British Columbia

'Pretty pathetic agenda': Andrew Weaver slams B.C. government's lack of new legislation

The B.C. government ends five straight weeks of activity in the legislature today — but activity on passing legislation has been relatively sparse.

Only 7 bills have been introduced in the 1st half of spring session, the lowest in recent history

Dr. Andrew Weaver is the leader of the Green Party of British Columbia. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The B.C. government is promising a more active second half of the spring session of the legislature, after the first five weeks produced the lowest number of introduced legislation in recent memory. 

"We've released a budget that's dealt with lots of measures that we set out to deal with during the election campaign, around affordability issues, we're starting to see some of the changes coming in ... we're moving forward with our agenda," said house leader Mike Farnworth, saying he was pleased with the measures his government had introduced since the legislature resumed activities last month.

So far, the government has introduced seven pieces of legislation, three of which — the "Act to Ensure the Supremacy of Parliament", the 2018 budget, and a Supply Act to continue financing the government — are mandatory.

That leaves an agreement with the Tla'amin First Nation; a bill giving parents access to more information about who is caring for their kids; changes to the B.C. Innovation Council; and the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act as the only new bills introduced. 

The legislature will now take a three-week break before the spring session finishes over April and May. 

'We're waiting, and we're waiting, and we're waiting'

Anybody home? A view of the interior of the Legislative Assembly of B.C., where very little legislation has been enacted by the NDP in the past five weeks. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

It's a pace that frustrates Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, whose support of the NDP propelled them to government after last year's election.

"We're hoping they step it up, because it's a pretty pathetic agenda so far. Nothing of substance in this term, apart from the innovation commission, which is us," said Weaver, referencing his party's support for the idea in their platform.

"We did not change governments to pass no legislation. We changed government to ensure that some of the issues that have not been dealt with over the years are dealt with.

"And we're waiting, and we're waiting, and we're waiting."

Weaver brought up the idea of passing legislation to change the date of Family Day — which the government has committed to — as the type of smaller legislation that could be introduced. 

"That literally requires the changing of one sentence in one existing act. That's it ... what are you waiting for?" he said.

Different times

Overall, the government is markedly behind the number of bills the B.C. Liberals passed in their first year in office, and the number of bills the NDP passed when they last took power after the 1991 election.

But Farnworth says there's a couple of reasons for that. 

"The house is significantly different than it was in the 90s. The sessions started sometime in late February, would sit often into July, it would sit five days a week, it would sit starting in the morning, it would sit sometimes until 11 or 12 at night, so you could get an awful lot done," he said. 

"Then when Gordon Campbell came in, 2001, he had [a majority of] 77 people to 2 ... this idea of trying compare to today to the fact that Gordon Campbell put through all those bills, is really representative of people who don't really understand how the system actually works."

Farnworth did promise several bills around marijuana legalization would be coming forward. Many of the government's consultations and reviews will have wrapped by then.

He also said the government would be investing in technology that would speed up the pace of drafting bills. 

"I can guarantee the Green Party this: there will be a lot of legislation coming in after the break."

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

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