“I think that as a party, as a caucus group, we became more united and more committed to developing a better understanding of the requirements of governing. Obviously, we see ourselves as a government in waiting, a government in training, that we’re auditioning for the part, and I think we’re showing people that we have good policies and good ideas, that we’re fiscally responsible. We’ve communicated that well, I think. The direction that we’re taking our messaging right now is positive, we’re emphasizing the things that we would do, without giving up all of our secrets if you will, saying how to some extent we would accomplish balancing the budget.”
The party succeeded in pressing for amendments to some of the more controversial legislation that was under discussion and consideration during the fall session of the legislature.
“I think we challenged some of the legislation,” said Bikman. “What’s freshest in my mind is the most recent session, and our effective challenge of Bill 28, and getting some of the more onerous, and ludicrously draconian portions of that removed — fining mayors for not filing information in a certain way, forcing participation on municipalities, and undermining the authority of locally-elected officials to determine the direction that their constituents want them to go. Stopping that was, I think, critical.”
If anything, 2013 signalled that major changes need to be considered about how the province conducts business if spending is be brought under control in future budgets, according to Bikman.
“Obviously, they brought in the budget we all feared they would have to bring in because of their profligacy. They really do have a spending problem, and having been now in Edmonton through three sessions of the legislature, and seeing first-hand how horrific the waste is, and the duplicity of management, to order a ratio of four or five workers to one manager. The layers of bureaucracy and the waste is really staggering. I’m concerned about that.”
Bikman noted that after more than four decades under the administration of one political party, lines have blurred between government and party.
“We’re concerned about the closeness — it’s almost an incestuous relationship — between the governing party itself, and the government. Modifying the province’s colours to become the party’s colours, using self-promoting signs in advance of the leadership review in the fall — just those kinds of things that are so out of touch with the reality of what it takes for people to pay their taxes. They don’t have a sense, or a stewardship responsibility, of spending wisely. They’re spending other people’s money. I’m very disturbed — we do not need to be running deficits.”
Providing poorer services for more money is a troubling way to conduct business, added Bikman.
“The government is putting itself in the position where that seems to be the only answer, but they won’t cut anywhere but at the front lines. As I’ve said before, every prudent, successful entrepreneur knows that you keep your overhead lean so that you can have good capacity to serve your customer. The government’s customers are the taxpayer citizens.”
Because the government are monopoly suppliers of certain critical things that we all need, we have no choice but to buy from them, and receive poorer service, or poorer quality, at a higher cost.”
Moving now into 2014, Bikman will be focusing on skills training in the riding and province, and as a caucus will be continuing to take the government to task over their fiscal record.
“We’re certainly going to be focusing on some of the issues that have contributed to the creation of a deficit. We’ll work on highlighting those things and presenting to the government reasonable, rational alternatives, without caring who gets the credit. We just need to see the work get done, and some improvements and change. I’ll certainly be focusing my effort on the skills and training we need to be providing to make sure that we’re providing citizens, particularly in our riding, the opportunity to receive the training they need at the college and university, and making sure that our schools get the funding necessary to provide the services that our students require. Which will include certainly more training in the trades, and we are doing as good a job there as we need to, and we need to continue to work on that.”
As for a new year’s resolution, Bikman is preparing for a transition from opposition to government he is sure will occur in 2016.
“I’m resolving to work more diligently on understanding what we need to do, how better to prepare for the transition from what will be 44 years of PC rule, to once we become the government in 2016. How will we actually make that transition? So I’ve assembled a library of books on that topic, and I’ve resolved to read and study them, and become better prepared for that as an MLA to help with that transition — because it will come.”