Friday, 13 July 2012

So is this what happens in a four year election cycle world?

This morning on the popular CKNW morning talk show segment entitled “Cutting Edge of the Ledge”, there was a discussion between Bill Good, Keith Baldrey and Vaughn Palmer about the issue of the liquor distribution branch proposed sale that has been in the news for the past few days.  The pundits expressed the view that there ought to have been a process to give the public a chance to participate in the discussion about the potential privatization of the liquor business, which I suppose is an interesting question, but is not the reason I am writing this blog post. 

Keith Baldrey then said something like this:

This is not something to be signed before an election campaign. You can question whether the government really has a mandate right now anyway to do much of anything. I think you have to wait till a new government, whether it's the Liberals or more likely the NDP, is sworn in and they're given a new mandate by the people. Then you can revisit something that has pretty extensive and wide-ranging ramifications.

In a word, wow.  Apparently the government has no mandate to, well, govern. 

Why would that be?  Is it because the Liberals are behind in the polls?  So does that mean we are now governed in between elections by public opinion polls?  Or maybe it’s just that the four year term of office provided by law is really only a three year term?  Or is it that we are “before an election campaign”, even though the election is ten months away?

Several hours later, I am still flabbergasted by the notion that the government no longer has the authority to “do much of anything”.  What would happen if a serious issue arose where government had to do something – an earthquake, a collapsed bridge, a massive forest fire?  Or perhaps the federal government adopts a major policy shift – cuts federal transfer payments for health care, for example?  Or someone comes up with an idea for policy reform that really ought to be implemented sooner, rather than later – the Cowper report on justice reform, for example.  In all these cases, if the Baldrey view is correct, government would have no mandate to do much of anything.

It’s one thing to say that the government ought not to make a major change in liquor policy.  I understand that point, even though I think most of what has been said about that issue (as in, “how dare the government contemplate changing its mind ten years, two elections and a premier after it initially decided against privatization”; and “isn’t there something wrong when government decides to think about something because a private citizen or corporation asked it to, as opposed to coming up with the idea itself”) doesn’t strike me as all that convincing.  But it’s quite another thing to say that government cannot undertake a major policy initiative in the last year of a four year term.  That, it seems to me, is not the way anyone would want us to be governed.

1 comment:

  1. Well said!

    You could even take the argument one step further. A government that is less likely to be re-elected (according to polls*) might be more willing to take chances on unpopular but much needed policy decisions. We might actually get MORE done.

    *after the recent Alberta election, I'm less likely than ever to believe polls.

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