Behavior in the BC Legislature an insult to democracy – and the Premier leads the pack

Last night I actually watched some of the sitting of the BC Legislature – that is, until I could take no more. Finally forfeiting  bad politics for a bad western, even the barely tolerable plot of ‘ Appaloosa’ could not distract my thoughts from the embarrassment our provincial legislature has become.

The best thing free press could do for the citizens of British Columbia would be to televise  portions of last nights sitting on all the major local stations. What an eye-opener it would be for those  among us who don’t actually realise what it is that our MLA’s do while in Victoria. At times it felt as if I were watching an adult preschool centre in action, that’s how juvenile some of the behavior became.

Barking.

Table slapping.

Shouting.

Here comes the big one though:  Freedom of Speech, the most basic of rights as a Canadian under the Charter, does not seem to exist in the legislature. I repeatedly heard MLA’s complaining of the speed and manner that this session was initiated, and the fact that their questions, and the questions of the constituents they have been elected to represent, are not being answered. Is this not a basic pillar of democracy? Let the people  be heard? Apparently not on Campbell’s watch, and while the Bill was unanimously passed,( due in part to a palpable sense of pity for the pretty mayor Gregor and the mess he stepped into), the contentious nature of why it was needed in the first place is not soon to be forgotten. There is increasing discontent among British Columbians for the excessive expenditures that are adding up to an astronomical number.

Coquitlam’s Diane Thornespoke most eloquently and ardently, and was admonished by the Deputy Speaker to keep her words brief considering the time-line of the session. It was clear the MLA’s were to keep their statements short and ask as few questions as possible.

To say Ms. Thorne was not amused would be to understate the situation. She spoke of the time-line this Millennium fiasco occurred under, and the fact that is was back in 2007 that it became clear the developer was likely going to default.

2007.

We are now into 2009, and this has only become news to the general public within the last couple of months.

Ms. Thornewent on to speak about all the reporting, all the checks and balances and the deadlines that must be adhered to with VANOC, the city AND the province. There is no way that the Premier can say that he was not aware of the gravity of the situation, unless he is to admit that he has failed to pay attention to anything going on with the Olympic preparations. 

 ” How could it be? ”  she asked.

There is no way the Premier can claim ignorance.

Impossible.

 And the alarming thread between the Olympic Village fiasco and every other expenditure remains the closed door policy that applies to all of it. No one really knows what the final cost is going to be taxpayers, or what else is  even going on, because the Premier just isn’t talking. He doesn’t seem to care about how angry and confused we all are about the ongoing secrecy, the false information and what amounts to cover-ups.

Hence, the weekend session, where the Premier did not have to answer any of the Oppositions questions. Yes indeed, a crafty bit of maneuvering by the Premier, who was caught with an incredibly contrived expression of concern on his face as he spoke  to reporters about his extreme concern for the 1700 workers who are currently worried over their jobs. Yes, he insisted, he did not want them to have to worry about their jobs any longer so he called the weekend session to put their minds at ease …

The jig’s up Premier.  There is nothing worse than a politician faking concern for anyone – especially when we all know it’s just lip service. the only reason he called a weekend session was because he wanted to avoid pointed and crucial questions about what else is going on. Why, hasn’t he spoken often about the need for transparency in all the governments actions? Ha! Gordon Campbell  is about as transparent as a brick wall.

By now, I think we all know that this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Olympic related projects  go.  The city of Surrey doesn’t exactly follow a transparent model of democracy either, and trouble is brewing on that horizon.

Just this morning  The Leader carried a very small blurb that the first completion deadline for the Olympic Games Centre in North Surrey will NOT be met.  

The original contract with VANOC called for a completion date of February 1st, 2009, but anyone driving by the site at  10665 135 st. can see that is clearly not going to happen. The new deadline is set at February 28th, 2009 and I can tell you now that I don’t see completion at that time either.

Surrey mayor Dianne Watts was  criticized harshly last year after signing the contract, when it was revealed that not all the details were shared or made clear to all councillors before the deal was done. At the heart of the issue was a clause that forfeits the city’s legal rights should a disagreement  occur between the parties. This could leave Surrey taxpayers open to mayor risk and liability as is detailed in this story from the Surrey Now: http://www.canada.com/surreynow/news/story.html?id=31d223dd-8734-44d7-bddf-250954d98d98 

In that story, Dianne Watts is quoted  as saying: ” The volunteer centre is on track.”,which was the sentiment expressed by councillor Linda Hepner in this excerpt:

Councillor Linda Hepner, chair of the mayor’s task force on the 2010 Olympics, also insists the volunteer training centre will meet deadline. Hepner noted the entire 20,000-square-foot facility won’t be completed for another year but the rest of the facility isn’t needed for the games.

“The space they need to train the volunteers will be ready by the time they need that in February. We can do it in three months,” she said….

Councillor Bob Bose said he only recently learned details about the contract and is alarmed by the terms of the contract. Although the project received the unanimous consent of council, Bose says the only document he’s ever seen in connection with the deal was “a general agreement” between the city and VANOC at an in-camera meeting.He called the contentious clause “extraordinary.”

“I’m astonished that the mayor actually signed such a document,” Bose said. “It certainly was signed without council’s knowledge of the ominous nature of that clause.”

Another councillor confirmed Bose’s comments about not seeing details about the contract. To avoid potential legal problems and protect taxpayers, Bose said the city should abandon the project and simply rent space in the city to train the volunteers, an idea that was privately floated by another councillor.

“If there’s any question whatsoever about council’s ability to deliver, then maybe the prudent thing would be not to start the project, simply rent the space. There’s no shortage in the Whalley area, and that’s certainly the position I would take if I had a chance to vote on it again,” he said. ”

Clearly Dianne Watts seems to follow the same leadership model of  Sam Sullivan and crew, because here we are, unable to meet the first deadline and highly unlikely to meet the new one.

 In fact, Surreys manager of parks, Laurie Cavan has already said that the city has other venues that VANOC could use instead of need be, such as the existing Rec Centre. Which would , of course, leave all the local residents who rely on programs and facilities within that rec centre, out in the cold – literally. 

How much more must we bear as residents and taxpayers? When will the politicians we elected forget their own lofty goals and remember that they represent the people, and as such, need to place our best interests at heart?  This Surrey Olympic center is a project that was fast-tracked so we can have the honour of flying the Olympic rings – while the homeless circle ar0und below  trying to suck up some heat,while our hospital spills patients out into hallways and flys them elsewhere for treatment and begs for donations( tulips for tomorrow they call it), and while the rest of us obliviously wait for her team to stop and look at the real issues that need handling. The $2 million token paid to VANOC for this dubious honour would have gone a long way to handling the social issues that plague every neighbourhood.

  Clearly, Dianne Watts priorities are her own, and do not reflect the wants and needs of  city residents. 

Kind of reminds you of Gordon Campbell, doesn’t it?  Much like the fever elicited by the promise of fortune and fame during the Gold Rush of  the 1800’s, the politicians of BC have been firmly gripped within the lure of Olympic Gold Fever.

Remember the childhood fable, The Emporers New Clothes? 

 Wake up and smell the coffee. You’re all naked.

One Comment on “Behavior in the BC Legislature an insult to democracy – and the Premier leads the pack

  1. Excellent post, Laila.

    I am tired of hearing about our ” Darling Dianne” Dianne is known for her close relationships with developers in Surrey, and not for her involvement with any residents other than in her own neck of the woods.
    People in Cloverdale are starting to get fed up too,
    although they aren’t as vocal as you are.

    I think the mayor of Surrey should hang her head for the superficial changes she is making to many areas, and for this latest Olympic mistake. Now the bridge is burned, literally. Why, if she is doing so much to solve social issues in Surrey, are the homeless forced to camp under the bridge? Why is that question not being asked ?

    What was she thinking, and how can she justify this expensive project and payment to VANOC ? The fact that they are now thinking about renting out space tells me its not getting done. And as you pointed out, what about the people who use those community centres? Are they going to be happy about potentially giving up access to the centres in favor of the olympic volunteers?
    And how did she get away with signing that clause anyways? Was everyone sleeping, or did she actually fail to point that out in council? Did she actually really not mention that clause? Seems as if someone could be in trouble for not disclosing something like that.

    Why doesnt the big media pay attention to this story more, and find out what happened here, because this is just as big as the Millenium Mess.

    Keep up the good posts. I love them .