B.C. VIEWS: Empty seats for political theatre

The distortion of issues for political gain and unrealistic demands for "more funding" are turning the public off

Deputy Premier Mike de Jong is guiding the government through its summer session.

Deputy Premier Mike de Jong is guiding the government through its summer session.

VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark didn’t win a seat in time to join her 48 fellow B.C. Liberal MLAs in the legislature for the summer session she ordered up.

By the time the byelection in Westside-Kelowna is certified by Elections B.C., Clark will be off to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. to meet with her fellow premiers in what is now loftily called the Council of the Federation.

These gatherings used to be called First Ministers’ Conferences, and there was a set ritual, largely designed for the consumption of network television. Provincial premiers ganged up on the prime minister to demand federal “funding” for every conceivable need, just as municipal leaders get together each year to present their demands to the B.C. government.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper ended the show, declining to play the role of villain in this bit of political summer stock theatre, and it’s unlikely that any future national leader would reverse this prudent decision.

The result, at least among western premiers, has been a quieter, more pragmatic effort to work together, rather than clumsy attempts to play a shell game with taxpayers’ pockets.

The public got tired of this routine some time ago. I don’t need a poll to tell me this is one of the reasons for the decline in voter participation and engagement in issues. Today, politicians frequently remind themselves out loud that there is “only one taxpayer” supporting the squabbling layers of this over-governed country.

And yet, the same mistake keeps being made over and over by opposition politicians, and dutifully reported by the news media. The notion that all problems can and should be solved by “more government funding” is now so engrained in our education system that it seems inescapable.

One of the NDP’s big “gotcha” items last week was the failure of the B.C. government to buy the latest sonar technology to locate and recover the bodies of people who have drowned in one of our thousands of lakes and rivers. As with the health-care system, as soon as something is invented, some assume a right to it, regardless of cost.

Another big opposition target was the province’s failure to buy up remote properties in the Kootenays that have been discovered to be at high risk of further landslides such as the one that swept through a year ago.

The question of limits for protecting people who choose to build homes in risky locations seldom comes up in our political-media theatre. The media’s key ingredients are sympathetic victims to fit their narrative that all corporations and governments are greedy, stingy, callous and incompetent in everything they do.

What the opposition has dubbed “Christy Clark’s wheelchair tax” is another case in point. A Fraser Health Authority official patiently explained what was really going on here.

An average $35 monthly rent for wheelchairs is charged at the majority of care facilities, which are contracted by the health authority. Operators charge as they see fit for maintenance, disinfection and replacement of this equipment, for patients who don’t own their own chairs.

In September, a $25 fee is to be extended to the few facilities still directly run by Fraser Health, which have aging equipment and no fees. In all facilities, the fee is waived for those who can’t afford it.

It would be useful for our politicians to frankly discuss the trend towards contracted health services, and the role of user fees in forcing people to take more responsibility for maintaining their own health.

But that is not what happens. The narrative of dumping frail, impoverished seniors from their wheelchairs has no relationship to reality, but it’s how post-modern political theatre is done.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

 

Just Posted

The Binche Fishing Derby at Stuart Lake is fast approaching. (Binche Fishing Derby Facebook photo)
Binche shares excitement for upcoming fishing derby

“It’s more than just fishing,” says Dave Birdi

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Local youth vaccination clinics underway

Pfizer vaccine will be used

Priya Sharma. (Submitted)
Column: Why ultimatums don’t work

By Priya Sharma It is a common misconception that people can choose… Continue reading

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

Most Read