Much attention is being paid to the federal budget bill and the limited time MPs have to debate that massive piece of legislation with its embedded changes to Canada’s environmental laws, but the same issues of time-limited debate and the undermining of the legislative process are playing out in BC.
With nine days left to go in this spring session, we have more than 20 pieces of legislation still requiring substantive debate. The flood of new bills over the past few days has been overwhelming, and it includes legislation for co-ordinating police forces, managing animal health, re-establishing provincial park boundaries, changing the school calendar, and generic drug pricing. Legislation to get rid of the HST and to restore the PST also needs to be waded through before we wind up at the end of May.
Simply put, the amount of late legislation is either gross incompetence on the part of the government or a deliberate attempt to avoid scrutiny of these bills, especially the HST/PST legislation. There is no conceivable way MLAs of any stripe can give enough attention to the bills before us to vote on them in an informed way. Unfortunately, the premier says she won’t extend the session to fully debate these bills; however, we owe it to British Columbians to give due diligence to this legislation. I believe the NDP could help by committing to stop the over-the-top speechifying that has become the norm for them and by committing to move bills quickly to committee stage debate (clause by clause), where the real scrutinizing work is done. With this promise, the premier should then extend the session for as long as is necessary for all MLAs to do the primary job they were elected to do: to read, analyze, debate and ask questions about the government’s proposed legislation, make amendments where necessary, and vote on each bill in an informed manner with the interests of all British Columbians in mind.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.