Friday, October 20, 2006



To date the boundaries of internationally renouned Cathedral Grove Provincial Park, located between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, have yet to be written into legislation. The sign welcoming people into the park has not been moved 3 km towards Port Alberni to reflect the new park boundaries.

The fact that BC Minister of Environment Barry Penner has made several public announcements regarding the park, none of these statements are reflected in law today. According to the BC Liberals this park has doubled in size, no parking lot will be built on the much protested location, and parliament will be held in the spring and fall of every year in order to legally pass legislation into law.

Political debates that are supposed to mark democracy in this province have somehow faded away. The Fall session of the legislature has been canceled with no fanfare and the Legislative Assembly remains silent.

When the BC Liberals were elected in 2001 they made many promises. They guaranteed that the Legislative Assembly would hold both a Spring and Fall session, establishing a parliamentary calendar which scheduled 11 week in the spring between February 14 and May 18 and 7 weeks in the fall between October 2 and November 30. This year there will be no fall session. The BC Liberal government has stated very little publicly about this major omission in how government is run in BC. Mass media seems to have missed this story completely.

Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) each hold a parliamentary seat in the House where they meet in order to debate how this province is governed. All government policy and laws must be approved by a majority of MLAs. On average each MLA in B.C. represents a little more than 47,000 people. The current, 38th parliament has 79 MLAs of which 34 are members of the NDP and 45 are of the BC Liberal party.

While browsing I read through a document entitled; “Discover Your Legislature Series” and was able to glean a few important quotes; “When the House is sitting, MLAs are responsible for studying, debating and voting on all bills (proposed laws) put before them.”

Under the heading ‘Introduction of Bills’ it is stated; “Throughout each session, new legislation is debated through a series of ‘readings’ before finally being voted on and, if approved, given Royal Assent by the Lieutenant Governor... Debate on government bills can last any length of time, but passing them before the end of each session is crucial. If that cannot be done, then the bill will “die on the order paper,” meaning it will have to be reintroduced in the next session and go through the legislative readings all over again.”

Today, with a slight majority government and no fall session of the Legislative Assembly, the BC Liberals continue to act on issues that are of great significance to the future of all residents of British Columbia. A few examples include Canada’s soft-wood lumber agreement with the USA, treaty negotiations with Tsawwassen First Nations, salmon farming, a return to the burning of coal, off-shore oil exploration, health, welfare, education, transportation, raw log exports, privatization of BC parks, and many more issues that are not being debated this fall by representatives elected by BC voters.

Political assurances are only as good as the paper they are written on and all bills must have Royal Assent before they become law. A parliamentary session must be held in order for government to act on any new legislation. Voice your concerns with the Lieutenant Governor of BC the Honourable Iona Campagnolo and/or Premier Gordon Campbell phone: (250) 387-1715 and/or Minister of Environment phone: (250) 387-1187

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