Politics is interesting. It has so many facets and you never quite know how each day will be shaped, and some days are a bit of a blur. However, one aspect of the job that I have found to be consistently positive is standing committee meetings. We have 8 standing committees and one special committee on democratic renewal. I have the privilege of sitting on them all, and it is where I, and all MLAs have an opportunity to further our knowledge on a wide variety of issues. Some of the most useful work we do as MLAs gets done in standing committees. Outside the politically charged environment of the Legislative Assembly, there is a certain freedom and collegiality which almost always makes for constructive discussion. In the last week we have had meetings on topics as varied as the Auditor General’s report, renewable energy, help for grandparents, and strategies for mental health.
The general format for such meetings is that witnesses, usually called by members of the committee, appear before us and present on their topic of expertise. In doing so, MLAs deepen our understanding of complex issues, and the committees ultimately report to the Legislature with recommendations on a range of topics. It’s a process that makes a lot of sense to me, and in theory should lead to better decision making and therefore better governance. As MLAs, tasked with presiding over an enormous range of issues, it also helps to overcome the unavoidable limitations of any one person’s knowledge base.
We recently received an excellent presentation by an architect, where he was stressing the importance of bearing in mind the lifetime operating costs of a building in design and materials. His central point was that building smart can create enormous lifetime savings, even though the up-front costs may be higher. We must look at capital PLUS operating expenses when we consider costs and benefits, because what might look like a bargain up front may turn out to be an unnecessary financial drain over its lifetime. I think we must apply the same principles to governing. Smart government is efficient government – taking into account the long-term implications of any policy being implemented. Here’s what I said in the meeting:
“A lot of people think that the Green Party is just about trees and watersheds and piping plovers, but real Green government is efficient, value-driven government ….. for example, health care costs and putting money in prevention, because you know that that’s going to save society money down the road. Or in social costs, bringing in basic income guarantee because you know it’s going to avoid health and justice problems in the future.”
A little garbled admittedly, but I hope the gist of it is clear. We need governments to stop thinking in election-cycle time-frames, and start thinking long-term. We are already passing on a large enough burden to future generations, it would be nice to start taking them into consideration in all our decisions.