Politicians won’t return to work at the B.C. legislature this fall, the Liberal government said Tuesday, in a move the Opposition NDP blasted as “outrageous.”
Premier Christy Clark said her government will forgo an “optional” fall sitting of the legislature to focus on building a liquefied natural gas industry, balancing the budget, exploring liquor law reforms, tweaking groundwater legislation and organizing a Metro Vancouver transit referendum.
“There are two ways you can go about running government. One of them is to close yourself off in Victoria, figure out what the legislation is going to look like and impose it on people without talking to them about it,” Clark said.
“I’m not going to be that kind of premier.”
MLAs will spend the fall consulting with British Columbians about how to “deliver on the goals” set in the recent election campaign, Clark said.
Liberal house leader Mike de Jong said the government will “take the time to prepare for a robust spring session” instead.
The legislature sat 36 days this year, the fewest number of session days in a year since 2001, when MLAs also sat for 36 days. MLAs sat for only 44 days in 1991.
De Jong said it’s “legitimate comment” for some to criticize how infrequently the legislature sits, but that the government is still accountable to the public.
“We have engaged in the ultimate act of accountability, called an election,” he said, referring to the May 14 provincial election in which the Liberals were returned to power with a stronger majority.
NDP house leader John Horgan blasted the move and accused the Liberals of having no agenda or mandate. “We have sat for fewer days in calendar year 2013 than rained in the flood that had Noah in an ark,” he said. “That seems to me to be an abdication of responsibility.”
He said reforms to B.C.’s Water Act, as well as municipal election reforms, could be introduced and debated in the fall.
Horgan said that Clark is “running government from a Vancouver office building” rather than the legislature, which taxpayers pay $70 million a year to operate for MLAs.
He said it’s “outrageous” for MLAs to sit only one month a year.
Clark said her government would have held a fall session if it had been able to finish writing a new tax regime for the liquefied natural gas industry, but the task was too complex to complete before the spring. Horgan said the tax debate has “hijacked” the government agenda.
Clark shot back at accusations she’s ducking accountability by skipping the legislature’s daily question period. “I have to say I’ve been in the legislature … facing the NDP, and out of the legislature facing you guys,” she told reporters in Vancouver. “You ask harder questions.”