How The Parties Stack Up: Democracy Watch Report Card

05/13/2013 01:20 EDT | Updated 07/12/2013 05:12 EDT
Jane Sterk

Despite high voter concern about democracy and trust, all parties fail to promise many needed changes to have effective democracy, government ethics and accountability in British Columbia

Today, Democracy Watch released its Report Card on the 2013 Democratic Good Government Election Platforms of the five main British Columbia political parties, the only election report card on these issues.

The Green Party receives a C-, the best grade of bad overall grades in Report Card on British Columbia Parties' Democratic Good Government Platforms -- Conservatives receive a D-, NDP a D-, and Liberals an F. A Dishonesty Downgrade of one full grade is also shown in the Report Card results -- usually only half of all promises are kept because of the lack of an honesty-in-politics law which is needed to effectively penalize promise-breakers and those who deliberately mislead.

"All the B.C. parties have failed to respond to high voter concern about democracy and trust issues so the party leaders should not be surprised by the lack of support they will receive from voters on election day and no one should be surprised by likely low voter turnout," said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and its four nation-wide coalitions. "One can only hope that the parties will actually address these concerns when the legislature opens again so that everyone in B.C. politics will finally be effectively required to act honestly, ethically, openly, representatively and to prevent waste.

Given the lack of a provincial honesty-in-politics law voters should be wary of trusting any political promises, but one good sign was that the B.C. Greens promised to enact such a measure, the first party to make such a promise in Canada," said Duff Conacher, Founding Director of Democracy Watch.

The Report Card grades the four main parties' platform pledges based upon 16 sets of key changes in five areas that Democracy Watch and its coalitions believe are the changes that will most effectively require everyone in the federal government to act honestly, ethically, openly, efficiently, representatively and, if they don't act in these democratic ways, easily and thoroughly held accountable. In total, the 16 sets of changes add up to 100 key changes needed to the British Columbia government's democracy, ethics and accountability system.

The measures are a compilation of the proposals of the five nation-wide coalitions Democracy Watch coordinates (Government Ethics Coalition, Money in Politics Coalition, Open Government Coalition, Corporate Responsibility Coalition, Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition). A combined total of more than 140 citizen groups with a total membership of more than 3 million Canadians belong to the coalitions, groups that work on anti-poverty, bank accountability, community economic development, consumer, corporate responsibility, environment, labour, social justice, women and youth issues.

Many national surveys over the past several years have shown that a large majority of Canadians support the 100 democracy, ethics and government accountability reforms set out in the Report Card, as do many commentators on democratic reform. The federal government, and every province and territory and municipality across Canada, all have a similar list of 100 loopholes and flaws in their government systems (each with a slightly different set of loopholes flaws, depending on which have been closed or corrected in the past).

The 16 sets of changes, divided into five areas, all reflect the following five key elements for ensuring that large, powerful government institutions act responsibly and follow rules: 1. strong laws with no loopholes; 2. requirement to disclose details of operations and violations; 3. fully independent, fully empowered watchdog agencies to enforce laws; 4. penalties that are high enough to encourage compliance; and 5. empowerment of citizens to hold governments and watchdog agencies accountable.

The parties were given a grade ranging from A (Platform makes clear promise to implement proposal) to I (Platform does not mention proposal), with grades B for a vague or partial promise to implement the proposal, C and D for clear to vague promises to explore the proposal, E for mentioning proposal and F for mentioning the theme of the proposal. Grades were averaged for each of the five sections, and the averages of section grades were used to calculate the overall grade for each party.

Democracy Watch graded the parties' election platforms by reviewing the platforms. Statements by party leaders or representatives were not taken into account as they are not fully accessible to all voters, nor are they binding in any way on the party (as admitted by many party leaders) and as a result are even less reliable than promises made in the parties' platforms.