Thursday, January 24, 2013

Another proposed change for the BC Legislature

Right now all the offices of MLAs in the BC Legislature are grouped together by party caucuses.   What if instead each electoral district had an assigned office no matter who was elected?  What if each MLA were allocated the same resources in the legislature?

Right now where an MLA has their office changes if their status in the legislature changes.   John Slater, now that he is an independent MLA, loses his office and is moved to somewhere else in the building.   The back bench Liberal MLAs are located together in the East Annex and the NDP caucus are all located on the west side of the building.   It means the MLAs are all in the parliament primarily in partisan groupings and over in 30 years involvement in politics I have seen it is clearly not at all beneficial to our governance.

When all the MLAs are bunched together by partisan affiliation it simply ensures that they spend most of their time in the Legislature with the people they are most closely allied with.  The staff are really more party staff than staff of the MLA.   The party has more ownership and control over the MLAs through this.  We need more MLAs to feel independent of any strict party lines.

If instead all the MLA offices were located in the same place no matter who the MLA is and the offices next to them would be their neighbouring MLAs based on the geography of BC we would have Victoria MLAs all close to each other, Okanagan MLAs in one place and so on.  MLAs on opposite sides of the house would end up being neighbours in the Legislature and they would spend more time running into each other.   The staff for the MLA would also run into people from the other side of the spectrum which is a very good thing.

To really makes this work each MLA should have the same resources and be the person to hire and direct their staff.   The staff of an MLA should be there to support the MLA in their work in representing their riding and not for partisan political reasons.   In party caucuses the staff answer to the party apparatchik and not to the MLAs.

I think it would be best if there were no extra staff for caucuses in the legislature - if MLAs need more resources give them all the same increase in resources.    If political parties want to have political staff or central communications staff, they should have to hire them with party funds and their offices should be outside of the legislature.    As it stands political parties get a taxpayer subsidy when they fundraise, is it too much to ask them to actually pay for all their own partisan people?

I am 100% certain this suggestion is not going to go anywhere because the people in the back rooms of the parties would hate it and therefore never allow it.   Any proposed changes to government in BC that would increase MLA accountability and reduces the power of the party back rooms will always be resisted to the end by the political power brokers.  

While the vast majority of people in BC want a more open and responsive political system, it is the very small minority who are the political players who frustrate this desire of the public.  I am not sure what it is going to take to see this change, but as long as it does not the public is only going to continue to lose faith in politics.
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