Just Answer the Question!
/ Author: Andre van Heerden
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Just Answer the Question!

What’s the point of question period if no one ever answers the actual questions?

By André van Heerden, Communications Director

I’ve tried to avoid watching parliamentary debates because nothing ever seems to come from them. I was, however, interested in hearing recent question periods from the BC Legislative Assembly that dealt with the issue of BC’s newly instituted community benefits agreements. This is an extremely important issue for all construction workers in BC as well as for contractors and CLAC because it determines who can bid and work on major infrastructure projects.

However, after watching the half hour morning question period from the Oct. 2, 2018, BC Legislative Assembly, I found myself more frustrated than before.

Question after question, each different than the one before and each clearly stated and easily understood, was answered in the same manner by the ministers, and in particular by Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena. It’s hard to imagine how different questions on different topics could all receive the same non-answer, but that’s what happened. It felt almost like I was watching a Saturday Night Live skit, or that everyone was speaking a different language.

Minister Trevena refused to acknowledge that they’re forcing all workers to work for a select group of unions. She refused to acknowledge that they’re excluding 85 percent of the workforce that either can’t join those unions, or don’t want to. She refused to explain how or why those select unions were chosen. She refused to explain how they’re supporting apprentices and Indigenous workers and women by excluding the largest trainers and employers of apprentices and Indigenous workers and women. 

Instead of addressing these questions, she chose to say the same thing over and over: that everyone can work on these projects. The answer is true in a way, but it’s like saying that anyone can shop at my store—you just have to agree to pay me to do so, can’t shop at any other stores, and, by the way, I’m more expensive than anyone else!

The same frustrating dance, full of pained looks, and condescending barbs, was repeated in the Oct. 4 morning question period.

As awkward and as biased as the real answers would be, the ministers would be better off just stating what everyone else already knows. Be honest about it and tout the reasons why those decisions were made and how your government is now working to address the real concerns with the so-called community benefits agreements.

People appreciate hearing the truth; even if it’s not the answer they want, at least it’s an answer. Progress can’t be made, and real relationships can’t be built, without actual answers. 

I think politicians, and everyone else, would be surprised at how refreshing, enabling, and even popular real answers can be.

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