I rose today in response to a Motion introduced by Government House Leader Ravi Kahlon.
Be it resolved that the House recess from 6:30 to 7 p.m. and notwithstanding Standing Orders 2 and 3 thereafter sit until 9 p.m. today, and notwithstanding the sessional order adopted on October 5, 2023, Section A conclude its proceedings by 6:30 today.
The BC NDP’s chaotic legislative agenda, and mismanagement of the House, is extremely concerning.
It is essential that there is separation between Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers. But in this House – unlike others across the country and in the Commonwealth – there is a dangerous blurring of that separation. At times it feels like we should have the Premier’s office move right on into this Chamber and just make decisions.
It’s the responsibility of the house leader to ensure that there is a healthy separation between the Executive Branch, who bring forward legislation and who govern this province, and the Legislative Branch, whose job it is to scrutinize their work. This house should be a democracy, but it’s not acting like one. The Executive has full control over what we debate, when we debate it, and for how long – and none of their legislation is getting the scrutiny it requires.
The precedent set by this government will be used by future governments. The very same tools used by the Premier’s office to capture the legislature may be used against them if they lose the next election. It needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.
I rise to speak to this motion. We heard what the Official Opposition House Leader had to say, and I think the recent history that we’ve experienced in frankly a chaotic legislative agenda and how it’s been delivered, and then how the House is subsequently managed.
I just ask members of this place to go back to grade 9 or grade 10 social studies. For some people, the curriculum might have substantively changed. For others, you might remember that this government was created with an executive branch and with a legislative branch and separation between those powers. Unlike others of our cousin houses across the Commonwealth, in this House, there is a dangerous blurring of the separation between the legislative and the executive branches.
At times, it feels like we should just have the Premier’s office move right on into this chamber and just make decisions. It’s the responsibility of the people who manage this place to ensure that there is a healthy separation between the executive branch, who brings forward legislation and who governs this province, and the legislative branch, whose job it is to scrutinize their work, because what is happening in this House right now is a dangerous blurring that lives past the precedents that are set by this government.
This government acts like they are going to be sitting in those seats forever, but they may not after next November. I know they don’t believe that that’s going to be the future, but a different group might be sitting across there, and the very same tools and tactics that have been used to capture this place by the Premier’s office could be used against them. They could be complaining about this just a few short months from now.
What is happening with this schedule and with this management of this House and with limiting the ability for the members of the opposition, for the members of the public to even know what legislation is in front of the legislators that they elected to come here, have the ability to scrutinize those pieces of legislation…. How does anybody know what the impact of the housing bills are in front of us?
We get them put halfway through a November election, and they’re going to be shuttered by December. No debate. No discussion. No air. No proofing. The critics scrambling to try to understand what it is, because they’ve painted a picture in about five or six different buckets, and we’re supposed to find a way to figure out how the buckets line up. No idea the impact that it’s going to have.
No time to understand what the forestry impacts were. That legislation still, in broad strokes, hasn’t been regulated. They smashed it through, gave themselves a bunch of power, took it and now are taking their time. Took credit for the changes, by the way, that haven’t been regulated on the ground.
This House should be a democracy. It is not acting like a democracy. We have essentially given power to a group of people, the executive, and they have full control over what we debate, when we debate it and for how long we debate it.
T. Wat: Well said.
A. Olsen: It is infuriating, because then we have to go back out to our constituencies. I got to go back to Saanich North and the Islands and say: “Yeah, that place that we have gave good air to that piece of legislation. It’s going to actually change the investment you’ve made in your real estate. It’s going to change the form and character of your community. It’s going to change how our forests are managed.”
We had a member talking about clearcutting. We have no idea about what the future of that is, even though we’ve had legislation around forestry. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.
Does this remind us of grade 9 or 10 social studies in any way?
It’s certainly not how our Westminster system should be working. Not even close. This House and the management of the time in this place should not be at the whim of the people that are bringing the legislation in and not giving us the moments we need to be able to understand the legislation that’s in front of us, so that we can ask informed questions, so that we can critique it.
The people of British Columbia need to understand how their democracy is being run right now, because it’s teetering and that is not an exaggeration.
We have a situation where we ask the question: “Okay. How can we tighten this up? How can we offer something of value to this situation?”
Because there are not even the basic rules in our standing orders that put any controls around what this government, future governments can do.
It used to be that there was some conversation and handshakes that the House Leaders had, where actually we operated with collaboration, collectiveness alongside the Speaker in order to make sure that the flow of business was done.
Those meetings are not happening anymore. The collective, the whole group…. Little notifications, this that, here we go, another day, long here….
We need to wake up to the fact that this House has a very dangerous line. A line that is blurred, that actually has some very dangerous outcomes if used inappropriately — and this government may not use it.
But as soon as the executive branch of this institution starts to own and control the legislative branch, we’re in a very, very dangerous spot — and that’s what’s happened.
Just because the B.C. NDP exceptionalism has them believing that they have every right to do it — the right to rule like some sort of, I don’t know, third term government, they’re only in their second term — you shouldn’t be acting like you’re in your third term. You’re only in your second term, but they’re acting with the arrogance of a third term government, and it needs to stop and it needs to stop now.