The death and dissolving of a “parliament,” as each term of a B.C. government is technically called, leaves a scattering of tombstones.
These are the proposed laws that die on the order paper when the increasingly bitter debate spills out into the street for the election campaign.
Some of these proposals will spring to life again if the sponsoring party wins a majority. Some will remain cold and forgotten. For now they act as sketch maps of the visions competing for your support on May 9.
The BC Liberal government’s budget is the big one, presented but barely debated. That’s where Premier Christy Clark suddenly promised to end the Medical Services Plan tax, cut small business income tax and fiddle with a variety of other revenue streams to Victoria.
Tobacco tax would go up again, to almost $50 a carton, but that’s not even news any more. The budget also promises to extend mining exploration tax credits to cover costs of environmental studies and community consultation.
An NDP government would no doubt have a closer look at the idea of more tax breaks for the mining industry, but the flurry of bills presented by their MLAs since February speaks to different priorities.
NDP leader John Horgan and his team poured on the campaign reform, starting with their sixth annual “ban big money” proposal to eliminate corporate and union donations to political parties. They’d move elections to the fall, require a fall sitting of the legislature, register voters starting at age 16 to prepare them for voting at 18, and take political promotion out of government ads.
Their latest bills say lots about process, but little about what the NDP would actually do in government. So far they’ve promised massively subsidized $10-a-day child care, a $15 minimum wage, and a clean energy plan that consists mainly of doing what the government and BC Hydro are already doing, except of course building another dam.
The NDP and Green Party both proposed endangered species legislation. The NDP version looks more like the standard fare of professional environmentalists, not surprising since it was sponsored by former Sierra Club B.C. president and current NDP MLA George Heyman. It would provide a legal means to stop almost any industrial project, which is emerging as a focus of today’s NDP.
Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver’s version doesn’t seem quite as drastic, but it seeks to enshrine the “precautionary principle” to declare any risk, proven or not, to be enough to prevent development.
Weaver frames the issue in apocalyptic fashion with a long-winded preamble that warns: “The entire world is in the midst of an extinction crisis and humans are the driving force.”
The legislation the BC Liberals actually passed speaks to their cynicism after four terms in power.
A bill to repeal century-old racist contract terms changes nothing in the modern world, but the burst of positive Chinese-language media attention it received surely qualifies as a “quick win,” as ethnic appeals were once infamously described in the premier’s office.
Legislation aimed at registering dog and cat breeders may never be implemented, even if the BC Liberals win again. How a new bureaucracy to register and monitor the commercial sale of pets fits with the governing party’s endless war on “red tape” has yet to be explained.
The pet breeding industry wants “hobby breeders” exempted, which may lead to the undoing of the whole thing. But the legislation created a great photo-op, and cute dogs have been particular favourite of Clark in recent years.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @tomfletcherbc