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(Prime Time Crime exclusive July 25, 2005)

A "New Relationship" Needed

By David Marley

Herewith my letter to the editor of The Vancouver Sun concerning the subject of Vaughn Palmer's column in today's edition. I doubt very much if it will be published but felt the need to sound off in any event.

Governance in our province, and country for that matter, is stumbling from one damaging ineptitude to the next. Unless and until "We the Sheeple" get off our respective backsides and once more take control of our democratic institutions and processes, we will continue to witness, and pay for, the sort of inane and offensive public policy-making that is exemplified by Campbell and company's secret dealings with the Indian leadership (I use the term "native" in my letter because politically correct media types insist upon it. As far as I'm concerned, however, everyone lucky enough to be born in Canada is a native).

In today's Sun, Vaughn Palmer addresses an issue that goes to the heart of governance in our deteriorating democracy. Prompted by concerns over the slow pace of treaty negotiations, and spooked by recent court decisions, the premier's office has evidently sought to make a new deal with native leaders, negotiating behind closed doors since early this year. The result is a formal document, "The New Relationship, Visions and Principles". The contents of this potentially far-reaching document have yet to be made available to the BC Liberal caucus, let alone the public. Even Cabinet ministers were deliberately excluded from perusing it until recently, well after the general election was safely out of the way.

For some time now we've known that government backbench MLAs have been reduced to nothing more than apologists and messengers for the powers-that-be in Victoria. Cabinet itself has become a mere focus group for the premier. Even with respect to the running of their own ministries, following an election members of Cabinet are issued with so-called "mandate letters" from the premier's office. These dictate the priorities to be followed and establish the boundaries of  authority [very narrow, indeed] to be observed by ministers. The constitutional tradition of collective decision-making in a responsible government is well and truly dead in British Columbia.

There could be no clearer example of the compelling need for electoral reform in BC than these secretive dealings between the premier's office and certain native leaders. This is not about the substance of the putative agreement, whatever it might be, apparently reached between these modern-day "Barons of Runnymeade", it is about the democratically illegitimate process by which it has been attained. In the referendum on electoral reform, the voters of British Columbia overwhelmingly established the moral imperative for the introduction of BC-STV as recommended by the Citizens' Assembly. Under such a system, transferring as it does political power from the premier and his or her backroom advisors to individual MLAs and the electors themselves, such fundamentally undemocratic manoeuverings could never have been undertaken.

Since referendum day, the premier and the leaders of both the NDP and the Green Party of BC have shown a marked reluctance to accept the clearly expressed wishes of the electorate and commit themselves to the implementation of BC-STV. Are they afraid of the people or merely contemptuous of them? We need a "New Relationship" in BC all right, one between the electors and those we elect ostensibly to represent and serve us.

If you share my views, as expressed in my letter, please write your own to the editor. Even if unpublished, they make a difference.

"A nation of sheep begets a government of wolves." 

- Edward R. Murrow

David Marley is a former lawyer and political advisor and can be contacted at


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