation, and that’s what this bill is doing.

This bill is simply enabling a referendum to occur. There’s no question being posed yet. There’s no structure being posed. It’s simply informing a referendum.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: See, there we have the heckling, coming back to that again — the heckling opposite, saying: “You need to put the question for it.” Well, this points to the scale of their arguments. They’re internally inconsistent. They want to consult and we need to have a six-month hoist in order to consult as to what the question is, but now they’re heckling and saying we need to know what the question is now.

This is what happens when you have a party that’s hurting, and I get that you’re hurting. I get that they’re hurting — in power for 16 years, now sitting in the benches there. There’s internal strife, as a few inner elite from the party from the past still dictate the way it will be and others don’t know what’s happening until they’re surprised in the chamber, and it frustrates them.

They see the liberty on this side of the House, where we have a working agreement, a working situation, showing British Columbians that two parties….

Interjections.

A. Weaver: It’s interesting again. Nobody wrote my speech. I’m actually just going from the cuff there, to the member of West Vancouver–Sea to Sky.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: Here, too…. It’s hard to get a word in with the heckling, but I will say what’s interesting here, with the comment about the speeches. The speeches I’ve heard to this hoist motion, time after time…. I wonder if you have one speechwriter downstairs, because I hear the same examples appearing by 41 Liberal MLAs, time in and time out. The same examples. The same rhetoric.

I was actually quite pleased with the member from Peace River North. I commented. He’s gone, but I think he wrote his speech.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: That’s true. The member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan — I have to give this to you. It cannot be said you’re not green opposite, because you’re into recycling and reusing the speeches.

Coming back to the reason why the hoist motion is not necessary…. What we’re showing right now to British Columbians is that, yes, parties can work together. They can working together despite being fundamentally different in terms of values, despite the conflict that we have between these parties in the election campaign.  We can show British Columbians that we can put people ahead of our partisan narrative.

But we see again this morning, as illustrated again, the games — which is why this is troubling to the B.C. Liberals — that get played. We need to hoist this motion. We need to hoist this bill to the future because it might affect our power. Everything is a game, and that’s what is so sad. That is what is so sad with what is going on here in the Legislature, both earlier today as well as now, when we listen to good people, good members opposite, the hon. members opposite — at times just reading scripts given to them by the 20-something-year-olds downstairs telling them to just make stuff up.

Again, I don’t want to criticize the member for Vancouver–False Creek, because his speech was very good. It was actually clear that you wrote it yourself — not something that I’ve heard very often.

It’s important, though, to recognize that this ultimately comes down to one question again. This is what the debate is. The debate is one question. Do we trust British Columbians to determine their outcome? Yes or no?

The B.C. Liberals clearly will vote later and say, “No, we don’t trust British Columbians to determine their outcome,” whereas members on this side will say: “Yes, we trust British Columbians. We trust you to have a say in your future. We will give you that say in the future, despite the fact that in the quest for a Liberal majority, at all costs, they will suppress the rights of British Columbians to have a say in their democracy.

BC Greens send letter to BC Liberal caucus requesting better cooperation on amendments

Yesterday my caucus colleagues and I sent a letter to BC Liberal House Leader Mike de Jong concerning our desire to collaborate with the BC liberals on improving legislation.

The reason why we felt it was important to do so is that we have been blindsided by several amendments that the BC Liberals have brought forward at the last minute. It is very difficult to support amendments tabled this way as they have not gone through legislative drafters, and advance notice on the order papers has not been given to allow for thoughtful reflection upon, and stakeholder engagement in, the substance of the amendments.

In addition, this past session the BC NDP granted both the BC Liberals and the BC Greens access to legislative drafters. This good faith approach to doing politics differently was very much appreciated by our caucus and we have taken advantage of this new opportunity.

The most recent example of a BC Liberal amendment, whose intent is something we could support, but as written could not be supported, concerns changes to Bill 15: Local Elections Campaign Financing Amendment Act. It was clear from the debates that all parties agreed on the substance of what the amendment was trying to do. It was designed to allow candidates in self-funded local election campaigns to contribute an additional $1,200 (above the present $1,200 donation limit) to their own campaign. But as written, the amendment didn’t actually do what it was supposed to do.

Below I reproduce the video and text of an exchange I had with the Selina Robinson, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. During this exchange I ask the Minister to outline the problems with the proposed amendment. I was also able to get on record her commitment to introduce regulations that do precisely what the amendment was trying to accomplish, but didn’t actually accomplish. The regulation will be in place for the 2018 local government elections.

Below I reproduce the video and text of our exchange as well as the text of our letter to the BC Liberal caucus. I also append the very brief media advisory that we issued.


Video of Exchange



Text of Letter


Mike de Jong
House Leader for the Official Opposition
BC Liberal Caucus
Parliament Buildings, Victoria

November 22, 2017

Dear Mr. de Jong,

We are writing to express our Caucus’ desire to collaborate with yours on improving legislation. As you know, advancing good public policy based on evidence is a core goal of our Caucus, as is working across party lines. Our parties have a history of collaboration on this front, working together under your past government to pass vital legislation that requires post-secondary institutions to have sexual violence policies and to improve labour regulations to prevent employers from requiring their employees to wear gender-specific footwear.

We request that when your caucus has amendments to legislation that your Members follow the following two processes so that we can pass the best public policy for our province. First, we request that your Members give adequate notice of amendments by putting them on the order papers in a timely fashion. Even small amendments can have significant and sometimes unanticipated implications. To responsibly consider amendments, our Caucus may need to consult with your caucus, experts, staff and each other. We need to consider the impacts on our constituents and on existing policy as well as whether the proposed amendment is constitutional. For this very same reason, bills are rarely debated the same day they are introduced.

Second, the government has recently made legislative drafters available to opposition members for the first time. As you know from your days in government, it is imperative that new laws be crafted in accordance with proper legal language and in consideration of existing statutes and amendments. We therefore request that your Caucus take advantage of the legislative drafters so that we can be assured that any proposed amendments are legally sound.

Yesterday, during our debate over Todd Stone’s amendment to Bill 15, we raised concerns that the amendment had not been placed on the order papers and had not been written by legislative drafters. Shirley Bond stated that it was improper to focus on process when debating policy. However, we believe that for the reasons discussed above, proper process is indeed a prerequisite for good public policy.

We understand that opposition Members have the right to introduce amendments without following the above processes. However, leaders of both our parties have acknowledged that this minority government is a message from British Columbians that they want us to work together. In order to do so, we must not accept the bare minimum standards that are technically required of us. Instead, it is incumbent upon us as elected representatives to make use of all opportunities available to us to ensure we advance good public policy that is in the best interests of British Columbians.

The agreement we signed with the BC NDP is grounded in a relationship of trust and built on a foundation of good faith and no surprises. Our approach has been to work with your caucus from this same foundation. We hope you will see this as a reasonable request so that we can have a productive working relationship, and so that we can deliver better outcomes for the people we represent.

Sincerely,

Andrew Weaver Sonia Furstenau Adam Olsen
Leader House Leader Caucus Chair and Whip
B.C. Green Caucus B.C. Green Caucus B.C. Green Caucus

Cc. Rich Coleman, Interim Leader, B.C. Liberal Caucus


Media Advisory


Advisory: B.C. Greens letter to B.C. Liberal caucus requesting better cooperation on amendments
For immediate release
November 22, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – The B.C. Green caucus has sent a letter to the B.C. Liberal caucus requesting better cooperation on amendments.

The full letter is attached and can be read here.

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca


Text of Exchange


A. Weaver: I have a number of questions for the minister as we discuss this amendment further. My first question is that two days ago, when the minister was responding to — I forget — one of the members, he or she mentioned that she saw some constitutional issues or challenges with the amendment as put forward. I was wondering if she might articulate those to us.

Hon. S. Robinson: I wanted to let the member know that we were concerned about some potential issues. So I’ve had a chance to get some legal counsel on this. Some of the concerns include the effect of the amendment as drafted is different than what we understand the amendment to be. So based on legal review, the effect of this amendment is that once a candidate makes a contribution of any amount to their own campaign then the contribution limit for that candidate’s campaign is $2,400, regardless of who is making the contribution to that candidate. This rule does not limit the $2,400 to an amount that a candidate could provide to their own campaign. It means that any individual can provide up to $2,400 to the candidates campaign. It misses the mark there.

There are also some potential legal questions that have been identified. A significant question is whether it would be justifiable and fair that candidates in the same communities are receiving different treatment on an arbitrary basis. For example, an unendorsed candidate who contributes money to their own campaign has a higher contribution limit of $2,400 while other unendorsed candidates who do not contribute to their campaign have a contribution of $1,200. Because of this question, legal advice would be required.

Another question is whether this amendment could be viewed as limiting speech in elections by prohibiting candidates from receiving contributions in certain circumstances. There’s also lack of clarity. So for example, what would a candidate do if they ended up spending $1,200 but also received campaign contributions? Would they be required to return the contributions?

The proposed amendment also does not identify the consequences of contravening this rule.

So the provision really doesn’t fit within the legislative framework. It amends section 30.01 but does not account for necessary consequential amendments for other sections — or for elections after the 2018 general local elections, if that was the intention.

So for these reasons alone, we can’t support the amendment.

A. Weaver: Thank you to the minister for her response there.

I’d like to see if I can understand where we are today. So two days ago, we had the motion brought forward by the member from Kamloops–North Thompson, a motion that initially had something to the tune of $5,000 as a potential for a self-funded campaign.

We discussed this. Obviously, there were some communication issues as to what was being debated when, and we saw this motion, literally, as we were sitting here, and had to work on the fly. There were some discussions — and with great respect and thanks, the member for Kamloops–North Thompson…. South Thompson. I do apologize. The member for Kamloops–South Thompson. It is true that they tend to sing as one voice. They clearly — North and South Thompson — support each other, and it’s good to see that in the Legislature.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: As my friend from Saanich North and the Islands says: “the Loops.” The Loopsians are very supportive here.

Coming back then. So it was modified to reflect what we were hearing here — that we didn’t know where the number was coming from. And we agreed that $2,400 was a number that seemed a little more reasonable. We clearly…. We had some support here. Not everyone in our caucus, but we felt that there was a lot of support emerging into the spirit and concept of this.

We then had a day break and had some time to reflect upon the amendment that was brought forward to us, as the minister was out of town, in Vancouver with the housing announcement, with the Prime Minister, so was unable to attend committee stage at that time.

And after some reflection, we’re now back to a position where we have the amendment on the floor. The amendment is to allow self-funded campaigns to $2,400 — or at least that’s the intent of the amendment. And I’m grateful for the clarification that the minister has, in terms of some of the issues with the amendment as written and what interpretations could be.

So my final question on this, before I decide the direction I’d like to take in terms of my vote. My understanding is the minister has formally committed to introduce regulation that captures the spirit of the intent, because she, too, has heard — like our caucus has, and members opposite had — some concern about the ability of people in, particularly, rural areas, small regions, to self-fund their campaign and not be put at a disadvantage.

A lovely example of this was mentioned by the member for Abbotsford-Mission, who somehow was being used as an example to actually argue against limiting donations, when he’s the most beautiful example of actually supporting limiting donations, because, in his case, he never funded his campaigns.

My final point then is: is it correct that the minister has committed to introduce such regulations that haven’t captured the spirit of the discussion? So that the 2018 local government elections will be subject to some regulation that will allow for increased funding by yourself to your own campaign. And that we recognize that, after that election, everything will be looked at, and there will be some reflection, using the data to move forward, as we revise legislation or regulations in the months and years ahead?

Hon. S. Robinson: I appreciate the question. And certainly, I’ve heard from UBCM, and I’ve heard from candidates, and we’ve certainly heard in this House about the self-funding piece, particularly for smaller communities.

I think it’s really important, and what I indicated is, that we do understand where members of this House are going and what it is they’re seeking. And in taking this approach, I think it’s important that we do make sure that regulation fits within the legal framework of the legislation and that we avoid the legal question marks that were raised by the amendment proposed by the member opposite.

So taking all things into consideration, we need to make sure that a regulation needs to fit the importance of monitoring the 2018 local elections, to gather information about the nature and extent of self-funded campaigns — not just on the contribution side, but on the expense side. This is the first time we’re doing that. I know that the members down the way really appreciate having good data, so it’ll be the first time that we’ll actually have this data, which will allow us to reflect on all of these components for local elections.

With all of that in mind, my intention will be to recommend a regulation that provides for candidates to make an additional campaign contribution of up to $1,200 in 2018 to their own campaign, with that being in addition to the regular contribution limit of $1,200, bringing the total in those circumstances to $2,400 for 2018. It provides for some equivalent authority for candidates endorsed by an elector organization, while ensuring that the total additional amount that is provided to an elector organization’s campaign through its endorsed candidates could not be more than $1,200 — again, for a total of $2,400 in 2018 in those circumstances.

What this will do, hon. Member, is that it will allow us to adjust to what we’ve been hearing, and it will allow us to do a number of things afterwards, to take a look at all the data to make sure that it’s hitting the mark. If it’s not hitting the mark, if that needs to be increased because we get feedback that that wasn’t quite enough, we can readily do that. Or if we learn that that was too much, then we can scale that back.

The other thing it does — and I think it’s really important — is that it allows to us be nimble. Government is not very nimble, generally speaking. So having it in regulation, should there be a by-election and we need to act appropriately and quickly, we can do that. I want to assure the member down the way that that is my intention.

A. Weaver: Thank you to the minister for the detailed response, and thank you to the member for Kamloops–South Thompson, who has brought this issue to this debate here. I am seeing here an agreement coming across party lines on this very important issue. Again, thank you to the member for Kamloops–South Thompson and thank you to the minister for responding in such an informative way.

Final hurdle towards banning big money in BC Politics cleared

Today in the legislature we passed Bill 3 – Election Amendment Act, 2017 which ends the wild west era of big money in BC politics. This is a major success for the BC Green Party as we campaigned extensively on this during the last provincial election. A number of our amendments were also included in the final legislation.

Below is the media release that we issued after the bill passed.


Media Release


Final hurdle towards banning big money cleared
For immediate release
November 22, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – The Election Amendment Act, which bans corporate, union and out-of-province donations in British Columbia’s electoral system, as well as limits the amount of money individuals can contribute, has passed third reading, the final political hurdle before becoming law. The B.C. Greens consulted extensively with the government in the development of the legislation, and introduced several amendments in order to increase transparency, reduce the influence of big money already in the system and make the legislation more equitable for small parties.

“I am absolutely thrilled that we have finally taken this significant step towards to putting people back at the centre of B.C. politics,” said Weaver.

“This legislation means that votes cast by the citizens of this province, not cash from special interests, is what will drive our political system going forward.

“The B.C. Greens banned corporate and union donations to our own party in September 2016 because we recognized the importance of this issue for strengthening our democracy. Less than a year ago, B.C. was being internationally derided as the ‘wild west’ of politics due to our lax campaign finance laws. This monumental achievement demonstrates what we can accomplish when we work together to advance good public policy.”

Adam Olsen, Party spokesperson for campaign finance, noted that the legislation will improve trust in government.

“For far too long, the influence of big money in our politics has corroded British Columbians’ trust in their government,” said Olsen.

“A healthy democracy is one where citizens trust their elected officials to put their interests first and foremost. With millions of our dollars flowing to political parties every year, British Columbians were often left wondering what was truly behind government decision-making. The B.C Greens will continue to push for changes, such greater reforms to B.C.’s lobbying industry next year, which will continue to build trust between British Columbians and their leaders.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca