An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE B.C. LEGISLATURE gets back to work today, and MLAs have a lot of work to do.
The one- or two-week session will be scant on legislation but it will set the tone for how the province fights the COVID-19 pandemic over the next few months.
Of immediate interest for many families is the tax-free $1,000 cheque Premier John Horgan has promised to help with pandemic relief.
The session will also provide a test for newly named BC Liberal House Leader Peter Milobar, whose job it will be to organize the Opposition’s response to what the government puts forward.
First order of business for the NDP is to name a new Speaker to replace the departed Darryl Plecas. The outgoing Speaker has left a long wish list of reforms he’d like to see for how the Ledge conducts its business.
It’s unlikely they’ll receive more than passing attention, which isn’t a totally bad thing since many of them are a little bizarre. For example, Plecas suggests MLAs be offered training in how to make a speech, and set up an independent body to do an annual report card on media coverage.
These might sound attractive to some electors but they’re impractical and stray into territory outside the Speaker’s jurisdiction. Plecas also proposes cameras be removed from the legislature’s chamber to avoid grandstanding, and holding Question Period later in the day so the media won’t give it so much focus in news cycles.
Oh, yeah, and he’d like to see applauding and heckling banned from proceedings.
Question Period is certainly a gong show but it shows where the parties stand on issues. Hiding it away from the view of the public and media, and turning it into an exercise in blandness won’t solve anything.
The behaviour of MLAs is what determines the value of Question Period and the Ledge in general. We’ll see if there’s any improvement in this upcoming session.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.