British Columbia Legislative Assembly

Article excerpt

British Columbia's 35th Parliament was dissolved on April 30th and a long-awaited election campaign began. For the first time in many years, a number of political parties may achieve electoral success. The governing NDP are led by Glen Clark; the Liberals, led by Gordon Campbell; the Reform Party by Jack Weisgerber, and the Progressive Democratic Alliance by Gordon Wilson. At the time of dissolution, party standings in the 75-set House were NDP 50, Liberal 14, Reform 4, PDA 2, Social Credit 1, Independent 3, plus one vacancy.

Election night proved to be very dramatic, with the NDP winning a slim majority: 39 seats to the Liberals' 33, with the Reform Party picking up two seats and the Progressive Democratic Alliance one. At the time of writing, absentee ballots had not yet been counted, and with close vote tallies in a number of ridings, the seat distribution may change.

Prior to the election, the fifth session of the 35th Parliament was held, and proved to be the shortes in British Columbia history, lasting just six days. Despite that, it proved to be noteworthy for a number of reasons. After a Throne Speech that reiterated a number of commitments already announced by the Premier, the government introduced a bill on entitled the Education and Health Collective Bargaining Assistance Act. Introduced to address a looming labour disruption in the Surrey School District, the bill provided additional powers to cabinet to settle labour disputes in schools, colleges and hospitals for a period of sixty days.

The government requested that the legislation be considered urgent and allowed to proceed through all stages that day. Opposition members objected to the request, arguing that the scope of the bill went beyond the immediate situation in Surrey and that the government's long delay in recalling the House for the spring session undermined the claim for urgency. After receiving submissions, the Speaker delivered a ruling in the afternoon, in which he denied the government request because the bill would apply to potential disruptions beyond the immediate case at hand. Given this ruling, the House was called into session on both Saturday and Sunday to debate the bill. It was granted Royal Assent on Sunday, April 28. …