Now that an Alliance Member of Parliament has been elected in Kamloops, we should take a serious look at some of Alliance’s guiding principles.
Principle 1) If governments would just get out of the way, private enterprise could do things much better. Public electricity utilities are a good example. If they were sold to private companies and the industry de-regulated, costs to the consumer would go down. Free market competition keeps electricity prices low.
The implementation of this principle ran into problems in New Zealand, but you don’t have to go that far to see the results of deregulation. The province of Alberta privatized its electric utilities, but now the idea has run into a bit of a snag.
The private utilities have proposed price increases of $180 per year for electricity. Albertans are understandably upset, especially when those increases are added to the rising cost of natural gas price. The government of Alberta has a solution — regulate the deregulated industry. Keep the cost to voters low. At least until after the next provincial election, that is, which is expected next spring.
In comparison, B.C.’s publicly owned utility, B C Hydro, has kept the cost of electricity lower than Alberta. In fact, it’s lower than most of North America. The price of electricity has been frozen until December of this year. As a result, consumers’ costs have declined by 13 per cent since 1993, in constant dollars.
Incidentally, BC Hydro made millions of dollars this year selling electricity to California, capitalizing on their hot weather. Imagine if the same regulations were applied to natural gas. Canadians would have cheap natural gas and we would still realize a profit on international sales.
But this idea runs counter to the principle of government interference in the marketplace. And even if it didn’t, the Americans would cry foul under NAFTA, claiming that our cheap natural gas was an unfair advantage.
Principle 2) Grass roots democracy will return power to citizens. If we had a direct say in government through referenda, we could overcome party politics and corrupt politicians. We could even correct the injustices of the court system which gives more consideration to the accused than the victim.
Nothing focuses the need for direct democracy than the brutal murder of a little girl. She has been sexually assaulted and killed. The killer lived in the neighbourhood. Police have solid forensic evidence and the prosecutors have a good case. A cry of justice is heard in the land. The killer’s lawyer plans for an extended trail — it could go on for years.
Imagine this. Capital punishment has been abolished, but many call for its return. Dozens of Canadians volunteer to throw the switch that would administer swift justice to the killer by lethal drug injection. A referendum is held on capital punishment with the execution of the killer as a test case.
The trial is broadcast on TV, with the killer strapped to a chair and intravenous tubes attached to his arm, ready to inject lethal drugs should he be found guilty. Canadians vote in front of their TVs using a remote control that has two buttons, one for yes and one for no. Each voter has a unique identification code.
The voting begins, with a tally on the screen. As soon as the number voting yes exceeds those voting no by 100,000, a switch is automatically activated. The first drug paralyses his body so there will be no violent thrashing about. The second causes a painful but quick death. The killer has a oddly serene expression as the TV screen fades to black.
Ten years pass and undisputed evidence finds the executed killer to be innocent, as Guy-Paul Morin was found innocent of the murder of the eight-year old girl next door, Christine Jessop. An inquiry is called. Votes are recounted. Some blame the technology, some say the question was unclear.
Canada’s parliamentary system is not perfect but it serves to buffer the impulses of the moment. The problem with referenda is that they are often centred around an emotionally charged issue. Canadians get involved most when the impulse is strong and passions are high. go back to my Columns in the Kamloops Daily News