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

Ashcroft hospital emergency closed sign, 2016. Photo credit: Barbara Roden
Ashcroft Hospital emergency department closed this weekend

Closure due to unexpected limited physician availabiliy, says Interior Health

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Heidi Roy of the Cariboo Jade Shop in Cache Creek with the 3,000 jade boulder, which is now on secure display inside the shop. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Massive jade boulder returns to Cache Creek store six months after daring heist

The 3,000-pound boulder was stolen on Dec. 19, 2020 and found abandoned in the bush a week later

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Child sex crimes charges against Interior’s top doc won’t impact pandemic response: Dix

Dr. Albert de Villiers is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read