Clark closes legislature, ends debate for the summer
Published Thursday, June 2, 2011 3:22PM PDT
Premier Christy Clark shut down debate for the summer Thursday, saying her promises of an open government involve more than keeping politicians tied to Victoria.
Clark defended her government's decision to shut down the legislature for the summer after 24 days of debate on more than a dozen new laws and the province's $40-billion budget.
Over the protests of the Opposition New Democrats, who called for more time, the Liberals used their majority to pass a closure motion that ensured the government quickly passed the Yale First Nation Treaty, changed the harmonized sales tax in time for next month's repeal referendum and appointed a new legislative clerk to a $250,000 a year job for life.
Clark said she plans to recall the legislature in the fall and, until then, she believes most British Columbians would rather have their politicians working in their home ridings than in the legislature.
"I have been very, very busy in these last few months bringing change for British Columbia," she said. "Although there's a big structure here in Victoria this isn't the only place where government happens across the province."
Clark said since she was elected Liberal party leader last February she has introduced several changes, including raising the minimum wage, restoring grants to charity groups and eliminating parking fees at provincial parks.
In the session that started April 27, the Liberals passed a motion that ensures the HST will be cut from 12 per cent to 10 per cent, if British Columbians vote to keep the tax in next month's mail-in referendum.
The Liberals will also give $175 rebate cheques for each child to families, as well as to most seniors, and postpone tax cuts for big and small businesses.
Clark's first session as Liberal leader and premier also saw the government pass a law establishing an independent office to investigate police.
The appointment of a new clerk at the legislature to replace George MacMinn, who had the job for 54 years and was the longest serving legislative clerk in the Commonwealth, sparked a feud between the government and the NDP on the last day before the summer break.
The NDP voted against hiring Craig James, the province's current acting chief electoral officer, saying a job for life with an annual salary of $250,000 should be open to a competition.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix said James is an excellent candidate, but being appointed without going through a hiring competition would rankle most British Columbians who must compete for their jobs.
"This was the wrong time, the wrong process," said Dix. "We don't have divine right anymore. For kings that went in the 17th Century, and for premiers, I hope, that's going to end in 2011."
Liberal House Leader Rich Coleman said the government hired James according to a long-standing political tradition of making the appointment through succession.
"I have no problem with what we have done," said Coleman. "I get a kick out of people saying that succession shouldn't happen and then yet the party across the way from me is a union party where succession and seniority is actually the biggest qualifications they live by."
The NDP voted against hiring James, but the Liberals used their majority to approve James for the job.