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People want less heckling, more transparency from B.C. legislature: poll

Last Updated Jan 29, 2021 at 9:34 pm PDT

FILE (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Sixty-three per cent of people oppose heckling, and 55 per cent oppose banging on desks in the legislature

Fifty-seven per cent of those surveyed support establishing an all-party committee to examine decorum

Four out of five people want more access to the information legislators use to make decisions

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — British Columbians want less heckling and more information from their members of the legislative assembly, according to a new poll.

Results released Friday by Research Co. show most people in this province are in favour of measures that would bring more decorum into the chamber.

“I thought it was a good opportunity to ask whether people were ready for a different type of approach to the way in which the legislature behaves,” says President Mario Canseco, referencing a recently-released report by former B.C. Speaker Darryl Plecas that made a number of recommendations about how to make the legislature run more smoothly.

The poll found 57 per cent of those surveyed support Plecas’ recommendation to establish an all-party committee to examine parliamentary decorum.

Canseco notes support for this crosses party-lines, with a majority of BC Liberal, BC Green, and BC NDP voters in favour.

“That is not something that we see usually when it comes to political matters,” Canseco notes.

“This definitely shows that there is widespread support for something like this to happen.”

When it comes to raucous behaviour, 63 per cent of people oppose heckling, and 55 per cent oppose banging on desks. Clapping is slightly less controversial, with 41 per cent of people saying it should cease.

“We’re more likely to be upset with heckling. I think there’s a situation here where the actual decorum is being lost because of the way they are communicating with each other,” Canseco says.

Support for better access to information that legislators use to inform their actions was widespread, with four out of five people saying they want more transparency.

“One thing that was really striking is the high level of support for access to data and information, Canseco says.

“This definitely suggests that there were many residents who really wants a more proactive approach when it comes to the type of data that is being used to make decisions on our behalf.”

Canseco acknowledges that the lack of available information about COVID-19 cases in B.C. — specifically data about exposures, outbreaks, and which communities have been affected — has been criticized during the pandemic.

“We’ve had a scenario right now where there’s a lot of votes happening in the legislature related to COVID-19. And we don’t really have all of the tools at our disposal to know why this is being done,” Canseco says.

“So I think it’s definitely a broader question about transparency, but it starts with the type of information that the legislature is using. Whenever you have an MLA standing up and saying this is what is happening, people want to know where the data is coming from.”