Government House Leader Hon. Ravi Kahlon amended the standing orders, the rules which guide the operation of the Legislative Assembly, to switch the order of time for Private Members’ motions and statements.
These “debates” occur on Monday mornings. While this is a rather innocuous change the reality is that Monday morning business has been problematic for more than two decades. Members’ debate important issues but by there has been agreement by the House Leaders to have no vote.
The BC Legislative Assembly is one of the few in Canada where Private Members’ Bills have no chance of debate. This needs to change and all three House Leaders have been working to change this anti-democratic feature of our Parliament.
In this speech I highlight my hope that change will be coming in the near future.
I, too, want to make a very brief comment with respect to the comments that have been made by the Opposition House Leader on private members’ bills. This is, indeed, a project or a conversation that’s been ongoing now for the last maybe more than a year, just in terms of creating a pathway to ensure that all members that are not members of cabinet have an opportunity to propose and have their bills and their legislation debated and voted on, as would be the expectation of their constituents.
I think that when our residents go to the polls, the outcome of the election is unknown. But the tools that are available to all members that get elected to this place in exactly the same way…. We all get elected by earning a majority of the votes in our communities, and we should therefore have all of those tools available to us.
Indeed, I just want to raise my hands in gratitude to the Premier. When in the former role of Attorney General, the Premier offered the private members, the members of the opposition, the members of the Third Party, access to legislative drafters. I think this was a really important move because we’ve used those legislative drafters to craft the private members’ bills that we put on the table and to craft the amendments that we bring to legislation — that we bring and propose to government bills that are debated.
That should give the Premier and the cabinet assurance that whether they agree with the proposals that we’re putting on the table or not, at the very least, there is some legislative oversight over what it is that we’re proposing. It’s not going to be a back-of-the-napkin proposal that was come up with in the back hallway and just being put on the table. It might be a good idea, but the way it’s drafted could cause problems to the overall legality of the bill and the proposal.
I, too, want to just reiterate that I look forward to there being a pathway for us to be able to propose and debate legislation. There have been a couple of instances over the past couple of years that required negotiation. I recognize that that still is an option — that we could negotiate the debate of a private member’s bill.
Yesterday we stood up and put members into a select standing committee that looks at standing orders. This would be one option for us, at the very least, if there’s not a proposal that can be brought forward sooner than that to put this to a committee and really take a look at what’s going on across the country, to ensure that we are continuing to improve the democracy and the democratic function of this assembly.
HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM. Thank you for this opportunity.