If politicians become so focused on reaping rewards for themselves, their friends and associates, they begin to act as British Columbia Liberals are acting now. Like furtive night prowlers, government members seek the cover of darkness.
Publicly owned lands and natural resources have values minimized or ignored, then are privatized without oversight. Construction projects – Convention Centre, BC PLace, NW Transmission Line, Port Mann and other bridges and highways – are commissioned at contract amounts that elsewhere have no precedent. Lobbyists enjoy access and influence not allowed elected MLAs. While the disabled and the most poor are denied relief, senior insiders line their own pockets with multiple salaries, pensions and payments from the provincial public service and from what the British call Quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations).
Think the preceding are overstatements? Then, look at British Columbia’s proposed Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. It would allow:
- The Minister to enter into agreements with oil and gas companies without clear oversight, allowing backroom deals that hand-out public resources at rock bottom prices;
- The minister to bind the province through secret oil and gas royalty agreements without Cabinet approval;
- The minister to keep agreements undisclosed and secret;
- Agreements that can last for decades under any terms or conditions the minister “considers necessary or advisable.”
- Future governments to be bound by agreements that cannot be altered without taxpayers paying damages;
- Agreements that limit taxation of LNG facilities by local government for 25 years;
- Oil refineries operated by Chevron and Husky be designated “not an oil and gas activity.”
In 1958, Socred cabinet minister Robert Sommers was convicted and sentenced to five years for accepting benefits worth about $60,000 in 2015 dollars. The family of another minister had serial good fortune from owning vacant land at intersections on new provincial highways. Yet, those were comparatively small acts of individual mountebanks. What we experience today are comprehensive acts of organized crime where the entire structure of government conspires to subvert public interests for delivery of benefits worth billions to parties who pay to play.