Open Letter to Premier Christy Clark on recalling the B.C. Legislature

24 September 2012

Hon. Christy Clark
West Annex
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
premier@gov.bc.ca

Dear Premier Clark:

Two weeks ago your government announced that it would not recall the legislature for its customary fall sitting.

As you know this decision does not sit well with British Columbians who believe that a flourishing democracy must include opportunities where the government is held to account in the legislature by the opposition, and the opposition held to account by the government. This is even more true when the province is only months from a general election.

Ontario’s MPPs are already back in session. In October, they’ll be joined by MLAs in Alberta and Saskatchewan. In November, MLAs in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island will reconvene. The legislatures in Nova Scotia and Manitoba will also reconvene this fall.

B.C. should not hold the less than envious distinction of being the only provincial legislature that does not.

While our MLAs work incredibly hard throughout the year serving British Columbians, they should also do so from the seats they were elected to in Victoria, if only for a few weeks each spring and fall.

Last Sunday, IntegrityBC launched a petition calling on you to recall the legislature. We set a modest goal of 500 signatures in a week, because of our concern that British Columbians may have grown accustomed to such practices and have concluded that they are powerless to make a difference.

However, not only did we easily surpass our goal, but British Columbians from across the province spoke out as well – whether it was on the airwaves, in letters-to-the-editor or editorials.

May I draw your attention to just two of those editorials:

From the Globe and Mail: Parliaments are essential to holding governments accountable. Question periods are not always edifying, but they are vital to the political order…On balance, however, the abandonment of the previously planned 28-day fall session looks more like a political manoeuvre than a public-spirited choice of a pause for deep thought.

From the Times Colonist: Voters know that their elected representatives have more responsibilities than their work in the legislature, but the assembly is where the government lays out its plans for the province and where the opposition can challenge those plans and spell out its alternatives.

Or consider a few of the comments from our online petition:

From a Shawnigan Lake resident: I think it is ludicrous that our MLAs are not sitting for a fall session. Shame on you Christy Clark. Shame on you for not recalling the members of the legislature back for a fall sitting.

From Summerland: There are far too many problems that need solving before you give up.

From Surrey: That is what we elect officials for!

From Prince George: As elected officials it is their duty to go work for the people not for Premier Clark. They are all experienced and seasoned politicians they know how to do their jobs!

There’s simply no reason not to recall the legislature when there are important issues facing the province, including your government’s proposals regarding the Northern Gateway Pipeline, the government’s announcement that it must cut $241 million from provincial spending in this fiscal year, and collective bargaining negotiations with the BCGEU.

Every political party in B.C. shares part of the responsibility for the antipathy that too many citizens feel towards politicians. Your decision not to recall the legislature has simply fed this cynicism even more.

This must change. And it can start in Victoria. In October.

Please reconsider your decision and recall the legislature.

 

Sincerely,

Dermod Travis

Executive Director

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For a PDF copy of the letter click here