Motion 29: Amending the rules to increase legislative access to all private members (non-Cabinet)!

May 14, 2024 | 42-5, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Motions, Video | 0 comments

We often think that democratic reform is limited to proportional representation. However, as I have seen how the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia functions over the past seven years I have seen how undemocratic it is.

The processes that have evolved over the years serves the majority governing party. They have full control over the calendar, the legislative agenda, and committees. They control what we debate, when we debate it, and how long we debate it for. It is not hyperbole to state that we have a democratic electoral event once every four years, and the time in between is fully controlled by the governing party.

Following the failure of the referendum on proportional representation in 2018, the BC Green Caucus never stopped looking to improve our democratic institution and processes. It took a few years. Both Sonia Furstenau and I as Third Party House Leaders made it a priority and worked with multiple government and official opposition house leaders to advocate for reform.

Finally, the current Government House Leader, Hon. Ravi Kahlon, set up an all-Party committee last summer to look at how we can improve Private Members time. The amendments to the Standing Orders outlined in Motion 29 are the consensus changes recommended by the Committee.

The outcome is that we are reforming Private Members time to ensure all Members have a chance to propose, have debated, and a vote on policy measures.

It is one important step of many to restore our House to a well-functioning democratic institution.

[Transcript]

A. Olsen:

I’m very happy to be standing in support of this motion. I think British Columbians know that the political party I represent has often talked about proportional representation, and it has been tied with democratic reform. When I talk to people about democratic reform, I often say that it’s more than just proportional representation. It’s more than just the electoral event that happens once every four years that populates the seats and the desks in this Legislative Assembly.

[11:30 a.m.]

It is also the way that this House operates, where the power resides, where the control of the agenda exists and the access that members have when they get elected here to be able to participate in all the ways that a member should be able to participate.

This isn’t to diminish, necessarily, the important role that our executive council and the cabinet ministers play. It is to elevate the members that are not chosen to be in the cabinet and that executive council.

It is to ensure that government backbenchers, members of the official opposition, members of the other parties, independent members, have a way to be able to advance important public policy measures — public policy measures that are important to their constituents — and that when they propose them, as the member who spoke previously…. The public is led to believe that when we put a private member’s bill on the order papers, that then it’s going to follow the natural succession of a bill. And that’s not how this system has operated in British Columbia.

This has been a project, a conversation, perhaps, that started with my colleague, who is the former House Leader of the Third Party, the member for Cowichan Valley, with her counterpart at the time, the member for Port Coquitlam. As I’ve had the fortune to be the Third Party House Leader, this work continued, these conversations continued. I think there wasn’t a meeting that passed with the Government House Leader where I wasn’t raising some form of a discussion around advancing a reform of private member’s time.

I think what we see here is the work that happens outside of question period. It’s the collaborative work that happens. It’s the space that I often talk about on committees where the most productive, the most rewarding work happens in the Legislative Assembly. I think that that’s probably where these conversations can move to in the future: how do we elevate those spaces that produce those very productive and constructive relationships?

I think it’s important that this House is constantly recommitting itself to the democracy and ensuring that we’re thickening democracy, say, perhaps making it more resilient. As we see democracies around the world fragile and in trouble, it’s important that the members that are elected here feel that they can be improving their democracy, feel that they can be reforming democracy.

While we continue to work for proportional representation, so the actual votes of British Columbians are reflected in our parliaments, the work doesn’t stop there, nor does it need to end there. We can continue to have conversations about how to improve our standing orders, and this is one example of that.

I hope to have the opportunity to continue and to have a private member’s bill or a motion, should I get the opportunity to do it post the election next fall. And should I draw an early number to have it done sooner than later, I look forward to the opportunity to provide something for the debate of this House in that form.

With that, I raise my hands to the government. I raise my hands to the Chair, the Deputy Chair and to all my colleagues on both sides of this House who showed the British Columbians that we can work in a collaborative way. This work is the production of that.

So HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM.

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