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Open up the ledge

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No matter where you land on the unfolding BC legislature spending scandal, Jody Vance writes more transparency would do the place good

Getting to the truth can be messy.

Given the latest moves by Speaker Darryl Plecas, it seems we can expect a whole bunch of mess in BC politics before things can be cleaned up.

On top of the massive report he put forward 10 days ago, in the last few days the Speaker announced he will “move heaven and earth” to rescind non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, for former staff to speak freely about what they have witnessed in the “ledge.” (I remain unclear if this is within Plecas’ jurisdiction.)

I’m going on record here: I like this idea – a lot.

NDAs are overused and abused in many business and political dealings, and the practice should halt.

The definition of a “non-disclosure agreement” is: A legal contract between at least two parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge or information that the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes, but wish to restrict access to or by third parties.

Obviously there are NDAs that protect things like trade secrets – but there are “standard legal contracts” thick in NDAs that protect companies from future litigation, where they should be held accountable.

Put simply, they protect non-public business information, but over time, NDAs have become a legal curtain of silence for those looking to literally keep a lid on wrong-doings. (See: #MeToo)

There are so many reasons to rip up these legal “standard agreements” — and perhaps make it illegal to use such contracts as a means to pressure silence from those deemed to “know too much”.

It is alleged that some employees at the Legislature were getting too close to the truth of inappropriate expenses, lavish trips, and spending – and when they asked questions, they were unceremoniously shown the door.

It appears there were a number of NDAs to head off legal disputes of wrongful dismissal, leaving those former employees gagged in exchange for their rightful severance.

Imagine the horror, the pressure, the disillusionment of being wrongfully shown the door and cornered into signing up for legally mandated silence.

The goal of unlocking the legal handcuffs of these documents is noble, and could very well be the path to actual transparency and truth.

It will be interesting to see who pushes back this concept of doing away with the NDAs — consider the protests as a signal.

Ask: ‘If you have nothing to hide, why the worry?’

True transparency, facts offered from current and former employees, could do much to fill in the blanks left by redacted documents and shredded evidence or scrubbed computers.

If there is one thing that we have learned over the last number of months (who am I kidding, years) in BC politics is that there is far too much entrenched entitlement and secrecy – too much SPIN.

It’s like we’ve just turned on the fluorescent lights in a room that has only seen candlelight. The dust is showing, the cracks and loopholes are glaringly obvious — the opportunity to clean this mess up must not be missed.

Lift NDAs, do the forensic audit, and let consequences hit those who played into any wrongdoings.

Sure, it might not lead to charges, as much of what’s being alleged can be couched as “it’s always been done this way…”

But, it will lead to change — and boy-o-boy is it time to change how taxpayer dollars are wasted.

 

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.

 

SWIM ON