In light of the controversy about Humber Valley Paving, here are some of the Conservative promises made in 2003 about contracts and public tendering, controls on political donations, special committees of the legislature, and disclosure of lobbying activities.
Each of them bears on the HVP tendering controversy in one way or another. You humble e-scribbler has highlighted some of the sentences in bold because they contrast so starkly with that the Conservatives did once they got into office.
Note the bit about revising the Public Tender Act. The Conservatives promised it in 2003. They gave notice that they planned to introduce a new public tendering law in the spring 2012 session of the legislature. And then it disappeared. They promised campaign finance reform and did nothing once in office.
Accountable and sensible spending from the public purse is a fundamental principle of parliamentary democracies. Democratic governments have moral as well as legal obligations to purchase services, supplies and capital assets in competitive markets. Competition serves the public interest because suppliers and contractors compete on price and quality, and the people do not have to spend more than is necessary to get the quantity and quality of services they require.
A Progressive Conservative government will base policies and regulations for the procurement of goods and services and capital works on the following principles:
- Open and effective competition.
- Value for money assessed on the basis of net economic benefit to the Province as well as acquisition cost.
- A simplified tendering process.
- Participation of local business and industry.
- Environmental protection.
- Ethical conduct and fair dealing.
A Progressive Conservative government will designate the administrative head of each government department and agency as an Accountable Officer under the Transparency and Accountability Act with specific responsibility to report all invitations to public tender and acceptance of a tender to the House of Assembly, and to certify compliance with the Public Tender Act.
We will make the Government Purchasing Agency independent of any government department and responsible for compliance with the Public Tender Act for all purchases of goods and services on behalf of government departments and agencies, and amend the Public Tender Act to:
- Authorize the head of the Agency to issue Certificates of Exemption from the requirement to invite public tenders in accordance with clear criteria that will be specified in the Act.
- Designate the head of the Agency as an Accountable Officer with responsibility to report all public tenders and Certificates of Exemption to the House of Assembly on a monthly basis, and to certify compliance with the Public Tender Act.
A Progressive Conservative government will restore the House of Assembly to it rightful place as the "People's House". Our aim is to create a system of government in which power is shared with the legislature and the people, instead of being concentrated in the office of the premier and cabinet.
We will restore a significant, independent role to the House of Assembly through:
- The election of an independent speaker, who will not sit in a caucus or be eligible for a cabinet appointment during the term of a legislature over which he or she presides.
- Setting up legislative committees in key policy areas with the power to initiate legislation, propose amendments to government legislation, and investigate and report on the progress of government programs in their policy areas.
- The appointment of a special committee of the legislature that will ensure proper scrutiny and public discussion of federal proposals in areas of provincial concern.
- Obligating government to table a comprehensive response to committee reports within a fixed time indicating acceptance or rejection of the committees' findings, and giving reasons for its acceptance or rejection.
- Amending the Elections Act to require a by-election to be called within 60 days of a vacancy and held within 90 days of a vacancy.
To encourage more people, particularly persons with family responsibilities, to run for election to the House of Assembly, a Progressive Conservative government will:
- Ask the legislature to adopt family friendly election timetables and work schedules, so that Members can combine their work more easily with family and childcare responsibilities. This will involve a fixed legislative calendar with fixed sittings and adjournments dates, an end to legislation by attrition, a fixed budget day, and workable time lines that ensure a proper balance between Members' responsibilities to the legislature, their constituents, and their families.
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have grown tired of the flurry of closed-door, invitation-only consultations in recent years that were little more than "telling and selling" exercises.
- Under a Progressive Conservative government, the House of Assembly will play a key role in enabling real public dialogue that will have a genuine influence on government policies and priorities.
- A Progressive Conservative government will adopt an open legislative process to allow maximum consultation with groups and individuals in open forums, particularly through legislative committees.
- Legislative committees will be able to call government ministers, senior civil servants and experts outside government to provide information and analysis in public sessions so that committee members and the public can benefit from informed opinion on specific issues.
- Committees will be expected to meet regularly outside St. John's to provide better access to the general public and to encourage greater participation by individuals and groups.
- A Progressive Conservative government will increase the power of the public to influence its agenda and actions through social partnerships with families, communities, voluntary and charitable organizations, professional organizations, business, labour, and cultural organizations.
- Finally, the House of Assembly itself will have an open and accessible atmosphere, with light-touch security and a feeling of public ownership.
Take it that his whole section is highlighted. >>>
The Elections Act limits election campaign contributions and spending, and attempts to promote electoral fairness by allowing candidates to recover part of their campaign expenses from public funds. The intent of the Act is undermined by loopholes that allow political parties to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money before an election is called, as well as unlimited contributions and spending on candidate nominations and leadership contests.
A Progressive Conservative government will take the following actions to close those loopholes:
- Limit political contributions by a person, corporation, or union in any year, including an election year, to a total of $10,000 to a registered political party and a total of $5,000 to one or more district associations of a registered party or one or more candidates in a provincial election in relation to their candidacy, by way of cash, cheque, money order, credit card or goods and services, but excluding the purchase of tickets or passes and donations in kind to fundraising events sponsored by a registered political party or district association of a registered party.
- Legislate contribution and spending limits for Party leadership contests and nominees in Party candidacy races.
- Require full disclosure of contributions and expenditures in party nomination contests and elections.
- Require disclosure of contributions to leadership campaigns as they occur and disclosure of independently audited expenses within three months after the election of a new leader.
- Enact provisions requiring leadership candidates to return unused contributions to their leadership campaigns.
The party in power always has an advantage in political fund raising, but it has an unfair advantage over other parties by being able to determine when elections are called, and by spending unlimited amounts of public money to buy pre-election advertising that does nothing but polish its political image.
<<<<< End the highlighting of the string of broken promises about election finances.
A Progressive Conservative government will propose amendments to the Elections Act and other relevant acts that will:
- Require that provincial elections are held on a fixed date every four years, or immediately if a government loses a confidence vote in the House of Assembly, or within 12 months if the Premier resigns during the first three years of a four-year term.
- Set and publish content rules for government advertising that will stop the use of public funds for political advertising.
A Progressive Conservative government will commission a process of public consultation to develop legislation for the registration of lobbyists operating in this Province.
The primary objectives of the legislation will be to:
- Establish a registry so the public will know who is lobbying and who is being lobbied.
- Require lobbyists to report their activities. It may also require those who hold public office to disclose circumstances in which they have been lobbied.
- Require lobbyists to file their general objectives and/or their specific lobbying activities.
- Differentiate between those who are paid to lobby government and those who represent volunteer or non-profit agencies.
- Impose significant penalties for those who violate these provisions.