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HomeBusinessAnalysis: NDP ends spring session without action on transparency, accountability

Analysis: NDP ends spring session without action on transparency, accountability


Bob Mackin

More than two years since the NDP Government House Leader promised long overdue transparency and accountability measures at the Legislative Assembly, nothing has happened.

Premier John Horgan, April 19 (BC Gov)

In a Feb. 4, 2019 joint letter to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Merit Commissioner and Ombudsperson urged the government to add the Legislature to the freedom of information law, give its workers whistleblower protection and mandate hiring by merit and firing by just cause.

There is no policy reason to exempt [the Legislative Assembly] from accountability and transparency rules that apply to other public institutions,” said the joint letter in the wake of Speaker Darryl Plecas unearthing corruption in the offices of Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz.

The very next day, Mike Farnworth, the Solicitor General and Government House Leader, was blunt, but vague, when he spoke to reporters in Victoria.

“Let me be really clear: Those three recommendations are going to be implemented,” Farnworth said.

Nothing happened in either the spring or fall sessions in 2019. The pandemic took precedence above all in early 2020, until Premier John Horgan decided to call a snap election in fall 2020.

On Jan. 14, 2021, the three watchdogs wrote Horgan, reminding him that Farnworth “unequivocally and publicly indicated that our suggested changes would be made.” 

Their letter notes that those changes still have not been made. wanted to know whether Horgan responded to the three watchdogs or had any plans whatsoever to enact the common sense reforms. But nobody replied from the Office of the Premier. Neither did Farnworth.

Green house leader Sonia Furstenau (left), NDP’s Mike Farnworth and BC Liberals’ Mary Polak (Mackin)

If the NDP had followed through on its promise to add the Legislature to the public records law, British Columbians would be closer to knowing the truth about the cybersecurity incident that happened last November, after the snap election. It crippled computer networks at the Parliament Buildings, affecting each of the 87 constituency offices across the province.

Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd said a report on the incident was discussed behind closed doors at the May 27 LAMC meeting, but she refused to release a copy of that report for security reasons.

“The report will not be made public nor am I able to share it with you,” Ryan-Lloyd said.

None of the members of the committee responded to request to see even a redacted version of the report.

Before Horgan became B.C.’s 36th premier in July 2017, he ran on a platform that included a promise to enact a duty to document law. He sold voters on the accountability plan to require the government to record decision-making and punish unauthorized destruction of records, with fines up to $50,000. Those promises have also fallen by the wayside.

The B.C. Legislature is scheduled to be in recess from June 17 to Oct. 4.

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20210114_Horgan, J by Bob Mackin on Scribd