EXCLUSIVE: George Abbott responds to our urban issues survey

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Abbott open to discussion regarding transfering funds from AirCare into new transit

In a post we published a few weeks back, we asked each of the BC Liberal leadership candidates to provide us with answers to a series of urban-focused questions. So far we have received responses from Christy Clark and Dr. Moira Stilwell.

Today we are featuring the response from one of the front-runners George Abbott. As you will read below, Abbott is in favour of banning foreign contributions to municipal campaigns and keeping the terms of civic governments at 3 years. He also supports civic parties and politicians posting their contributors online on an annual basis in order to allow local citizens/media to see who is funding them.

What follows is an unedited response from George Abbott:

1. Do you support an outright ban on civic parties or politicians receiving money from foreign contributors?

Yes

2. Do you support the current 3 year term for civic government or would you advocate for 4 year terms? If you support 4 year terms, would you also support introducing recall legislation for civic officials?

While I appreciate the reasons why the Local Government Task Force recommended the move to four-year terms as part of their larger support package, I support the broader resolutions of the UBCM to maintain the current three-year terms.

3. Do you support annual financial disclosure statements for civic parties, elected officials and candidates to ensure openness and transparency with campaign financing? If so, would this support extend to continuous disclosure of campaign contributors in the final weeks leading up to a civic election campaign?

I think the objective should be to align municipal campaign financing and disclosure with the best practices at the provincial level. That would include annual disclosure statements that are made available online.

4. Are you in favour of placing a cap on the maximum donation allowable to a civic politician or political party?

I would be concerned about measures looking to limit the democratic right of individuals or groups to make donations to political campaigns. I believe that the objective of municipal campaign reform should be for greater transparency in areas like donations so that the public can clearly see who is making these donations, as is done provincially.

5. Do you believe the current Freedom of Information legislation needs to be strengthened to open up City Hall to more public scrutiny?

I believe that while every piece of legislation can always undergo improvement, the best approach to transparency is not through law but by changing the culture of government to support more voluntary disclosure of information. As I recently announced in my 18-point plan towards a new style of leadership on January 4, I support a provincial policy of proactive disclosure starting with areas such as expenses and travel for MLAs and Ministers. I would encourage municipalities to examine their own unique opportunities to pursue this principle.

6. Would you support a regional police force in Metro Vancouver?

I think this needs to be a decision of the region based on the best evidence and practices that will result in the best policing for the region. On December 14, I called for the creation of a blue-ribbon panel on policing to be headed by a distinguished British Columbian to put the facts on the table and examine potential options for improvement, including a regional option. I’m hoping my colleagues in the leadership race will lend their support to this approach.

7. Are you in favour of eliminating AirCare if those funds could be transferred directly to TransLink in order to help support improved transit?

I would be willing to have the discussion. Clearly we need to examine innovative ways to bring needed resources to areas of importance like public transit in Metro Vancouver. This may be one opportunity, although we must also be clear on the implications of this change.

8. Will you commit to protecting the integrity of the Agricultural Land Reserve in order to reduce urban sprawl and improve access to locally grown food?

As I announced on January 13 as part of my initiatives to support farming and ranching, I am firmly committed to ensuring the Agricultural Land Reserve has the capacity and capability to meet its mandate. I’ve committed that as Premier I would ensure it can met those goals by restoring funding to 2001 levels so that the ALR can do its job and meet the unique needs of our different regions.

9. Are you willing to consider new legislation and/or policies aimed directly at reducing urban sprawl?

As a former regional district director, I understand the importance of working with communities to develop Official Community Plans and regional plans to tackle these issues. If communities or regions felt there were legislative or policy measures needed to support that planning, my government would be open to considering those proposals.

10. Would you be prepared to fund the development of a new Metro Vancouver regional economic development strategy?

I am very much in support of regions coming together to form economic development strategies. If there were a need for the province’s support in developing this strategy, I would want to consider that in light of support for all regions to pursue these objectives.

Once again, we thank George Abbott, Christy Clark and Dr. Moira Stilwell for responding to our questionnaire and letter our readers know what their perspective is on some important civic issues.

For more information on George’s campaign visit www.georgeabbottforbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @georgeabbott4bc. To find out more about the other BC Liberal leadership campaigns visit bcliberals.com. In order to vote for one of the candidates on February 26th, you need to be signed up as a member by February 4th.

NOTE: A similar questionnaire will also be sent to all the NDP candidates shortly and we will publish their responses right here. Stay tuned.

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