Thursday, January 20, 2011

Time for an upper house in BC?

I was talking with my cousin in Australia about their parliament in New South Wales.   Each state not only has a legislature, but  a legislative council as well.   They elect two houses which places some more checks and balances on the government.  The legislative council is made of 42 members of which half are elected every four years.    They manage to work within a framework of two elected houses and still manage to pass legislation.   I raise the Australian example simply to point out that it is possible to have two houses for sub national governing body in the Westminster system.

Here in BC we are running into a significant problem with representation.   Since the majority of the population is in the south west of BC, the vast majority of the MLAs come from this region.   After the last redistribution, the legislature had to intervene to ensure that the north did not loss representation.   The divide between urban and rural MLAs is becoming bigger all the time leading to the situation where the MLAs representing the areas that are the primary economic engines of BC are a minority in Victoria.

If we were to have a second house that represented regional issues, we could deal with this issue.   We have 29 Regional Districts in BC, what if we elected two people from each regional district to sit in the upper house?   Have them elected for 8 years terms and elect 1/2 of them every four years on the fixed election day.  I would also elect them via a preferential ballot.

With an upper house, we are much more likely to have active parliamentary committees reviewing legislation.   There would be a way to provide a check on the power of the premier's office and the executive.

The eight year term would also create a different mindset for the upper house members.   It would easier to have longer term continuity and allow for them to spend more time on the long term picture.   Also, should the government fall and a new election needs to called for the legislature, the upper house members would continue on for the rest of their term.   The long term means they can spend more years governing and less politicking.  I would have recall for the upper house members on the same sort of terms as for MLAs.

This is only a concept and not a full fledged proposal.   I am interested in knowing what people think?
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