‘Red Tape Reduction Day’: A bad joke from B.C. government

Thank goodness for small mercies: B.C. Premier Christy Clark is steering clear of the federal election.

Unlike Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has thrown herself fully behind the aspirations of Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals, Clark has pretty much stayed out of the marathon federal campaign.

The very pragmatic reason for her silence is clear: in this province her ruling party is really an informal coalition of liberals and conservatives. One wonders if behind the scenes the premier might be pushing more for Harper’s Conservatives, what with their support for her LNG plans. Then there’s the fact that in 2013 key federal Conservatives worked the backrooms and helped rally the right-wing vote to Clark, who pulled off a shocking election win after support for the upstart B.C. Conservative Party completely collapsed.

The federal election is a tight race, a three-way battle in most of the province, and even a four-way race on Vancouver Island, where the Greens are in contention in several ridings. No doubt some in both the Liberal and Conservative camps are urging Clark to pick a team and urge her supporters to vote one way or another. The federal NDP, for their part, are probably happy the provincial NDP are in opposition. They tend to do better when the B.C. media isn’t full on against an NDP administration in Victoria.

Clark herself explained her absence from the federal discussion earnestly, telling CBC news, “I don’t have time to engage in issues that are important to the country, but aren’t the job I was elected to do.”

Really? I’m pretty skeptical that the issue is a lack of time. Clark’s provincial government often moves at a glacial pace and she often seems disengaged on key issues, except when it comes to making announcements about LNG. On persistent issues like child poverty and lack of affordable housing, Clark’s government is completely AWOL.

There are more important issues to consider besides cutting the red tape | Photo courtesy of Province of British Columbia

There are more important issues to consider besides cutting the red tape | Photo courtesy of Province of British Columbia

The B.C. Liberals have brought some pressing issues to the provincial legislature, however. Last week, for example, they announced Red Tape Reduction Day, to be observed annually on the first Wednesday of March. The government issued this rationale: “Reducing the regulatory burden is critical to ensuring British Columbia’s economic competitiveness and to providing citizens with high-quality government services and programs.”

It’s bizarre and ideologically-laden choice, considering how few causes have been given the same designation in B.C. Red Tape Reduction Day is only the sixth day to be granted this status, joining B.C. Day, Terry Fox Day, Douglas Day, Family Day and Holocaust Memorial Day.

NDP MLA George Heyman lambasted the Liberals’ move: “It is shameful that we are putting business, red tape reduction, on the same basis as Holocaust memorial. I say that as the child of Holocaust survivors. It is shameful.”

Despite this sharp criticism, the NDP ended up voting for Red Tape Reduction Day, apparently to prevent the Liberals from being able to paint the NDP as supporting “red tape” and therefore implicitly opposing the sacrosanct “free enterprise.”

Personally, I wish the NDP had just voted against this and stood firmly behind the argument. The anti “red tape” line is simplistic right-wing framing. It’s a way of demonizing all government regulation, when so much of it is actually essential to public health and worker safety. So-called red tape sometimes prevents police yellow tape.

The last thing B.C. needs is a new day celebrating a tired neoliberal talking point.