Clark resumes Campbell arrogance

Why have a month-long legislature session in the summer? To get the balanced budget through before real results emerge

Premier Christy Clark's chair will remain empty for most of the sudden summer session of the legislature.

VICTORIA – Call it the Beach Blanket Budget.

Despite having to campaign once again to win a seat in a byelection, Premier Christy Clark has ordered the legislature to sit without her through most of July to pass the budget that was tabled before the election.

This rare summer session ensures a couple of things. First, there will be less time for real financial results to contradict the rosy predictions made by Finance Minister Mike de Jong in February.

Second, it ensures that there will be minimum public attention paid to the deliberations, as people focus on their summer vacations and put the business of running the province aside again.

B.C. Liberal house leader Mike de Jong insists there has been no decision made on whether the legislature will sit again in the fall. The standard schedule, put in place under former premier Gordon Campbell, calls for MLAs to assemble in October and November, to consider legislation, after a spring devoted to the budget and ministry spending.

This was a serious reform that went along with four-year scheduled elections. But Campbell soon abandoned this noble approach, with fall sessions dwindling to a few days to deal with urgent issues or disappearing altogether.

I expected Clark to reverse that after she led the party to victory in May and consigned the Campbell era to the history books. Open, accountable government and all that.

So why the summer session? I’m inclined to agree with NDP house leader John Horgan, who meets privately with de Jong in his role of government house leader to thrash out schedules. Here’s Horgan’s message to Clark and her government as he emerged from the latest meeting:

“You ran on a platform that you claimed you were ready to implement. And what we’re getting instead is, ‘let’s jam ’em in here while the media’s on holidays, while people are at the beach thinking about other things. We’ll pass our bogus budget and then we’ll see you in February’.”

Is the budget accurate, or “bogus,” or somewhere in between? They’re always projections, so that can’t be determined until next year. But the proposal to keep the increase in overall spending to less than two per cent, with nearly all the increase going to health and education, is difficult to accept.

During his time, Campbell topped the Fraser Institute’s ranking of most fiscally responsible premiers, limiting spending growth to 4.4 per cent. During those same years, average provincial economic growth was only 4.1 per cent, meaning that under the supposedly tight-fisted, tax-cutting Campbell, government continued to grow to more than 20 per cent of gross domestic product.

Clark has indicated several times since her surprise election win that she intends to make government smaller. That’s the difference between her “core review” of government programs and the one conducted by Campbell in the painful first years of his mandate.

This is why I mentioned last week that one of the more significant instructions given to Clark’s cabinet ministers was to examine turning the Liquor Distribution Branch into a separate corporation with its own board of directors.

That in itself may slightly increases the size of government. But it could be a preliminary step to selling the whole thing off and reducing the government’s role to taxing and regulating booze sales.

You can imagine how that would go over with the NDP, with former liquor store union boss George Heyman among the loudest opposition MLAs.

This is the kind of change that should be debated in public, not by press release.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

 

Just Posted

Aussies buy majority stake in Red Chris mine

Company looks forward to relationship with Tahltan Nation

B.C. minister says rural internet is ‘railroad of the 21st century’

Jinny Sims talks details about the $50-million provincial and possible $750-million federal funds

Premier in Witset for reconciliation discussions

We need to be here together: Horgan at Wet’suwet’en feast.

Move natural gas pipeline, MP suggests

Coastal GasLink could then avoid opposition

Zero-interest student loans a huge relief: CMTN student union

Parliamentary secretary hears from Terrace students, alumni and staff

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January: B.C. coroner

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than illicit fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants

Kids found playing darts with syringes in Vancouver Island park

Saanich police is urging people to throw out their syringes properly and safely

Most Read