Christy Clark: BC Fall Session Cancelled Because Politicians In Legislature Too Much

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CHRISTY CLARK
Premier Christy Clark speaks to media following a cabinet renewal of 16 ministers and two ministers of state at the Government House in Victoria on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2012. Clark says she has cancelled the B.C. fall session because politicians need to spend more time out of the legislature. (Chad Hipolito, CP) | CP

RICHMOND, B.C. - Despite a growing chorus of critics, Premier Christy Clark says there will not be a fall session of the legislature in British Columbia.

The Liberal leader is under fire because her government has faced the NDP Opposition in the legislature for just 47 days this year, and over remarks she made in an interview last spring that referred to the seat of government as a "sick culture" devoid of "real people."

Clark defended her comments Wednesday, saying she is out travelling the province, talking to voters and business leaders about what they need from government.

"My point was when a politician sits on the grounds of the legislature and spends most of their time there, they're talking to pundits and they're talking to each other. You cannot build a government that responds to the needs of British Columbians if you're not out there listening to them," she told reporters following an announcement in Richmond, B.C.

The people complaining about the lack of a fall session are the people who "like to spend a lot of time in the legislature, talking to each other, and talking to politicians and talking to pundits," she said.

"I think they're wrong."

Clark said the legislature can become an enclosed bubble.

"We have to get out of the precincts of the legislature and really listen to people if we want to make sure that government runs better," she said.

Her critics say she's certainly done a lot of that.

The B.C. legislature last convened on May 31. A spring session normally begins in mid-February, so by the time politicians return to Question Period next year, it will have been eight months since any government initiatives were debated under the umbrella of parliamentary rules and regulations.

Two independent MLAs said they will hold a Twitter town hall this week to discuss democratic reform in B.C., and New Democrat leader Adrian Dix called it an embarrassment.

"The reality is that the B.C. government has sat dramatically less under this government consistently than any other government in B.C. history, at least in the modern era since we've had full-time MLAs; dramatically less than the previous government when we had very long spring and summer sessions," Dix said.

In fact, fall sessions were reduced to just a few days in 2006 and 2008 and former premier Gordon Campbell cancelled them outright in 2010 and 2011.

Dix said the governing Liberals invoked closure in May to force through 16 bills before the last session ended that should have been looked at by the legislature. Some of those bills contained serious mistakes that are now surfacing, he said.

Clark was part of the Liberal government that instituted fixed election dates and fixed sessions several years ago in B.C., championing the changes as democratic reform.

"The deal was you reduce the number of days, but you understand what the schedule would be — spring and fall. And now when it becomes problematic for them, they go back on their word," Dix said.

"I think that's disappointing and I think the people who pay for the legislature are the ones who should be most disappointed because . . . we all agree there are significant issues to be faced in B.C."

Clark wouldn't say how many days the legislature will sit prior to the provincial election scheduled for May 14 , 2013.

Note to readers: This is a corrected version. A previous story included an incorrect count of the days in the legislature this year.

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