A dozen bills were pushed through with minimal debate in the last two days of the B.C. legislature’s spring session, and four more will be left in limbo until the B.C. Liberal government decides whether to proceed with a scheduled fall session.
B.C. Liberal house leader Rich Coleman moved Wednesday to divide up the remaining time left to debate a stack of legislation tabled by government ministers in recent weeks. Bills receiving less than an hour of additional scrutiny include changes to ferry legislation, new penalty provisions for transit fare evasion, changes to support harsher roadside penalties for suspected impaired drivers, the establishment of a Family Day holiday and the reinstatement of the provincial sales tax (PST).
NDP house leader John Horgan said complicated issues such as sales tax transition for new home sales can’t possibly be understood in the 30 minutes allowed for debate.
The B.C. Liberals have “completely and utterly botched” this legislative session, with 15 bills presented with only eight sitting days left, Horgan said.
Coleman and Finance Minister Kevin Falcon have previously said the late flood of legislation was caused partly by the staff time required to dismantle the harmonized sales tax, set to end next spring.
The legislative logjam prompted the government to open a third chamber in a committee room, holding three simultaneous debates for the first time in B.C. history.
Coleman said the NDP opposition wasted hours of debate time speaking to legislation that they ended up supporting, and opposing the use of a third debate chamber.
“If they hadn’t spent three days talking about the HST when the PST bill was the one they were supposed to be debating, and given us leave to do the third house, all the work would have got done,” Coleman said.
The four bills not passed in the spring session include a restructuring of ambulance services, and regulatory changes affecting disease reporting on farms. Another bill left in limbo would modernize movie regulations, and the fourth makes changes to water use in oil and gas drilling.