New Year’s Tips for MLAs
by Dermod Travis
It’s that time of year when many of us consider making a few resolutions for self-improvement. In the spirit of the season, it only seems fitting to suggest five resolutions for the province’s MLAs.
Buy a thesaurus
An online search in the B.C. government’s newsroom turned up 148 results for “highly respected,” 361 for “strong economy” and a mind-boggling 1,610 for “world-class.”
B.C. is home to world-class infrastructure, world-class safety protocols, destinations for world-class sporting events, world-class wineries, and a world-class isotopes research tunnel.
It’s as though there’s a control function on the keypads of government flacks for the term or a prize to see how many times it can be worked into a single news release.
Environment minister Mary Polak may have won in July, with a release that used world-class three times and world-leading once, presumably for creativity’s sake.
Be more discerning in photo-op mates
In three years, Premier Christy Clark has had photo-ops with Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tanoto, former chairman and CEO of South Korean-based POSCO, Mr. Joon-Yang Chung, and Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.
Tanoto is the wallet behind the Woodfibre LNG proposal in Squamish, POSCO has coal interests in B.C., and Petronas – majority shareholder in Pacific Northwest LNG – is owned by the Malysian government.
Either Clark has had a string of incredible bad luck or she’s going to develop a reputation for bringing it with her.
Shortly before meeting Clark, Tanoto was fined US$205million for evading taxes.
A few months after his meeting with Clark, POSCO’s chairman was fired after allegations he – and other former executives – operated a $9 million slush fund.
And Malaysia’s prime minister is under investigation over US$700 million that’s missing from a state-owned enterprise and mysteriously seems to be sitting in his personal bank account.
Can the mantra or live up to it
In 2011, Christy Clark promised to run “the most open and transparent government in Canada,” which is odd because she was part of Gordon Campbell’s administration who had also promised to run “the most open and transparent government in Canada.”
In 2013, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil stood outside the legislative chamber and declared he would run “the most open and transparent government in the country.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne promised that hers would be “the most open and transparent government in Canada.” Luckily for Wynne, her predecessor – Dalton McGuinty – set the bar low.
Former Alberta premier Alison Redford promised she would run “the most open and transparent government in Canada,” until her expense claims got in the way.
Not to be outdone by mere colonial interlopers, British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to run “the most open and transparent government in the world,” aptly illustrated by his government releasing 400 news releases on the day the Commons adjourned for its Christmas break.
Oh, minor grammatical point, only one government can be the most open and transparent at a time.
Work it out amongst yourselves, maybe odd numbered days for Ontario, even numbered for B.C.
Fall back on 19th century technology for answering media questions and embrace 21st century innovations for backups
For media inquiries face-to-face is best, otherwise try the telephone. It’s quaint, but it works.
Goes without saying, but delete the delete button and build a firewall to protect political staff from online threats like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo.
Stop regurgitating talking-points ad nauseam
This from just one paragraph of a 2010 email by then-transportation minister Shirley Bond: “P3s have a proven track record of saving taxpayers money while being delivered on time and on budget. There are six P3 projects operating in B.C., all on time and on budget. Nineteen more projects are also scheduled to be delivered on time and on budget.”
From a 2015 letter to the editor by Partnerships BC CEO Amanda Farrell: “As taxpayers, we can all celebrate that every project to date has been delivered fairly, on time and on budget.”
Probably not a wise idea to have signed your name to the letter when you were about to announce that one of those projects will be delayed for the second time, particularly when you’re the person in charge of it.
Five resolutions for the political class to ponder. Until then, Happy New Year.
Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC. www.integritybc.ca