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EDITORIAL: Government can’t walk and chew gum

Absence of sitting MLAs is becoming too common a scenario in Victoria

Out front of the big stone building in Victoria’s Inner Harbour is where people watch Symphony Splash, where tourists snap pics, where the annual marathon has its finish line and where concerts are held on Canada Day.

The grounds of the legislature are busy, except as a place of work for our 85 elected provincial representatives. With another fall sitting cancelled, MLAs will have sat in the chamber for 36 days this year. It’s good work if you can get it.

Cancelling legislative sessions has become the norm for the B.C. Liberals. House leader Mike de Jong has repeated the script four times now – he has announced the cancellation of the fall sitting in 2013, 2012, 2008 and 2006.

Each time, the NDP opposition registered its outrage with the media, declaring the cancellation an abdication of democracy and accusing the Liberals of trying to avoid tough issues and questions.

Premier Christy Clark points out the legislature sat in the summer after the spring election and that the government will get more work done not being in session. The government apparently can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

The province is facing big questions about the direction of its energy policy, the shrinking provincial budget surplus (or increasing deficit, depending on who you talk to), increasing B.C. Hydro rates and our role as a Pacific Rim economy.

No matter your political stripe, B.C. residents should be skeptical of the claim the government has no pressing legislation or issues to discuss through the fall.

Whether it’s the federal Conservatives proroguing Parliament or the B.C. Liberals cancelling sessions, senior government inaction serves only to perpetuate cynicism and promote alienation of the public from politics.

Our local government councillors and mayors, most who are paid relatively little and certainly don’t get the pensions and spending perks of senior elected officials, normally don’t get the luxury of cancelling public meetings. The outrage would be heard far and wide if Victoria city council decided to avoid its chamber to avoid tough questions or “to get more work done.”

Other than promoting liquefied natural gas as a future cash cow, the Liberals’ priorities and agenda for the next four years remain unclear.

For a full public accounting of our rising provincial debt and struggling budget, stay tuned, five months from now.