BC Politics with Hubert Beyer

Archives of British Columbia's most well read Political Columnist

 

 

 

Hubert Beyer, Biography

Hubert Beyer was widely known as one of Canada's most read journalists. His columns were published regularly in most BC Community Newspapers, and his perspective sought on the Federal level as well as by NORAD in the US, Beyer lived up to his reputation as the "Fairest of them All."

Born in a small village in West Germany, Beyer immigrated to Canada in his 20s where he married and had 4 children.

A German Language publication in Winnipeg was Beyer's first foray into writing in Canada, it was soon followed with work at the Winnipeg Free Press as a Reporter covering many different beats. more

Top Search: Forestry

Find out what Beyer had to say about Forestry in BC through the years. With the forestry industry supporting a large segment of employment and opportunity in British Columbia, it's no surprise that it's a top search.

Top Search: Elections

Election are always a hot topicAnytime the faintest hint of a provincial or federal election announcement draws near, the search for quotes and history on past British Columbia elections starts to climb.

Top Search: Budget Release

When is the Budget not a hot searchProvincial Bugets are introduced with fanfare and fraught with talk from pundits, experts and critics. Take a few minutes to see how BC Budgets of the past were often projections of the future. 

HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR DEBATE?

Judging from the snippets of debate you hear on the news every day, you'd think members of the legislature spent every waking moment insulting each other. Well, that's not always the case.

True, the daily question period is lively enough. Question period, introduced in the 1970s by the NDP government, is like a duel to be conducted in accordance with strict rules. Questions are to be asked in a non-argumentative manner and to be answered likewise.

In other words, there is to be no political grandstanding during this 15-minute exercise in parliamentary democracy.

That's the theory. In practice it doesn't quite work that way.

Nearly every question is preceded by a preamble establishing the premise of an incompetent, uncaring government having bungled something or other. The answers invariably contain a round condemnation of the opposition and, in this case, socialist principles.

The trick for the opposition is to make whatever point they want to get across in the form of a question. Often it'll go somethinglike this:

"Given the unprecedented attack by this government on seniors, the disabled and the disadvantaged, does the minister agree that this budget should be withdrawn?" Or: "Considering the public outcry over the government's latest example of ineptitude, has the minister taken steps to address the problem?"

The response might go like this: "Mr. Speaker, we're not surprised on this side of the House by the innuendo and scare tactics the socialists over there engage in. But believe me, Mr. Speaker, they won't fool the people. In answer to the honorable member's question ...."

Sometimes the government plants a question. The other day, Cliff Michael, Socred MLA for Shuswap-Revelstoke, said he had a question for Premier Vander Zalm.

"There was recently a pamphlet with a red front page distributed by certain members of the NDP containing quotes from the leader of the opposition. One headline states: 'Chronology of Corruption.' Has the premier examined this pamphlet, and is he considering libel action pertaining to those false statements?"

The premier replied that he just happened to have one of the pamphlets with him.

"The first headline in this red brochure is lies. Mr. Speaker, this is despicable material; it's garbage, garbage and more garbage -- NDP socialist garbage."

It was the second time in a week, that the premier had referred to NDP material as garbage, and not in a quiet voice either. If anything, he yelled out his remarks.

When ministers is stumped by a question or simply don't feel like answering, they can take questions on notice, that is they can come back with an answer at a later date. Some questions are never answered.

In short, question period is usually a knock-'em-down, drag-'em-out affair where members of the legislature do the people's business with their gloves off.

The excerpts you hear on radio and TV are taken from questions period. You never see the speakers because television cameras aren't allowed in the legislature, except during the throne speech and the budget speech and for the official opposition's reply to those speeches.

There is however, another side to legislative debate. When the MLAs discuss specific legislation, introduced by the government, or spending estimates, the debate is more sophisticated and civilized.

The purpose of discussing spending estimates is for the government to obtain legislative approval to spend whatever the budget calls for. This time around it's about $11 billion.

During the debate of the government's spending estimates, the opposition is free to grill ministers on every single item in their specific budgets. Why does the minister want to spend so much on this program and why so little on that? Why was this program cut and that one eliminated all together?

During these debates, you rarely hear the kind of angry outbursts that mark the question period. Which isn't to say that one is more valid than the other.

For those who prefer their political meat raw, question period is the obvious choice; those who are more interested in reasoned dialogue, might opt for the regular debate. Pick your favorite.

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