Elbows up as legislature winds down

Speaker Bill Barisoff and Premier Christy Clark raise the Vancouver Canucks flag outside the B.C. legislature Tuesday.

VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberal government has rejected an NDP request to extend the spring legislative session past this week, and pushed through its plan to offer a reduced rate for the harmonized sales tax.

B.C. Liberal house leader Rich Coleman said the provincial budget and remaining legislation will be completed and passed by Thursday afternoon. That includes endorsement of the Yale First Nation treaty, limits to ferry fare increases, creation of a new police investigation unit and dozens of minor amendments to legislation.

Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson said Tuesday he plans to vote against the Yale treaty, partly because the government is pushing the disputed settlement of Fraser Canyon fishing territory through with only a few hours of debate.

And the NDP says the B.C. Liberal government is using its majority to ram through the HST changes with inadequate debate.

NDP leader Adrian Dix said the government closed off debate on the HST plan in less than a day, and switched debate on Premier Christy Clark’s office budget to coincide with game one of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday, to distract the public from criticism.

Coleman continued the hockey theme, accusing the NDP of “ragging the puck” after agreeing to debate all current legislative measures by the scheduled adjournment on Thursday.

NDP house leader John Horgan said the government’s reduction of legislature time is an affront to the citizens who elected MLAs to represent them.

“We sat for four days the previous 10 months,” Horgan said. “We have a four-week session to deal with a $40 billion budget and a handful of bills at the start that turned into 15 bills, one of which is a treaty.”

Under the NDP government in 2000, the Nisga’a treaty debate took 147 days, and the same year hundreds of hours were spent debating ministry budgets, Horgan said.