Transparency isn't just about expenses. If gun-happy Texas can have an open-door state capitol, why can't B.C.?
Last week, ICBA president Chris Gardner and I were in Austin, Texas, for the annual Reed Awards (ICBA won six trophies for our Get Canada’s Big Gas Moving advocacy work, along with the prestigious North American Trade Association of the Year award), and decided to wander up Congress Avenue to the Texas State Legislature.
We passed the Governor’s Mansion, walked the lovely grounds (it had many large trees; one can only imagine Texas’ woodsplitter budget), and came to the Legislature itself.
A quick trip through a metal detector and we were in – with unbelievable access to virtually every part of the building.
The experience was amazing; far better access than any member of the public can get to our B.C. Legislature in Victoria.
We walked, unattended, on to the floor of the Texas state house. Following velvet ropes, you could reach out and touch the desks of various legislators.
That would never happen in Victoria.
We crossed under the great Capitol dome (14 feet taller than the one in Washington, D.C., as Texans would like you to know), and walked on to the floor of the state senate. Again, access we would never have in Victoria.
In between, we stopped in various meeting rooms – pretended to make a speech in front of the seal of the Great State of Texas; took a selfie in front of a press conference setup; peeked into various state legislator and bureaucrat offices; and even walked into two historic courtrooms. We even took photos in the Chief Justice’s chair.
There were no keys or fobs needed, or security trailing us. No one tried to take our cell phones or cameras away from us when we entered the chambers.
It was a startling difference from Victoria, and one that makes us wonder: why not give the people more access to the people’s house?
Security is important, but perhaps the B.C. Legislature has gone too far and sequestered off too much of the building from the very taxpayers who pay the bill for it.
When it comes to access to state legislatures, you can’t mess with Texas.
Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Vice President, Communications & Marketing for the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), Jordan also served six years as the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and was a two-term Langley Township Councillor