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BC Conservatives launch 2013 election platform

The BC Conservative Party has published its "2013 Pre-Election Platform" under the title "We Believe in B.C." It offers an "intentionally incomplete" account of the party's values and plans for governing.

The platform introduction asks:

Questions abound. What is the appropriate role -- actually, roles -- for the provincial government? How comprehensive and costly should it be? How best to raise the necessary revenues for public services and infrastructure?

Can we care for our most vulnerable residents, while at the same time encouraging individual initiative and personal responsibility? Can we protect the environment, and also take full advantage of our economic opportunities?

We do not have all of the answers to these and the countless other questions that now face our province. We welcome the opportunity, however, to enter a dialogue with British Columbians about how best we may work together in the future.

To that end, the BC Conservatives' Pre-Election Platform 2013 is a living document, comprehensive and yet intentionally incomplete.

Over the weeks leading up to our province's 40th general election, we will invite discussion, solicit ideas and add new proposals to offer British Columbians a viable, compelling alternative to the status quo as represented by the oldguard political parties.

Issues discussed in the platform include balanced budgets, fair taxation, B.C.'s economy under the NDP and Liberals, and a plan for fiscal accountability. Other topics include developing rural B.C., especially the north, and developing natural resources.

The platform deals with job and skills training and apprenticeships, complaining that "foreign workers living (and working) in the province over the decade skyrocketed from 16,561 to 69,955 -- an increase of 322 per cent." After predicting a million new job openings in B.C. over the next decade, it calls for increasing skills training and apprenticeships to ensure that "young British Columbians be given the first opportunity to fill those jobs."

On education, the platform notes the shrinking proportion of school-age children in the province, from 25.4 per cent in 1971 to 13.2 per cent today, and predicts the proportion will fall still further, to 12.6 per cent, in 2036. It goes on to say:

We believe that parents must have a meaningful and essential role in the public education system. Parental values and concerns must be reflected in the education choices available to their children.

Parents also must be able to understand their child's progress and development on an on-going basis, which requires the implementation of comprehensive, on-going testing. We believe in more clearly defined learning outcomes, ensuring alignment of revamped provincial tests to those outcomes.

The BC Conservatives support the development of a new, continuous-improvement accountability framework. That framework should include provincially and locally identified outcomes and publicly-reported results, which in turn would assist informed decision-making to improve both programs and student results in subsequent years.

A key element of the platform is a "plan for fiscal accountability" with three points:

The first is to reverse the trend of reducing the number of votes in the budget estimates, and restoring full oversight of financial outlays before they are made.

The second is the creation of a Legislative Budget Office, with a role of providing independent analysis to MLAs, helping them with complex financial and economic data.

The third is a revamped Fall sitting of the Legislative Assembly. Focus will shift from passing or amending legislation, to reviewing and overseeing expenditures by the government, Crown corporations, and other recipients of public monies.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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