NDP critical of short B.C. legislative session

Decision to have a one-month session slammed

Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser said the short legislative session makes it hard to hold the government to account.

If the Liberal government in B.C. is more transparent under Premier Christy Clark than under Gordon Campbell, Scott Fraser doesn’t see it.

The Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA, has just been named by NDP leader Adrian Dix as the Aboriginal Affairs critic, a job he held under former leader Carol James.

Fraser said he’s been scrambling to get the details of the province’s budget for his ministry prior to debating it in the legislature, a truncated process he said that was frustrating at best.

“We are sitting in a very short session,” he said. “They’ve crammed us into just a few weeks after not having sat for 10 months. We have a multi-billion dollar budget we need to debate and scrutinize, ministry by ministry, to ensure the public has scrutiny over how the purse is being spent. They cut us down to 90 hours for the entire budget. Last year was 140 hours, which in itself was way down from when we were government.”

On top of that, he said, he only has four hours allotted to debate the multi-million dollar ministry, with some details not made available until the day before he rose in the legislature to debate it. As well, some of the other ministries include aspects of Aboriginal relations, making the task even more onerous.

“The new natural resources ministry has as one of its functions, First Nations consultations,” Fraser said. “As well, the Jobs, Tourism and Innovation ministry has a section about aboriginal tourism now. For them to cut our hours to be able to scrutinize the budget, create new ministries and change the roles of ministries makes it very difficult to get the people’s work done here. If you were a cynic, you might  think that’s the plan.”

Fraser questioned why the legislature is scheduled to rise on June 2, with so much important work to be done.

 “Why aren’t we sitting through June?” he asked. “It seems the new leadership under Christy Clark is just as afraid of sitting in the legislature as the old one.”

 news@pqbnews.com

 

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