Democracy the loser in provincial budget

Democracy takes a hit as Liberals run the province through the premier's office.

We all knew that there would be no great announcements stemming from the recent provincial budget.

However, there are a couple of items in the budget that, while not great funding announcements, should be of concern to British Columbians … particularly those who are concerned about the state of our democracy.

The Liberal budget was largely a status quo budget, which is understandable given that the party has a new leader and, by default, British Columbians will have a new premier.

It’s understandable that the new premier will likely want to make a few changes.

In order to accommodate the new leader’s wishes, the Liberals left nearly $1 billion unallocated in the provincial budget.

There is $350 million in forecast allowances, a fund meant to shield the budget from unexpected risks, and a $600 million contingency fund. The latter is specifically for the new premier to allocate to his or her pet projects.

It seems the Liberals have not learned anything from the Gordon Campbell era. Gordon Campbell was a master at centralizing power in the premier’s office.

Everything in government, it seems, had to go through the premier’s office.

We elect 85 MLAs, for what? To have all the decisions of government made in one office? Hardly. And yet, with last week’s budget the Liberals are committing to the status quo of power centralized in one office, controlled by one person.

Not surprisingly, all the Liberal leadership candidates thought the provincial budget was just wonderful. Why wouldn’t they? The budget consolidates the power of whoever is chosen as leader … and when the budget was tabled it could have been any one of them.

To top it off, the legislature sat for four days … just long enough to pass a Throne Speech and a budget.

That’s it, four days.

That, of course, follows the mantra that everything goes through the premier’s office anyway. Why bother going through the nasty business of open public debate in the Legislature by democratically elected representatives when the premier runs everything in government anyway?

None of the Liberal leadership contenders seemed to want to rock that boat, which is why British Columbians concerned about the state of our democracy should be very, very concerned about the “status quo” budget.

Gordon Campbell was forced to resign because British Columbians don’t want the “status quo.”

The Liberals have yet to realize that.