The BC NDP are carefully managing the entrance of their new leader Premier-designate David Eby, and they are cancelling important democratic processes to make it happen!
Even though Mr. Eby won the leadership event weeks ago the province has been operating with maybe one, or two, Premiers. One Premier who essentially has no license to do anything as he vacates the office, and the other Premier who cannot do anything because he has yet to take the oath of office.
It absurd that this process should take as long as it has. It is even more absurd that the Fall legislative calendar needs to be amended to accommodate their poor planning and execution.
The result: Four sitting days, cancelled. Four Question Periods, cancelled. Democratic scrutiny of legislation, cancelled.
Before adjourning for a break to accommodate MLAs attending Remembrance Day ceremonies in their communities, Government House Leader, Hon. Mike Farnworth, moved a Motion to cancel four sitting days. Both Opposition House Leaders responded. Here are my remarks.
I rise to speak to this motion that we scrub four days from the current legislative calendar and not be here for the third week of November.
I appreciate the comments that were brought forward by my colleague, the House Leader of the official opposition. I think much of what the House Leader highlighted are things that certainly we, in our caucus, have talked about as well. Certainly there are items that I’ve raised regularly over the last few sessions, particularly this parliament, as we see the current government, the B.C. NDP government, using time allocation and closure to limit the proper process and procedures of this House as was quite rightly recognized.
The reality here is that this government and the legislation and the laws that are created in this House are made better by the work done by the opposition. That’s if this House is functioning properly. But when we see legislation being brought in at a late date…. The exhaustive list that was mentioned of substantive legislation that’s unlikely to be able to get the appropriate levels of scrutiny. The reality that opening three houses is not in any way similar to having the ability for members of this place to actually hold government accountable through mechanisms like question period.
What the government is offering by saying, “We’re going to continue to open more and more houses,” is not a solution. Not only does the opening of a third house make it difficult for a two-member caucus…. That’s true. I and my colleague have significant concerns about that being floated as a as a legitimate way to work around this problem that the current government has created for itself.
But it’s not just about the Third Party. It’s about the fact that opening a third House puts a substantive number amount of pressure on all the members of this place, who should be able to be paying attention to all of the bills that are being debated. That should be our primary concern here — that as that as these bills go through the process, all 87 members are paying attention so that when we come in on a division to vote we might have some sort of semblance of understanding of what actually is going on.
I recognize that the House is busy and that there are some times in which we have to lean on our colleagues to be able to inform us about where we’re at in a debate or what was the amendment or what clauses this is on, etc. There is an expectation that we should be able to work together like that. However, I think that there’s a more important expectation that the public has and that each of our constituents should have with each of their members of this House: that they’re able to actually pay attention and follow along with all the legislation that’s being debated in here.
By opening a second and a third House for debate of legislation, the government is ensuring that that’s not possible — not possible for the members in this House; not possible for our staff to be able to properly support us; not possible for the public to be able to continue to pay attention to all the important legislation, if they choose to make that a priority for them; and not possible for the media, who should, quite rightly, also be following along and scrutinizing the debate, the work of the members of the opposition but also the work of the ministers in their responses to the questions that come when the bills are being debated.
These aren’t small matters. These are processes and protocols that have evolved in this House over generations. Yes, government has the ability to be able to make these changes by moving a motion like we see here today and using their majority to be able to push these through, to pretend like the words from the Official Opposition House Leader and myself didn’t happen, an uncomfortable 45 minutes, and to then just get the work done that needs to be done to sidestep good public process.
Why not just get rid of the processes and the protocols of this place? Why not just remove the accountability and transparency mechanisms that the members of the official opposition, the members of the Third Party, the independent members of this House have?
If this government is going to continue to demonstrate that they don’t have any respect for those democratic principles, if they’re going to continue to show disrespect for those processes and those protocols that have developed and evolved over time because of their usefulness to a well-functioning democratic institution, they should just get rid of them. They’re not necessary. All we have to do is move a motion, use the majority, push it through.
Two weeks off instead of one week off. Come back to a House of utter chaos. Members running around all over the place, wondering where we are, at what debate, when. Bells, potentially, ringing consistently. Meanwhile, a bill that is being debated clause by clause on the amendments to child welfare will be jammed into a corner room somewhere in this Legislature. Major amendments to the health professions, another room off in the corner.
The reality is that we are seeing this government use closure and time allocations on massive pieces of legislation. As the as the Opposition House Leader mentioned, many clauses of those bills never had the scrutiny that is required in order to be able to ensure that those clauses withstood the test — the test that we have to put them through on this side of the House, the test that British Columbians expect a well-functioning democratic institution is putting those legislative clauses through.
The description that was given mid-sentence, mid-question, waiting for an answer — close debate. Just because we can, just because we, for some reason, weren’t able to manage this House appropriately, and all the legislation.
It goes back, actually, to the spring session. If I had this thought earlier, I’d have gone through and counted the number of acts in this session that we’ve opened up more than once. I remember a time in this place when it was managed. You have your amendments. We’re not opening acts up more than once, unless absolutely necessary. Where is the requirement for ministers?
We’re now debating, I think, our second Workers Compensation Act bill, our second transportation amending bill.
Just opening the bill up, shutting it down. Opening it up and closing it. Opening it up and closing it. It’s just chaos. It’s a chaotic legislative agenda that doesn’t serve this institution. It doesn’t serve the civil service that is supporting this government. It doesn’t serve the opposition to be able to follow. Every time it opens and closes, I’m assuming that a bunch of regulations need to be created. Where are all of those pieces of legislation that we have opened and closed in their regulatory making process?
It’s sloppy and it’s unacceptable, and unacceptable management of this House There is no need for us to take the third week of November and shut down this Legislature and this Legislative Assembly. We’ve been operating in this place with the governing party in a leadership race. We functioned well for the first three weeks or four weeks of this session, under the current scenario. Now we have two Premiers — one going and one coming — and we could continue to function well. There’s no need. The justification that was provided by the Government House Leader, fabricating a reason to do this…. Not needed. Premiers realign their cabinets.
Mr. Speaker: Member, we are not going to use the word “fabricating.”
A. Olsen: I’m sorry. I will withdraw the use of the word “fabrication.”
A. Olsen: Manufacturing. I’ve got a thesaurus down at the end. That’s fantastic. Thank you. Count on the member for Abbotsford West to show up with his thesaurus this afternoon. Thank you so much for that and bringing some levity to this discussion. What I was trying to suggest was that the Government House Leader came with a set of reasons for why we should accept this motion and not just wholly reject it, and those were that we’re having a change in Premier.
Well, that wasn’t a surprise. That leadership race has been going on for months. The new Premier might need to realign cabinet and executive council. That happens. There’s no requirement, actually, for the new incoming Premier — the Premier-designate — to do that in the third week of November. We have two more weeks. Not a surprise. All of that work could have been done at the end of this process.
What has been created here is an unnecessary burden on the democratic process, because what we have seen on an ongoing basis here is that the current government acts like this House serves them, and they manipulate the amount of time that we have to debate legislation. As has been pointed out, the amount of opportunities that we have to scrutinize, to provide good advice and to provide good, positive amendments to be debated — some of which has been pointed out, accepted and improving the bills — has removed that.
The reality is that there is no need for us to get to November 18 to swear in this new Premier. That was a choice that was made, and the legislation that’s on the table…. I think about this. we celebrated, last Wednesday, the most progressive changes to child welfare in this province. We brought Indigenous Elders and leaders and youth onto the floor of the chamber. It’s a unique activity. Now, in my community, you don’t celebrate things until they’re done, but we did that, in advance, before the legislation was passed. Before the regulations came into force, we celebrated success.
We could very well be getting to a situation next week where the Indigenous leaders and elders that we invited onto this floor of the Legislature to celebrate something, a piece of work that this government was doing, could see that that bill that they were celebrating did not get put through the process that we agree, in this Legislative Assembly, is the appropriate one because the government chose closure, time allocation. It’s completely and totally inappropriate. It’s an erosion of this assembly. It’s an erosion of this democracy.
We should not accept this. The members of this House should not accept the ongoing erosion of these institutions, the use of these tools to limit the debate, to limit the ability of the opposition to hold government accountable, to limit the ability of the opposition to ask questions of our Premier. There was a lot made in that leadership race. There are good questions to be asked. There are answers to be given, but we’re not going to be given that opportunity to be able to do that.
Four days’ worth of questions and then a number of months, and then we’ll be back in the spring. We should have the opportunity, when this House is open, to be able to hold government accountable. That’s being taken away from us.
Now, I went through a list of the people that are impacted by this decision. Yes, our caucus is going to be impacted. We’ll do our best. We do our best to make do with the situation that we have. There are a number of groups, a number of organizations that were planning to be here during that week that this motion is impacting, that now have to completely change their calendars and their schedules because government has decided that they’re not going to meet that week.
Now, maybe some of the members will stick around and be able to join in those meetings that were scheduled, but the reality is that we’ve got a number of groups that were intending to be here — booking hotels, booking travel. It’s not just that we’re being an inconvenience to the members of this House, who should…. We do our work. We’re being an inconvenience to the public, and to me, I just find that completely…. Especially when it’s unnecessary.
As was pointed out, the Premier designate is being sworn in on the 18th of November, Friday. We could still be here. In fact, I think we’re planning to still be here, to continue to be in the Legislative Assembly. I think we’re probably going to see a lot of members still here. This is where we were supposed to be.
When this idea was brought to me, I had an immediate negative response to it for all of these reasons. I had this sense that something like this was coming. I hadn’t quite figured out why it was that the government chose the route that they did with the swearing in of the new Premier — so many days.
When Christy Clark was sworn in and it took 93 days…. I seem to remember Ms. Clark was not a member of this Legislative Assembly, so she couldn’t be here. So to use that as a reason why she wasn’t here is a bit of a stretch. They had to call a by-election, then that by-election had to happen, and then she had to be sworn in as a member. So there was no way for her to be here.
The Premier designate has been here for five years. He’s a highly effective member of the current cabinet. He sat just a couple of seats down, every day, from the Premier’s seat, not that far — as the Attorney General, an incredibly high-ranking member of our government.
To suggest that these are two kind of synonymous situations, that they’re the same thing, I think does a disservice to reality.
It’s important that the distinction be drawn out clearly here, so as to not confuse the public because it’s not the same situation. We’re talking about an Attorney General who has worked with their colleagues for the last two years, since the 2020 election, and has a pretty good understanding of what each of the members in this place bring to the chamber and should be able to navigate a week, a couple of weeks.
It’s not like…. In fact, even in the leadership race, I think the Premier-designate said: “Just going to continue on with the previous Premier’s agenda.” So there were suggestions that, at least in the short-term, not much is going to change.
I’m going to, I think, reiterate the comments that were made by the Opposition House Leader in asking the government to reconsider this motion. It’s unnecessary. It’s actually an affront to our democracy in many ways as has been highlighted. I don’t think that this House should accept this motion in any way. I think that we should be here.
We need to — unless, of course, there’s a motion to suggest that Friday, November 18, become a statutory holiday, which is and would be a reason why we wouldn’t be in this House…. It’s the reason why we’re not going to be here next week, because when there is a statutory holiday, members remain in their communities to be able to participate in whatever that statutory day is.
Next week we have, of course, as we are wearing the poppies, Remembrance Day. Members will be in their constituencies to take part in those activities. Unless we’re creating a new statutory holiday for the new Premier-designate, there is no reason for us to not be here that week, doing the work on these multiple pieces of legislation that are in front of us.
Substantive, as has been pointed out. No debate yet on an energy bill that has, I think, substantial impacts on energy in this province. No debate, very limited…. Today is the first day of debate on substantive progressive amendments to the Child Welfare Act that I think we should be committed to get through to the very end, to honour the celebratory tone and the invitation that we had to stand up people, to ask them to open and bless the work in a good way. I think we need to make sure that, at the very least, if we’re going to use time allocation, that we absolutely do not use time allocation on that bill. That would be, I think, an offence to the people that we asked to do that work in a good way.
I’ll just end with this. I just ask that this government reconsider, invite us back to the House when we’re supposed to be here as per the calendar. Let’s get to work on the legislation that is in front of us. HÍSW̱ḴE.