Friday, April 30, 2010

Two hits and a miss

A two day visit to Victoria this week allowed me to gather information that will prove useful to future writing in Northern Insights. I met people who were informative and furthered my insights and helped understanding of fundamental issues.

I spent an hour talking with Kash Heed in the government caucus building. I've watched his career as he rose through the ranks at the Vancouver Police Department. Along with other senior officers, Heed modernized the VPD after years of painful management. The pride that citizens had in the VPD performance during the Olympics did not come accidentally and five years ago would have been impossible. Compare it to earlier crowd control problems in Vancouver streets or the deadly performance of the London Metropolitan police force during G20 protests in 2009.

Heed was a finalist in the selection of Vancouver's current police chief. It was no shame to finish behind Jim Chu, a man who has already demonstrated that he is Vancouver's best ever chief of police. Heed later spent time in the troubled West Vancouver police force but sought the opportunity to wield wider influence through political service in Victoria. He had begun excellent work as Solicitor General and spoke out clearly and quickly on important matters, particularly related to making RCMP contract policing subject to the same rules as municipal police agencies.  Heed's success in imposing strict term terms on the RCMP was recognized when other provinces assigned negotiation leadership to British Columbia in discussion for new RCMP agreements.

Unfortunately, Heed's work is sidetracked now by political controversy but he's confident that his own integrity will remain intact. I expect that to be true because Liberal dirty tricks were not confined to Heed's riding. Duplicity in multiple ridings is assurance that guiding hands are in the provincial Liberal campaign leadership. I would love to see an explanation of why the RCMP had not investigated thoroughly when the wrongdoing was brought to their attention by Elections BC before voting. Is the RCMP acting with clean hands? We may never know.

I didn't address those campaign misdeeds with Heed because years ago, I had exposure to political tricks when I worked on both provincial and federal campaigns for the Liberal Party. Crappy little election deeds are the products of back room losers, not high status candidates recruited for their admirable reputations.

I will add though, that Heed did the right thing by stepping aside while this examination proceeds. The situation is not without danger to him either because as Solicitor General, he was stepping on the toes of the organization conducting the investigation. Truly, a situation that Lewis Carroll might have written.

However, the point of my discussion with MLA Kash Heed was to talk about the principles of two matters that he has spoken about regularly. These are police governance, in the most broad terms, and drug policy. I am seeking to learn more about these subjects from viewpoints that include practical elements of street enforcement and the theoretical reviews of planners and academics. Heed was helpful in steering my inquiries and I look forward to further contacts that assist my writing.

Another pleasant and informative experience arose from meeting the entire Independent Caucus of the Legislature. Whip-smart readers of Northern Insights will know I mean that Vicki Huntington generously agreed to a meeting. I don't know how anyone can fail to admire the effort of this Independent. She recognized that her community had been badly served, and perhaps worse, was taken for granted by the ruling BC Liberals. She's a long time participant who knew the pulse of her riding before the election and will provide principled representation of South Delta residents.

I had already concluded that the present party system is harmful to good government. Ordinary members are ignored and ill used. The main contribution of most Liberal members is mindless desk thumping in response to any words of a designated speaker from their side. When the opposite side talks, they provide juvenile catcalling throughout even the most carefully constructed presentations.

Remember though that, when the sides were reversed, the system operated the same way. NDP provided government and Liberals provided opposition. Different folks but same result. Trouble is, this is not mere theater, this is the real thing. These people don't retire to committee rooms and conduct extensive and diligent examination of issues and legislation. All of that is left to the Premier's people and the lobbyists.

I understand the theoretical value of political parties. But, that's been lost through assumption of almost all power by leadership, particularly by politicians like Gordon Campbell with no ethical base, only the unrestricted commitment to expediency. Leaders demand loyalty in almost every circumstance. An MLA owes allegiance to the party not the electorate.

I am convinced a solution requires additional principled independents sitting in the legislative chamber, people that will deliver exclusive loyalty to citizen electors. Vicki Huntington and staff shared thoughts on the role of independents and the need to elevate the influence and contributions of individual members. Party leadership inevitably will resist this sort of change so it has to originate in the grass roots and that includes you and me. I'll write much more about this subject later.

By the way, I did attempt to connect with the NDP opposition but whereas I got undivided attention of the Independent Caucus, I got no attention from the NDP Caucus. Maybe, another day.
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