Last week’s Speech from the Throne laid out many laudable goals for the coming legislative session.
Unfortunately, however, promises made by the government in past Throne speeches often have not translated into action. Fewer than 20 percent of the goals included in the previous speech have come to fruition, for example, and that rate has been par for the course for at least a decade.
This year must be different. Hurricane Irma has created a new urgency that should inspire legislators to push through measures efficiently, quickly and carefully in the coming months.
Many of the promised laws, after all, are essential for the territory’s recovery.
Amendments to the Non-Profit Organisations Act, for example, would help eliminate some of frustration experienced by volunteers who want to help. Labour Code changes would streamline the work-permit process, and two planned bills would help protect consumers of insurance, banking products and more goods and services.
Other promised measures would bring much-needed transparency to the government’s inner workings, helping to ensure that the hundreds of millions of dollars in recovery funding are spent wisely: the long-promised freedom-of-information law; a legislators’ code of conduct; and reviews of the Register of Interests Act and the Complaints Commission Act.
Equally important are pledges that would assist in preparing for the next catastrophe, which climate-change scientists warn is likely to come sooner rather than later. These include the Environmental Management, Biodiversity, Conservation and Climate Change Adaptation Bill; a disaster management law; physical planning regulations; updates to the buildings ordinance; and a bill governing architects and engineers.
Many of the above measures have been promised for years without substantive action. In the wake of Irma, they are more urgent than ever.
In the coming legislative session, then, lawmakers should put aside squabbles and grandstanding, roll up their sleeves and get to work for the good of the territory.
This is not to say that they should cut corners in a rush for quick successes. They shouldn’t, but a year is time enough to pass many carefully considered laws that really matter.
For their part, voters and other residents should pay careful attention to how well legislators do their job of making laws that benefit the territory. And if any fall short, they should be reminded that an election is coming soon.