… a much needed refresh of the original site launched in 1996, which was several years after the announcement of the new “information super highway” by US President Clinton. In those days we were still making presentations using acetate on overhead projectors and a decent home PC could cost upward of five thousand dollars. A lot has changed since we got started in 1995 however there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, in fact it’s intensified, and that is the propensity of elected officials to become misguided and greedy when it comes to motorists.

Sadly, the present BC government, just like the last one run by the NDP, has done some dumb things under the guise of public safety. Consequently, BC has not only become one of the most expensive jurisdictions in North America to own and operate a car, but it is a minefield of ill thought out legislation that allows police unreasonable power with the trampling of due process.

How do politicians get away with this stuff in a democratic developed country with an educated population? We often muse that politicians feel it’s their job only to legislate, sometimes mindlessly without thought to the inevitable unintended consequences. It’s what gives them stature among their peers as well as their electorate, makes them stand out with media and makes them feel like they are doing something. Polarized politics in BC have often produced weak opposition and in this respect, the BC Liberals have certainly had very little critical scrutiny. Additionally, when a premier decides who to assign a ministry, it’s not always easy to find someone who has any passion for the job. This has been obvious for some time within the Ministry of Transportation, where no minister we can think of has had any serious knowledge or enthusiasm for driving. The result is what we have today; a bunch of legislation that has been taken virtually unchallenged from the recommendations of the police and various so called “stakeholder” groups (not including SENSE) and career bureaucrats. You cannot expect anybody who takes no interest in the art of driving personally or professionally to do much better than the job this crowd has done. The exception might be Kevin Falcon, who was impressed with (and actually executed) the idea of Keep Right Except to Pass signage on BC highways.

Although many people cheered the recent BC Supreme Court ruling concerning 90 day roadside suspensions, the reality is that it’s brief relief from a dearth of legislation coming from a nanny state mindset which is unrelenting these days. We (SENSE) all wish we could do what we do full time because it’s definitely needed in BC where the career bureaucrats who transcend administrations have had the upper hand when it comes to convincing their bosses that they know what’s best for us and that they are doing the right thing. For as long as we can remember in BC, it has been the practice of bureaucrats and police terms of convincing the public and the ill-informed distracted ministers that drivers are all stupid and that the more legislation they can put in place to punish people for what amount to in some cases benign offences, the better they will look during one of their frequent and well produced staged media events.

Do we believe there are ulterior motives by the career bureaucrats? For the most part no, however the fact that it’s necessary to devote more police (or potentially faux ICBC police “Sherriffs”) and more court time, to ticket and prosecute drivers, does nothing but further entrench those who want to ensure their career longevity. We call this EMPIRE BUILDING. Draw your own conclusions; after all, the more onerous and intrusive the laws, the larger the civil service and justice system becomes. And everybody wins in the above scenario (except tax payers and drivers). One example is the present Solicitor General, who’s displayed her ignorance about causes of crashes more than once publicly, who has performed her dog and pony show unchallenged in front of easy news hungry media, while career bureaucrats feather bed and entrench their careers (not to mention score lucrative consulting gigs after their civil service “careers” conclude).

We think nothing the Liberals and ICBC have done exemplifies greed, hypocrisy and dishonesty more than the recent transfer (also known as theft from BC motorists) of nearly $1B by your provincial government from ICBC reserves to General Revenue. This is nothing more than a dishonest tax to dupe the more gullible into believing the BC Liberals are fiscally responsible. They have been aided and abetted by a virtually silent media shortly after the event was announced in 2010 by Minister of Finance Colin Hansen. Lest you think we are getting too political by dumping on the Liberals, we’ll say right here that NDP public safety critic Kathy Corrigan admitted to CKNW’s Bill Good the other day, that the NDP might do no differently when it comes to raiding Crown Corporations’ coffers. The NDP meddled with ICBC before and you can bet money they will do it again if given the chance. They are also complete failures when it comes to fairness in traffic safety legislation.

ICBC’s President has floated the idea of raising rates twice this year. Timing was off for him earlier in the year when he was spanked by Solicitor General Shirley Bond for floating the idea of triple dipping (fines, penalty points and increased rates) for “bad” drivers. Even the Solicitor General questioned the label of “bad driver” for those having received one or two speeding tickets. One had to give the Solicitor General credit for seizing the opportunity to steal the limelight when she sensed something just wasn’t going to fly… it was more than could be said for the former premier. He didn’t care what people thought and didn’t mind showing it. However she (Bond) still stood up in the legislature and got her “facts” wrong about the major causes of crashes in BC which is appalling for somebody in charge of the portfolio. Obviously she had not had enough time to rehearse the script she had been given.

But ICBC is back at the trough again looking to raise rates, and this time they will probably get away with it, after all timing is everything. Anybody see some inconsistencies of a premier announcing just a week earlier that the harshest driving penalties in North America are having dramatic safety benefits followed only to be followed up a week later by ICBC’s request for an insurance hike due to more claims? Feeling duped? You should be.

A tired, cynical and resigned public in BC grudgingly accepts this abuse of both trust and their pocketbooks while they go about their busy lives. The media has been complicit also. There’s little or no belief by us at SENSE about a conspiracy there (although there are some in the media that may as well be on ICBC’s payroll because they might as well just be copying and printing ICBC news releases); however one simply needs to understand how the media works. Print media, TV and terrestrial radio are under increasing pressure to compete and cut costs so it’s not always possible to spend a lot of time or money to research a story. So if the Ministry of Transportation, Solicitor General’s office or ICBC spin doctors have designed easily reproduced newsworthy stories enabling easy fulfillment of deadlines…. who can really blame the reporters for going with easy stories?

There is another phenomenon in BC we find frustrating, and it’s the tendency for people to want to fight one off battles. Most drivers clearly don’t buy into BC highway speed limits and you can watch proof of it every day, all day, as drivers make their statements with their right feet. When photo radar was introduced, the business associations with the most to lose such as the BC Auto Dealers Association and the car rental business owners remained virtually silent; preferring diplomacy over principle. One insider at BCADA told us at the time, they did not want to annoy the NDP for fear they may do something to punish them (besides the luxury auto surtax). The BCAA (see our comment on BCAA here) not only did not challenge the NDP over photo radar, but actually supported them and executed a dishonest member opinion survey to justify their support. Obviously, it was too much to ask from BC’s largest dealer of ICBC product to bite the hand that feeds them. Over the last year, the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association disappointingly chose expediency over principle also. They knew the changes to the Motor Vehicle Act were outrageous and wrong. Again they chose diplomacy and chose to ignore the fact that the police had been given unreasonable power by taking away our rights of due process, and chose instead to “talk” or appeal to the government on the basis that drivers could no longer have a drink or two before driving…. and lost. Talk about bad optics and not to mention, stupid!

This is where we at SENSE come in. We don’t get paid, we have no political allegiance and we have no ulterior motives other than we are frustrated and annoyed that this nonsense carries on unchallenged. It’s time once again to hold some feet to the fire and demand some change. It’s not going to be accomplished by one off visits to traffic court to contest your tickets. And it’s not going to be accomplished by reading tabloid style stories written by time and money constrained reporters. There’s power in knowledge and safety in numbers and over time we are convinced both will prevail in righting the BC transportation ship. We want this website to be a repository of information and a discussion site for like minded (and non like minded) people who believe we can do better in BC in terms of the way we manage and execute vehicle transportation, legislation and enforcement. We want the SENSE site to be, once again, the go to site for counter arguments to government spin, as well as a place for intelligent discourse with respect to driving and traffic safety in BC. Please tell your friends, join the discussion and let us know who you are so that we can work toward driving nirvana for everybody.