One slogan we have yet to see from the Progressive Conservative leadership candidates is “restore democracy to
There are no controls over how much can be spent by an individual candidate or his campaign. Nor are their rules restricting the source of funds
But the democratic deficit is not just within the PC party, it is in the Province. Our legislature sits for a very short period of time – making it difficult to hold ministers to account and to seriously debate legislation. It needs to sit for longer and to have a more focused, rigorous agenda.
Too many decisions are processed through regulation passed through cabinet but not debated in the house. More needs to done through serious debate and disclosure through legislation, white papers and policy review. The fact that tuition policy for post secondary education can be decided without debate in the House demonstrates that the house is not taken seriously.
Standing policy committees are weak – simply subsets of caucus pushing the party line. We need to reform these and make them all party committees with tough powers to hold ministers and their officials to account and to challenge the performance, policy and practice of Government. We will know these are successful when they begin to report on policy and practice as strongly and effectively as the Auditor General does on value for money.
Business plans from government ministers vary greatly in their focus, clarity and value. Strengthened standing policy committees should challenge these, demand more and hold ministry’s to account against them. They should also receive monthly scorecards showing how the Departments are doing against these plans – scorecards that should be made public.
Access to government information has improved in
The public expects tough controls over spending and to receive quarterly reports on the financial performance of Government. We should also expect quarterly reports on the performance of Government against its business plans – what is working, what is not, what issues are emerging, what challenges are being faced. For example, reports on the labour shortage, on progress on environmental issues or on the governments own staffing issues – all would be examples of a Government making its work transparent, open to debate.
Public consultation on such things as land use, environment, education need also to be more rigorous. Groups wishing to engage in consultation should have access to quality information, “what if” models being used within Departments for planning and be able to work with public servants to access quality data. Such access is currently varied and needs to be improved.