City taxpayers left holding the bag as Vision politicians look for greener pastures
Just over six months ago, Park Commissioner Constance Barnes was re-elected by Vancouver voters for another three-year term. This week we found out that, in addition to her current political job, she also wants to become the new MLA for Vancouver-False Creek.
Effective May 2013, Barnes would collect $101,859 for being an MLA as well as her modest park commissioner salary.
Not surprisingly, her plans to double dip have been met with a healthy dose of skepticism.
NPA Park Commissioner Melissa De Genova denounced this as nothing more than political opportunism. She also claims that if Barnes were to trigger a byelection, taxpayers would be on the hook for up to $1 million.
“For months Constance Barnes has been hinting at a move into provincial politics, so I am not at all surprised at today's announcement,” says De Genova. “However, Ms. Barnes has stated that she feels she can carry on as a commissioner and be a candidate for provincial politics. I disagree.”
De Genova is right to argue her colleague should step down from the Park Board once she wins the NDP nomination. However, Barnes is unrepentant. She claims there will be no problem juggling both a provincial and civic gig.
To defend her actions, Barnes cites Gordon Campbell’s example to help make her case.
In 1993, Campbell was nearing the end of his third term as Mayor of Vancouver. He decided to make the leap into provincial politics and run for leader of the BC Liberal Party. After winning, he chose not to quit his civic post and run out his term.
What Barnes fails to mention is that even if Campbell had resigned as mayor, it wouldn’t have triggered a byelection since byelections cannot legally be held during a general election year.
It makes more sense for Barnes to follow Mayor Gregor Robertson, the leader of her own party. After his successful campaign to become the Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate, Robertson faced relentless media pressure. In the end, he was forced to quit his MLA job.
How can we prevent this from happening? Perhaps it’s time for civic political parties to place a deposit with the elections office. If someone bails within a year, the party pays. Not only would this help protect taxpayers, it may force civic political parties to better vet their candidates before putting their names on the ballot.
- post by Daniel