The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, sent all four parties a questionnaire pushing them for clear positions on how they would stop the erosion of our privacy rights and defend our access to government records through Freedom of Information. On April 30th, we received responses from the NDP, the Liberals, and the Greens (we've yet to hear back from the Conservatives). They all had interesting, if decidedly different things to say.
The 40th British Columbia General Election is a dreary race between dreadful choices. That's an easy thing to say about any election, granted, but the sad state of B.C. politics is truly the stuff apathy was designed for. The final droplets of ideology, vision, principle, passion, and leadership having long since drained from this province's governing class, there's now nothing left but empty partisan squabbling.
According to Tourism Vancouver, in 2011 visitors to our city spent an estimated $92 million, and "cruise passengers increased by 15 per cent over 2010. Between May and October 2011, Port Metro Vancouver welcomed 663,425 passengers on 27 different vessels over 199 cruise ship calls." While Vancouver has many amazing attractions, restaurants and cultural centers, it is the ocean and all the nature around that bring people from all over the world to visit our city. Quite frankly, if it wasn't for the amazing oceanscapes and natural beauty, Vancouver would be nothing more than a small version of... wait for it... Toronto.
British Columbia is officially in election mode and the parties are rolling out their campaign promises. When it comes to the tax promises of the two mainstream parties, British Columbians are confronted with a choice, as it were, between higher taxes or even higher taxes. So go ahead and pick your poison.
Information issues were smoking hot right up to the drop of the writ. But ever since, they've received hardly a mention. Looks like nobody wants to talk about the government's increasing unwillingness to create written records or its habit of sheltering public documents from FOI by hiding them in personal email accounts. Even multi-million dollar data linkage and information management programs like the Integrated Case Management (ICM) system, which has been slammed repeatedly by officers of the Legislature and civil society alike, don't rate a mention from the four major parties. This is pathetic.
Last year, the BC Liberal party was required to return $20,355 in prohibited donations it had collected, including $12,633 from Simon Fraser University, $300 from Vancouver-False Creek Liberal candidate Sam Sullivan's Global Civic Policy Society, and $850 from the Prince George Airport Authority. The NDP didn't report any donation returns in 2012. From 2006 to 2011, the Liberals had to return 22 prohibited donations it received from charities, while the NDP returned two. Such donations are prohibited under both the B.C. Election Act and federal legislation. The Liberals also reported remitting $4,920 to Elections BC in membership fees the party had collected in its 2011 filing, the same year Christy Clark was elected leader. It's an amount that represents an estimated 492 incomplete membership applications.
The official May 14 election campaign kicks off Tuesday and it's a scary thought to be this invested in the outcome. I may have won my March Madness pool with a solid bracket last week, but I'm having a far more challenging time assessing two contending political parties than picking one winning basketball team out of 64 for the NCAA championship.
A few short days from now, the writ will drop on the 2013 provincial election, kicking off twenty-eight days of heated campaigning. And while there's no shortage of issues for voters to consider, recent controversies around government secrecy and attempts to undermine Freedom of Information make it clear that information policy should be a top priority for voters.
It was no joke; on April 1st B.C. officially scrapped the HST and in one fell swoop, restored the old Provincial Sales Tax system. But moving back to the PST will cause harm to the provincial economy and B.C. families will lose out on the increased prosperity and jobs that the HST would have encouraged. Since our province will be poorer with the PST, it falls on our political leaders to take action to lessen the impact.