Opposition MLAs are condemning the Liberal government's vote to adjourn the legislature's regular business until late March and instead have MLAs examine the provincial budget in committee sessions.
- Roger Melanson unveils list of civil service cuts, mergers
- Budget punts decisions on major health, senior care issues
- HST hike will burden the poor, social justice group says
The Liberals used their majority on Thursday to pass a motion adjourning the session until March 29.
Between now and then, there will be no daily Question Periods and no scheduled opposition days during which other parties can set the agenda or present bills for debate.
Instead, individual ministers will present their departmental budget estimates, one at a time, and answer opposition questions about them.
The PC and Green Party leaders both say the Liberals are trampling on the legislature's accountability function.
"When there's Question Period, we get to choose the questions to ask on whatever the topic is," PC leader Bruce Fitch said.
But in committee, he said, the opposition can't ask a question on something that happens to come up.
"Committees are important, don't get me wrong, but Question Period is important too. If we hear of an issue in health care … we want to ask that question to that minister that day," said Fitch.
Green Party leader David Coon called the move "unacceptable" and said cancelling regular sitting days will mean half the bills he has presented will never be debated.
However, Deputy House Leader Bill Fraser says the government will still be on the hot seat.
"It's an opportunity for the members of the opposition to get into the budget estimates and ask as many questions as they want concerning our budget," he told reporters.
"It's going to be debated on the floor of the legislature, open to the public, live television. So it's a tremendous opportunity for them to ask as many questions as they want about our budget."