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November 16, 2009

Too Much Business for 8 Days

On Monday, November 16th only 8 sitting days remain until the fall 2009 BC legislative session is shutdown. Prior to the introduction of a Legislative Calendar, the legislature would sit until all the business before it was completed; since Campbell introduced his rules in 2001, all government business automatically passes by the scheduled date for adjournment whether it has been debated or not.

With only 8 sitting days left in the legislative session, out of 22 ministerial budgets, including the Premier's, only 12 have passed. In addition to those budgets, the legislature has yet to complete debate on at least three government bills, including the clean the streets Act, formally named the Assistance to Shelter Act. It will be interesting to hear the debate on what's called the Premier's estimates; that's when Campbell and James go one-on-one for more time than Campbell spends answering questions during all the rest of the legislative session. This year we should hear Campbell asked to account for his surprise HST announcement and all the details of how we got through the election without hearing a word about his plans. The Catch-22 is that Campbell has significant say over whether James gets a legislative-day or just a few minutes for his annual accountability session.

According to the Legislative Calendar the House will adjourn on November 26th. The Throne Speech said: "Next year, the Legislature will adjourn to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. To accommodate that one-time event, government will introduce a one-time amendment to the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act to allow for the provincial Budget to be introduced on March 2, 2010." The Act was amended but nothing was said about a Throne Speech which would normally be delivered a week before the budget; if the next budget is on March 2nd, we would expect a Throne Speech on February 23rd. Closing ceremonies for the Games are 6:00 PM on February 28th. Either the Legislature will sit for the last week of the games, or BC will get a budget without a Throne Speech. The Premier doesn't pay much attention to the Legislature, but perhaps he will clarify how he intends to run the place before the House adjourns on November 26th.

Section 10(3) of the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act requires the government to release a second quarter financial statement by November 30th. That will be a very interesting document, revealing whether BC's economy and government's finances are better or worse off than the significant downturn that Campbell and his Finance Minister revealed a few weeks after the election. Don't hold your breath waiting for that report to be released while the legislature is still sitting.


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