John van Dongen

Our Solicitor General, with responsibility for ICBC and the Motor Vehicle Branch has had his drivers license suspended for excessive speeding. Apparently, the Minister is in a big rush to get to places. I am not going to go on about how inappropriate his driving habits are or that he could have killed someone, even though all of that is true. I could also talk about the lack of morality in the BC Liberal Party (although the same could be said for the NDP). How can we expect more from a political party whose leader has been charged with impaired driving. In fact, Gordon Campbell showed his true colours when he commented that no one could run for political office in this province if they have never had a speeding ticket. Well, Gordon, I have news for you I have never had a speeding ticket in over 20 years of driving. Sadly though I am not available to run for election in your right-wing party.

Instead what I would like to address is the importance of an independent civil service. John van Dongen had responsibility for the Motor Vehicle Branch. In essence, when the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles suspended his license he took away his political boss’s license to drive. This illustrates the importance of having an impartial civil service who work at arm’s length from their political masters.

For those of you who have never been a bureaucrat you likely find decisions made at ICBC, CRA, welfare, MCFD etc to be beyond comprehension. Many times they do not seem to be logical or make common sense. What many people do not understand are the machinations that go on behind the scenes. Politicians make laws. These laws are then translated into policy for civil servants to administer. I would use the example of welfare benefits as I worked there for several years. All of our authority to issue money to clients came from legislation and policy which set out strict eligibility criteria. If someone did not meet these criteria they were not eligible for assistance and I could not issue funds because there was no legal authority to do so. It works the same way in other branches of government.

Now, back to John van Dongen. Even though he is the Cabinet Minister responsible for this area of government he was not above the law. Basically there is a piece of legislation that spells out a consequence for too many excessive speeding tickets in a certain amount of time. The civil service worked well in this case. The officers who pulled him over gave him tickets and the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles applied the correct consequences to the situation. Even though our political leaders in this province are of questionable moral fibre, at least the civil service seems to be working.

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