UCP SETS OUT BITS OF POL­ICY AMID THE PO­LIT­I­CAL RANCOUR

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - UCP SETS OUT BITS OF POL­ICY AMID THE PO­LIT­I­CAL RANCOUR
Pre­mier Rachel Not­ley and UCP Leader Ja­son Ken­ney both like to wrap them­selves in the spirit of Peter Lougheed, Al­berta’s first PC pre­mier.I wish they’d stop.This is noth­ing like the Lougheed era of the 1970s and 80s. Gone is all spirit of com­pro­mise, de­cency and gen­eros­ity. A statue of the late pre­mier would best show him weep­ing.UCP and NDP at­tacks keep spin­ning deeper into a pit of venom. There are many ex­am­ples from both sides, the lat­est be­ing an NDP at­tack web­site rolled out Thurs­day.But in the midst of it comes a whiff of ac­tual pol­icy, in the form of demo­cratic re­form prom­ises from the UCP.Ken­ney would, of course, abol­ish the car­bon tax. Now he’d also re­quire a ref­er­en­dum to re­in­state one.Car­bon tax would be added to sales tax as mea­sures that would need ap­proval by ref­er­en­dum.This one’s tempt­ing, es­pe­cially af­ter the NDP im­posed the car­bon tax with­out men­tion­ing it in the 2015 elec­tion.But there’s also the ar­gu­ment that such laws ef­fec­tively ban tax in­no­va­tion, ever, no mat­ter how high the debt or deficit.Fu­ture gov­ern­ments should not be hand­cuffed that way. They just need to be hon­est about their plans and let the vot­ers de­cide.Ken­ney wants to es­tab­lish a fixed elec­tion date ev­ery four years, to re­place the cur­rent three-month win­dow that stretches from March 1 to May 31 in the fourth year af­ter an elec­tion.Great idea. The win­dow dodge gives the gov­ern­ment an un­fair edge. Elec­tion tim­ing can be care­fully en­gi­neered to co­in­cide with pub­licly funded an­nounce­ments and ads. That’s go­ing on ev­ery day.B.C. de­crees an elec­tion on the third Satur­day in Oc­to­ber ev­ery four years. It’s a good model, although Al­berta tra­di­tion leans to­ward spring elec­tions.Ken­ney also wants to ban those highly po­lit­i­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion ads that masquerade as pub­lic ser­vice. In my view, they should be pro­hib­ited for two or even three months be­fore vot­ing day.Ken­ney would also stop MLAs from aban­don­ing one party to join an­other, un­less they re­sign to force a by­elec­tion and win it.That would bring floor-cross­ing to a scream­ing halt, guar­an­teed.Ken­ney says it’s a be­trayal of vot­ers for a per­son elected un­der one party’s poli­cies to sud­denly adopt an­other’s with­out a fresh man­date.There are ar­gu­ments both ways, but it seems wise to make floor-cross­ing more dif­fi­cult af­ter the 2014 ex­o­dus that saw 11 Wil­drose MLAs cross to the PCs.Ken­ney would also limit do­na­tions to third-party ad­ver­tis­ers — of­ten called Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Com­mit­tees or PACs — to $30,000 per per­son per year. This would close a loop­hole that gushes un­reg­u­lated cash.He’d also pro­hibit any PAC do­na­tions from or­ga­ni­za­tions legally linked to a party. Ken­ney is af­ter NDP-friendly unions here.But UCP-linked PACs are even more bloated and have to come un­der con­trols.Any­thing that di­min­ishes the power of cash-rich PACs is fine with me. But watch closely to see if the UCP mea­sure ap­plies to both sides.The party also calls for more free votes by MLAs un­teth­ered from party dis­ci­pline. This one usu­ally lasts un­til the party de­mand­ing it is elected.Ken­ney pro­poses clearly defin­ing what con­sti­tutes a con­fi­dence vote. This means, the­o­ret­i­cally, that MLAs could vote against their gov­ern­ment with­out bring­ing it down.Good idea. Won’t work over time, though. Party whips will still use their kneecap­ping pow­ers to get the re­sult the leader wants.And the UCP idea of free votes is for­ever de­fined by their re­fusal even to dis­cuss Bill 9, the abor­tion zone bub­ble bill.Un­der Ken­ney, this will al­ways be a highly dis­ci­plined party.Fi­nally, the UCP dredges up the old pop­ulist re­call mea­sure. Al­berta had such a law for about a year in the 1930s. It was abol­ished when re­call threat­ened to de­throne the first So­cial Credit pre­mier, Wil­liam Aber­hart.A fair re­call law has to clear high hur­dles to pre­vent par­ti­san ha­rass­ment of elected of­fi­cials.In B.C., to get a re­call mov­ing, 40 per cent of vot­ers have to sign a pe­ti­tion no sooner than 18 months af­ter an elec­tionRe­call is usu­ally a sop to con­ser­va­tive vot­ers that’s quite harm­less in re­al­ity.But in to­day’s poi­sonous, di­vided Al­berta en­vi­ron­ment, re­calls could be launched to set­tle scores with any­one — even Ja­son Ken­ney.

UCP leader Ja­son Ken­ney says MLAs who cross the floor should re­sign and face a by­elec­tion.

© PressReader. All rights reserved.