In 2010, after Bill Vander Zalm rounded up enough British Columbians to force a referendum on the HST tax, Christy Clark and then-financial minister Kevin Falcon publicly admitted the government had mishandled the issue when 55 per cent voted against the BC Liberal policy. “This is a lesson in public policy change,” Falcon said at the time. The HST was scrapped and the PST was reintroduced, mostly in the name of democracy, according to Vander Zalm.
“I think it sends a message to politicians… that they can’t simply do things because it’s the will of the premier or the party; that they have to in fact, consult the people,” Vander Zalm was quoted as saying by CBC.
Perceived lack of consultation by government is not uncommon. Despite a process required by law of public notices and hearings, there will always be that member of the public who will claim, well into the process, that they haven’t been properly consulted or informed. Take the current debate around the new multi-use centre planned for Invermere, with many library supporters insisting they were not properly consulted while District of Invermere mayor Gerry Taft argues the library’s exclusion from Phase One has been public knowledge since the start.
But in the case of Bill 24, Bill Bennett, the Minister responsible for the core review who drafted the legislation, admitted publicly he didn’t consult enough.
Then, just weeks after Bill 24 was introduced, without missing a beat the provincial government passed an order in council – without public debate – exempting sweet natural gas plants and ski resorts from provincial environmental reviews. The order was reversed the next day after B.C. officials were barred from a First Nations forum on LNG.
Then, about a month later, the Park Amendment Act was passed ‑ with zero consultation.
British Columbians have made it clear they don’t like public policy without consultation, but the BC Liberals have forgotten the lesson in just four short years.