Editorial: Stage set for B.C. senate election

BC Views written by legislative reporter Tom Fletcher

Cannon will roar across the Inner Harbour on the morning of Feb. 12 to mark the opening of the 2013 legislature session.

Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon will inspect the troops and present her inaugural Throne Speech, setting out the B.C. Liberal government’s goals for the coming year.

This ritual will kick off a legislative session that is expected to run until March 14, where the official Parliamentary Calendar shows a three-week break for Easter. Debate is unlikely to resume in April, as the election campaign will be in full roar by then.

This means there will be a grand total of 19 sitting days to push through a budget and a raft of legislation. Here’s my unofficial preview.

The pre-election budget will be presented Feb. 19 by Finance Minister Michael de Jong. Premier Christy Clark has decreed that it must be balanced, and the government has made extra efforts to armour itself against what will likely be the loudest debate ahead.

First, de Jong held a pre-budget meeting of the government’s blue-chip forecast council in public. This provided a visual record of what happens every year, when the finance ministry solicits the same sort of independent advice as most competent democracies, and bases its numbers on that.

Then the finance ministry hired former Bank of Montreal chief economist Tim O’Neill, who will act as an unofficial version of the parliamentary budget officer in Ottawa. Now that we have simultaneous oversight of child welfare and the police, the next step is to extend it to finance bureaucrats.

Regardless of party, the government has to produce a three-year set of forecasts to replace the current one. A lot of election energy will go into competing claims about who is better at predicting the future.

Another new law to be given high priority is one setting up senate elections, to be run in connection with the May 14 provincial vote. Alberta pioneered this, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent round of senate appointments included Calgary lawyer Doug Black, who won an Alberta senate election held last year.

There was no one appointed to replace Gerry St. Germain, who bid an emotional adieu as a Conservative senator for B.C. last year. St. Germain was instrumental in uniting the splintered federal Conservatives, but he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, having been appointed by Brian Mulroney in 1993 after losing his seat as an MP.

Why would this senate reform be so urgent for the B.C. Liberals now? Well, turnout for the 2009 election fell to around 50 per cent, a record low for a provincial vote. If that downward trend is reversed this year, it will be in large part because people are still mad enough about the harmonized sales tax and a range of other issues to get off the couch and kick some B.C. Liberal butt.

Electing senators remains a popular notion, especially with older, conservative-minded voters in B.C. who identified with the Reform Party. The first-ever senate election looks like the best available shot at boosting turnout among people who are not likely to vote NDP, and who may also be disengaged from provincial politics.

And then there is the provincial sales tax bill. Another kick in the slats for the movie business, for one, and don’t hold your breath for NDP leader Adrian Dix to produce a solution in the wake of his recent trip to Tinsel Town.

The performance of the governing party and the opposition will be scrutinized as never before.

 

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

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said a lack of experienced crew members and the inability to detect navigational errors is what led to a Sooke search and rescue boat running aground in February 2019. (Twitter / @VicJRCC_CCCOS)
TSB: Sooke search and rescue boat crash caused by ‘misinterpretation of navigational information’

Crew members were lacking experience and unable to detect navigational errors

The intersection of Highway 14 and Grant Road was closed after Tuesday night’s windstorm. (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke makes progress on storm cleanup

Crews clear tons of debris from fallen trees to rocks

Forty-two residential properties in Oak Bay were assessed the speculation and vacancy tax in 2019 for a total of $693,000. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
74 Oak Bay property owners paid $693,000 in spec tax

42 properties were assessed with the SVT in 2019

Staff at Artemis Place Secondary were shocked to find that one of the student-built greenhouses on the campus was stolen overnight on Jan. 11. (Artemis Place Society/Facebook)
Saanich school hopes to catch greenhouse thief red-handed

Student-built greenhouses stolen from Artemis Place Secondary on Jan. 11

Jail cell - Reporter file photo
Two of Greater Victoria’s most notorious teenaged killers have parole privileges extended

Derik Lord gets overnight privileges while Kelly Ellard’s are extended

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Nanaimo RCMP seek public assistance after numerous tire slashings between Jan. 12-14. (News Bulletin file)
Police seek public’s help after ‘tire slashing spree’ in central Nanaimo

Ten reports of slashed tires in the last three days, say Nanaimo RCMP

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

Seiners fill the waters between Comox and Nanoose Bay during roe herring fishery. file photo, Pacific Wild
Quota debate heats up on the eve of Vancouver Island herring fishery

Industry and conservationists weigh in how much catch should be allowed as DFO decision coming soon

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

Most Read