MLA questions need for premier's new advisors

Premier's costly advice

Premier David Eby recently announced the appointment of three new special advisors to help tackle the pressing issues of his government.

These new advisors will focus on healthcare, Indigenous reconciliation and housing. The move was met with both praise and criticism, with some questioning the need for these positions in a government that already has ministers in charge of those areas. The appointed advisors will report directly to the premier and some wonder about centralizing of power in the premier’s office.

A premier could need special advisors for several reasons.

Firstly, they can provide the premier with specialized knowledge and expertise in specific areas. That knowledge is essential in making informed decisions and they may be able to come up with creative solutions.

Secondly, special advisors can act as direct links between the premier and various stakeholders, such as business leaders, community organizations and interest groups. That connection allows for the premier to receive direct feedback on the issues that matter most to people, and to make decisions based on that feedback.

I feel Eby doesn’t trust his own ministers, and by extension the public service, which is interesting because he added additional ministers and parliamentary secretaries (when naming his cabinet), and B.C. has more than 100,000 public servants.

The talking point rationale is advisors can help quicken decisions through bureaucratic bloat.

NDP governments have traditionally been large, slow moving and grow with every year they are in power. Large, bloated governments often move slowly due to the sheer number of bureaucrats and decision-makers involved in any given decision. With more people involved, there are more opinions and perspectives to consider, leading to longer wait times for decisions to be made and executed.

In reality, adding more advisors could exacerbate those time frames and confuse the chains of command. In addition, advisors are not accountable to you in the same way that ministers are.

So how does this affect you?

First, these advisors will cost a significant amount of money, in addition to the current size of government. Eby’s new list of advisors will cost more than $575,000 per year, and that’s with two of them working only part-time. Secondly, British Columbia needs solutions in these areas and time is not on our side.

The housing advisor, Lisa Helps, is a former two-time mayor of Victoria. With a strong background in affordable housing and community development, she is seemingly well-equipped to advise the premier on housing and homelessness issues. But was she able to get her “missing middle” objectives through her city’s council for the three years that she tried? No. Sadly, it was only after she left that the initiative was finally passed.

As mayor, Helps commissioned a survey through MNP that showed 80% of respondents were dissatisfied with the City of Victoria’s governance and 73% didn’t believe public input is considered in council in its decision-making process.

In addition, a recent CMHC study showed Victoria to be the third most expensive city in Canada to rent a two-bedroom suite in a purpose-built rental building. This is who Eby choose to help advise him in how to address attainable housing?

One thing for sure, Eby has charted a course on a very different power path than the distributed and trusting model of Premier Horgan. The results will be known by the outcomes. Unfortunately, the taxpayer will have paid almost a million dollars for these results.

My question to you is this:

Do you think Eby’s advisors will result in better decisions and outcomes?

I love hearing from you, and I read every email. Email me at [email protected] or call me at 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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