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

Spring break nature walks – get the kids out into nature!

Spring break, CRD Regional Parks naturalists are hosting three guided nature walks

Victoria police search for missing man, his vehicle and travel trailer

Last seen on March 17 driving white Honda Ridgeline bearing B.C. licence plate CG 4316

Red-tailed hawk’s own bill is killing him

‘Most birds with this syndrome will starve to death without treatment’

Sidney business organization cyber attacked

President’s contact list sent unsolicited messages

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

View Royal council to discuss proposed 3.5% tax increase tonight

Budget open house to directly precede the council meeting

Couple rescued after Sea to Sky Gondola refused ride down hill

‘We were cold as hell, my lips were blue. I cried the entire way down’

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

B.C. man sentenced for tying up, assaulting and robbing another man at hotel

Gabriel Stephen Nelson robbed and assaulted travelling businessman in Nanaimo in 2017

B.C. girl and her toy monkey make videos to fight negativity on Facebook

Ava Ast created the Ava and Cello’s Good Deed Page last month

Deadline extended through April to nominate top B.C. educators

Second year of Premier John Horgan’s awards offers $3,000 bursary

Most Read