Which bills will become law before summer break? B.C. government says it's not sure
With 10 bills yet to be debated and only 3 weeks left in session, some might not become law until fall
The B.C. government brought forward two pieces of legislation on Wednesday — one bill that would ban the use of pill-press machines by the public, and one that would allow public servants to report incidents to supervisors or the ombudsperson without fear of reprisal.
But it could be over five months before these bills become law.
That's because with only 12 days left in the spring session of the legislature, there are 10 bills still at the introductory stage, with more expected to come.
The government admits it's very likely some of them won't be passed before the four-month break at the legislature on June 1.
"And that's not a bad thing," said Premier John Horgan Wednesday.
"It gives people on opportunity over the summer, if they're interested in that legislation, to look at it in more detail, to bring up concerns so we can bring better legislation in the fall."
Housing, cannabis, ICBC
Asking various government members which proposed bills they believe will be passed in this session failed to provide answers.
"We may have to fight it out around the cabinet table," said Selina Robinson, on whether three pieces of housing affordability legislation introduced on Tuesday — including creating rental-only zoning and increasing penalties on illegal condo flipping by 1,000 per cent — would take effect by the summer break.
However, Robinson is also looking at new legislation to eliminate a loophole in municipal campaign finance laws that allows unions and corporations to continue donating to political parties. Horgan said if that legislation came forward, it would be fast tracked so it could take effect before October's local elections.
At the same time, cannabis legislation is to be introduced on Thursday, and Horgan said that needs to be fast tracked because of pending legalization by the federal government. And legislation to limit auto insurance claims also falls into the category of urgent legislation, because of ICBC's financial condition. The Crown-owned auto insurer is facing a financial loss of $1.3 billion.
Would that mean those housing bills might not go through until October?
"I appreciate I've opened my own hornets' nest, but [House Leader] Mike Farnworth is better suited to answer those questions," said the premier.
Working with opposition
Farnworth, who as House Leader oversees the management of the government's legislative schedule, couldn't even say whether his own bill on pill-press machines — which have been linked to the local fentanyl trade — would be passed before the break.
"All legislation is important. I'm working with my colleagues in a timely fashion," said Farnworth.
He said he was confident that by working cooperatively with the opposition, it would be possible to get all the bills through.
Of course, the job of the opposition is to oppose.
"They've been very slow to get on the business of governance," said B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, who didn't guarantee the opposition would cooperate with less debate on certain bills.
"Most of the legislation they've been putting forward has been tweaking and they have been waiting, with a big supply of pent-up demand for things like marijuana legislation, which is a huge issue, and we've seen neither hide nor hair of it."
It's a marked difference from the first half of the spring session, when so few bills were brought forward that Green Party leader Andrew Weaver called the government's agenda "pretty pathetic."
But it would seem more legislation can cause its own problems.