Another flurry of bills is expected to hit the legislature this week, even as the government admits it doesn’t have enough time to pass everything into law before the election campaign.
“You’ll get a chance to see the broad suite of legislation this week,” said Liberal house leader and Finance Minister Mike de Jong.
“Then, depending on how quickly we move through the PST [Provincial Sales Tax] bill, that will determine how much time left we have for other pieces of legislation.
“All of the legislation the government tables this session obviously is important, but we’ll have to make responsible decisions based on how much time is left and how much the opposition devotes to debating some of it.”
There are 11 working days left in the legislative session, before politicians break to campaign for the May 14 provincial election.
Twelve bills are awaiting debate, including a First Nations land treaty, B.C. parks expansion, new seniors advocate, criminal-record-check expansion, office of complaint for troublesome properties and the provincial budget.
At least two promised reforms are now floating in limbo — introducing provincial senate elections and reforming the terms of office for the auditor general.
When asked if the government will follow through on both ideas, de Jong said Monday: “I don’t know yet.”
There’s already been considerable controversy and groundwork on both proposals.
The government pushed through $250,000 last year, over NDP objections, so Elections B.C. could begin planning a provincewide senatorial election that it now says won’t happen in May, if ever.
Setting an eight-year-term limit for the auditor general was promised by Premier Christy Clark last month after a legislative committee botched the rehiring of Auditor General John Doyle, who has since taken a job in Australia.
The Opposition NDP said it will spend the legislature’s remaining days focused mainly on analyzing the reintroduction of the PST, which began detailed debate Monday.
“There are 12 bills, but this is the only one that really requires our attention,” said NDP house leader John Horgan. “We’re told there are more bills coming.”
NDP seniors critic Katrine Conroy has already questioned whether the Liberals can pass and appoint a seniors advocate before the May 14 provincial election.
“I don’t think we’ll see this position implemented by this government,” she said when the enabling legislation was introduced last week.
Both the government and Opposition said they’re trying to avoid the traditional time-crunch at the end of a legislative session, when government cuts short debate and jams the bills into law using its majority.
“We’ll have to make some decisions, and there’s a few more pieces of legislation to come,” said de Jong.
“I’ll continue to have discussions with the Opposition house leader and we’ll see where we get.”
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