Do they care about saving lives or holding power?
About 78 people die each year in BC due to a collision involving a drunk driver. That’s the average you’ll find on ICBC’s website. It’s significant because in most of those cases the deaths are directly linked to the fact that one driver was impaired in their ability to drive. It follows that in most cases the accidents were avoidable. To deal with this problem the BC Government told the courts that this is a crisis and because it’s a crisis they should be permitted to have constitutionally deficient legislation. To that end the BC Government created the Immediate Roadside Prohibition scheme and began raking in money from alleged drunk drivers. The rationale was that lives were on the line, one death is too many and we should be aiming for zero fatalities on BC roads. For this we gave up significant legal rights.
It’s a failing of our style of government – the party in power can dictate the legislative calendar.
Here we are now. It’s 2016 – 6 years after the first version of the IRP scheme was introduced. It’s time for a reality check. Have we identified what’s really going on with the BC Government? Do they care about saving lives or holding power?
To answer this question you need only look to the fentanyl crisis.
Christy Clark’s priorities
So far this year, 622 people in BC have died due to injecting drugs containing fentanyl. By the end of the year the number is expected to climb close to 700 which is nearly 10x the average number of people who die in BC each year due to drunk driving accidents. What is the BC Government’s response?
In some jurisdictions governments have introduced legislation requiring anyone who has a device called a pill press to obtain a license for the device. The reason being is that people who manufacture these drugs containing fentanyl compress them in pill presses to put them in a form for easy distribution, sales and use by the drug user. If they license each pill press, then the police can seize them when they discover unlicensed pill presses during investigations and thereby impede the ability of traffickers who are producing fentanyl-laced drugs.
The BC Government, i.e. Christy Clark’s government, has the legislative authority over the licensing of certain personal property. This power is granted them by our Constitution, specifically s. 92(13) of the 1867 BNA Act which gives the authority over property and civil rights to the provincial governments. The Federal Government in Ottawa doesn’t have the power to pass pill press licensing legislation. Christy Clark’s government does.
So Christy Clark’s BCLiberal Government could pass a law regulating pill presses. In order to pass that law, they would need to have a sitting of the legislature, introduce the bill, vote on the bill and have the Lieutenant Governor sign off on it. It’s no big deal. It makes perfect sense. But Christy Clark isn’t doing it. Why?
Do they care about saving lives?
Christy Clark cancelled the fall sitting of the legislature. It’s a failing of our style of government – the party in power can dictate the legislative calendar. And Premier Clark did not want to face the legislature. Why was that?
There is an election coming. A legislative sitting means that the Government would be in the news, not just for pill presses but for some of the very bad and controversial things they’ve done. Take, for example, how they screwed over public school students, teachers and taxpayers. It was only after a 14 year battle in court that Christy Clark’s government got slapped down by the Supreme Court of Canada a few weeks ago. The last thing Christy Clark wants to do is to own up to her campaign against public schools. Imagine how you’d feel if you graduated last year and during your entire school life the Government ripped you off?
What about pipelines? In BC we are in the midst of a highly controversial debate over pipelines crisscrossing our province to pump oil from Alberta to our ports and then through our waterways. Surely we as voters in this province deserve the opportunity to see our government questioned about the merits and threats posed by these pipelines. But with a provincial election in May 2017, the last thing Christy Clark wants right now is to answer questions in the legislature about pipelines.
Also in the mix is government interference with tribunals. In the last legislative session the Government was pilloried by the opposition for refusing to answer questions about the disclosure that showed the Attorney General telling the RoadSafetyBC tribunal how to rule in particular cases. This remains an explosive story that will inevitably reveal much of how things happen in the backroom with this government.
The fentanyl crisis
What of the 622 people who have died from overdoses related to fentanyl? Compare that for a moment with the small number of people who have died of H1N1 influenza since it first hit BC. CBC is reporting today that when H1N1 hit BC in 2009 the BC Government put $80 million toward fighting the potential pandemic. As for the fentanyl crisis, the BC Government has invested $5.7 million. Certainly that is grounds in itself for a debate in our legislature. But it’s not going to happen.
Rather than following through on the pre-scheduled legislative session and passing legislation to regulate pill presses, Christy Clark cancelled the legislative session to avoid facing significant public criticism that comes with being forced to answer for her government’s behaviour in the legislature. She did this because there is an election in 6 months. She did this because her interest is winning the election and holding power.
When Christy Clark made the decision to cancel the legislative session it came with the calculation that it was better for people to die than to risk losing power.
We think that is unforgivable.