It’s official: the BC Liberal government has cancelled the fall 2016 session of the B.C. Legislature.
The 20-day sitting was scheduled to begin Monday (October 3) and run four days a week through November 24, except during recesses in the second week of each month.
Government House Leader and Finance Minister Mike de Jong notified the Clerk’s Office Monday of the cancellation. The governing party also cancelled the 2012 fall session, as it ramped-up its re-election campaign for the following spring.
De Jong’s office did not respond to a BIV request for comment.
The next scheduled general election is May 9, 2017.
The Legislature’s spring session closed May 19, but politicians returned for four days in late July to pass a new 15% tax on foreign real estate purchases and to repeal the real estate industry’s self-regulation.
The Legislature will have to reconvene in early 2017 to introduce the next provincial budget.
NDP leader John Horgan called it a government “that doesn’t want to be held accountable” whose leader would rather spend time at party fundraisers.
“There’s a whole lot of things to talk about,” Horgan told BIV. “The whole notion of parliamentary sessions is to hold the government accountable.”
Horgan said the details of the $500 million the BC Liberals promised to spend on housing need to be disclosed and debated. He also said the NDP opposition was eager to ask Clark in question period about the Haida Nation's refusal to let her appear at last Friday’s hospital opening during the tour by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Last November, Clark flew to Haida Gwaii on a private jet and granted $150,000 of provincial funds toward expansion of a school under federal jurisdiction in Old Massett. Band election candidate Kimball Davidson accused Clark of interfering in favour of successful incumbent chief Ken Rea. Rea supports a wind farm proposed by Clark’s brother Bruce.
B.C. lawmakers are among the minority. The Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec Legislatures are in-session. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia are scheduled to return later this month and Prince Edward Island next month.
The BC Liberals have nine party fundraising events listed on their website for October. The party’s pre-election convention is Nov. 4-6 at the Westin Bayshore.
In a spring 2012 interview, Premier Christy Clark told the National Post that she does not enjoy being in the provincial capital. "I try never to go over there. Because it's sick. It's a sick culture. All they can think about is government and there are no real people in Victoria, and you get captured by this inside-the-beltway debate, and it's really unhealthy.”
Although she is the MLA for Westside-Kelowna, Clark resides in Vancouver close to her son’s school, St. Georges.
Under Clark’s predecessor, Gordon Campbell, the BC Liberals held fall sessions in 2004 and 2008, the years preceding spring elections. Even the NDP in 2000 returned for dates in the fall, before Campbell led the Liberals to their 2001 landslide victory.
In the meantime, a cabinet shuffle is expected. Health Minister Terry Lake will not run for re-election in 2017 and Social Development Minister Michelle Stilwell has not announced her plans. Stilwell has been dogged by controversy since the BC Liberals ended a subsidized transit pass program for people with disabilities.