"By cataloguing a diverse range of ways for professionals to act - GovTogetherBC will make it possible for governments and citizens to collaborate and innovate to get things done. Every government should follow this lead."
Technology and open government expert Beth Simone Noveck
BETH Simone Noveck enjoys an international reputation for her work in the field of open government.
It is no surprise, then, that B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Margaret MacDiarmid, Minister of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government welcomed her encouragement as they launched their GovTogetherBC website.
The "user-friendly" opportunity was developed as part of Clark's "ongoing commitment to make government more open and transparent." It is marketed as a kind of onestopshop for citizens to give input on a wide range of proposed initiatives from the powers that be.
Tempting, on a sunny day, to hope all BC Liberals support the announcement, but we've heard "open and transparent" since the century began, so it remains to be seen whether the Clark-Macdiarmid team will walk their talk.
Up for definition, also, is the breadth of the project.
In addition to elected bodies like local councils and school boards, will it include regional boards like Metro Vancouver and unelected agencies like TransLink, BC Hydro, and health districts?
If the initiative truly is all encompassing, then residents of the North Shore may have ideas enough to crash the site right out of the starting gate.
I wonder, also, if the new site will be enough to counterbalance the effects of a ruse that is being used currently by several levels of government to avoid meaningful consultation on a wide range of issues. Here I am referring to the slam 'emagainst-a-deadline approach. It can be seen in Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy; Prime Minister Stephen Harper's infamous omnibus bill C-38, Port Metro Vancouver's "improvement" ideas for North Vancouver's Low Level Road, and B.C.'s Bill 49: Amendment to the boundaries of the Great Bear Rainforest.
What the issues have in common are artificial deadlines that allow insufficient time for citizens and their elected officials to discuss critical information before politicians are required to sign on the dotted line.
Regional Growth Strategy:
Despite persuasive urging by several community groups, and on faith Metro would amend the document to exclude its Upper Lands study area, West Vancouver council signed on to the RGS March 7, 2011.
Indicating his council's support, City of North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto told the North Shore News the plan is "critical" in order to save industrial land and farmland in the region.
The same story reported that District Couns. Lisa Muri, Mike Little and Alan Nixon had serious concerns they wanted addressed.
Mussatto signed on because he said it "makes us more cognizant of our light industrial lands in Lower Lonsdale" and, with Nixon the only holdout, the District decided to support the strategy "in the hope the Metro board would accept (council's) amendments."
On the North Shore, Metro's slamming had worked.
Under the guise of a bill to approve the budget and with the end of the spring session looming, what should have been a series of separate pieces of legislation were tabled in Parliament recently as Bill-38.
With so many changes to so many disparate laws crammed into one document, the Conservatives prevented meaningful debate and public discussion of their agenda. Instead, the Opposition resorted to a marathon series of proposed amendments aimed at forcing a vote of no confidence - an effort that failed last week. Bill-38 remains intact and poorly understood by the general public.
Port Metro Vancouver expansion project:
At its June 11 meeting, City of North Vancouver council and taxpayers were again facing PMV's June 30 deadline without all the reports they had requested.
Two days later, Coun. Don Bell confirmed to me that, "The PMV Stantech Geotechnical report referred to Monday night (had been emailed to him) by the CNV engineer at 2.41 p.m."
That late arrival prompted Couns. Clark and Bookham to voice their frustration at being expected to digest a report and addenda totalling more than 100 pages, a mere two to three hours before they were expected to make a sound decision on behalf of constituents.
Clark voiced that frustration to his colleagues in no uncertain terms "We're now where we should have been a year ago."
Fortunately for residents who also would like details of the report, a motion to defer a decision succeeded over the objections of Mussatto and Couns. Linda Buchanan and Craig Keating.
That one-week deferral failed to allay the concerns of Coun. Pam Bookham who, the following day, submitted what she called a "Hail Mary motion" for the June 18 agenda. Too extensive to repeat here, Bookham began, "Whereas (council's) ability to meet the June 30 deadline has been frustrated by PMV's failure .
. . to provide all necessary information regarding impact of the project . . . and its cumulative effects . . ." The penalty Bookham wants to see if PMV refuses to extend the deadline is for council to "reject (the Port's) preferred design."
At last, someone has called the bluff on the slamming game.
But that brings us to the saddest, sickest slam of them all - Bill 49 - tabled in the closing hours of the spring session in Victoria.
In an email to me last Thursday, wild salmon advocate Rafe Mair noted that, with only 30 minutes of debate, the "bill will allow the Klinaklini power project . . . to destroy five Pacific salmon and steelhead runs" and to ruin the river for other resident species.
Mair's desperation was echoed by his colleague, Damien Gillis who said the bill "cleared the way for one of the largest private power projects in Canadian history."
Whether or not you care about preserving wilderness and the species that depend on it - I do - is this any way for Clark and her Liberals to persuade British Columbians they are being sincere when they ask us to GovTogether with them?