A ‘tail’ too many – why terms limits are worth considering

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
March 11, 2017 - 5:00am

Term limits have never floated my boat. I’ve always been of the view that voters are capable of deciding when a politician has overstayed his or her welcome.

I might be rethinking that. This week, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver introduced a bill to limit B.C. MLAs to three terms, 12 years. Premiers would be limited to eight years in the top job.

Says Weaver: “The introduction of term limits would ensure that those seeking elected office recognize that serving the people of British Columbia should be interpreted as a sense of civic duty, not a career path.”

I do like that kind of thinking. Politicians who stay too long get too comfortable.

I admit to being a bit of a Question Period addict. Maybe I need to get a life but I do enjoy a good bit of thrust and parry across the House, be it federal or provincial. Even debate on bills can be entertaining.

It’s trendy to get all indignant about the antagonistic and unproductive nature of Question Period in particular, but it goes to the very essence of our Parliamentary system — checks and balances on government.

I’ll make the connection to term limits in a minute.

I was watching debate in the B.C. Legislature a few days ago — before Weaver introduced his bill — on Bill 7, amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

That bill is important because it involves protecting dogs and cats from mistreatment by unscrupulous breeders who are in the game strictly for the money. And there was a lot of serious and thoughtful debate.

But there was also a lot of blather. The debate time could have been cut by at least 80 per cent if they’d all resisted the urge to exchange tales of their own dearly beloved pets.

There were childhood stories about big dogs and little dogs, house dogs and farm dogs, fuzzy cats and shorthairs, good ones and bad ones.

Did you know NDPer Leonard Krog once had a Great Dane named Hamlet?

Do you care? Does anyone? I doubt it. (He did, however, offer the advice that if you ever take a Great Dane for a walk, be sure to take a bucket and a shovel.)

Doug Donaldson, another New Democrat, has six acres and two dogs. And a cat, and a llama, and chickens. And turkeys.

Our elected representatives sometimes lose their focus.

Simon Gibson, a Liberal, grew up with setters, “a very elegant breed.” Currently, he has a Bengal cat immortalized on a video clip on his phone.

“It’s a delight to see this little thing cruising around our house.”

Good to know. And on it went.

Another Liberal, Don McRae, outdid them all. He waxed at length, and I do mean at length, about every dog and cat he’s ever known, starting from Grade 1.

There was a cat named Longtail, and one named Shorttail, and a dog named Fred.

MLA McRae bravely acknowledged he’s never been good at naming pets. After each life story, he would say “the next dog….” And you knew if was starting all over again. Fred, Peppy, Shamoo, Princess, Ming, Buttons, Willis, Rizzo and, oh, yes, he, too, had a Great Dane in there somewhere. Scooby-Doo, I believe.

And then came the grand finale, a sad note, really — his daughter’s fish, Lightning Bolt 1 and Lightning Bolt 2, recently passed on to the great aquarium in the sky.

But, he said, “Let’s go back to the bill.”

Yes, let’s.

Do you see where I’m heading with this? It’s safe to conclude that we have too many MLAs with not enough to do. One can only imagine what they talk about when they all go for a beer after work.

And, thus, Andrew Weaver might be on to something with his notion that the shelf life of MLAs could stand a little tightening. Unfortunately, of course, private members’ bills never go anywhere, and term limits won’t be a reality in this lifetime or the next.

Which might be a real shame.