Opinion » Editorial


Gambling policy latest example of NDP’s contempt for local governments The NDP just can’t seem to get enough of gambling. They’ve done it with public money for years, the catamaran ferries and the "balanced" budgets being two examples. Then of course there is that little matter of the North Burnaby Inn and its casino application. Monday, March 15 was also to be the deadline for municipal governments to comment on the province’s proposed Gaming Control Act, a 400-page white paper on gambling. Up until last week, the Clark government had planned on introducing the new legislation before the end of the month. But being a betting man, Glen Clark decided it was prudent to put the matter on hold for a while. Wednesday afternoon the province announced the deadline for comments has been extended to April 15. Regardless of the deadline, the proposed gaming policy shows more than just the NDP’s love of gambling, it shows that the NDP government doesn’t give a damn about what local governments think. As most people know by now, Burnaby council, which has strong NDP ties, rejected the casino application for the North Burnaby Inn’s Lumberman’s Social Club and twice wrote to Victoria to object to the further processing of the application. Victoria — whether it was the decision of cabinet, Clark, Mike Farnworth or the head janitor of the legislature — ignored those objections. This after the NDP said no casino applications would go forth unless they had the support of "host" governments. The Gaming Control Act is another example of the NDP’s contempt for local government. A report from Richmond city staff characterized the proposed legislation as giving the province sweeping powers over gaming and said it "effectively takes local authority for land-use control over gaming locations" away from municipal governments. That’s a pretty substantial change to the status quo, yet Victoria expected municipal governments to submit their comments by March 15 and was still planning on introducing the new legislation before the end of the month. How much time and consideration was the NDP honestly going to give to the municipalities’ concerns? According to the Citizens Against Gambling Expansion, the Gaming Control Act is intended to override bylaws passed by many municipalities, including Whistler’s, which prohibit gambling. Those bylaws were passed three years ago, when the NDP was preparing to unleash video lottery terminals on the province, despite the objections of many communities. Gambling is the hot topic of the moment, but there are other examples of the NDP ignoring the concerns of local authorities. The NDP jumped into the middle of contract negotiations between teachers and school boards last year and handed the teachers a contract which school boards have to live with. Victoria has also reduced municipal grants each of the last three years but has yet to provide municipalities with any means of making up for lost funds, other than to increase taxes. The Clark government may like gambling, but only when the cards are stacked in its favour.

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