The BC Legislature will finally reopen on Feb. 11. It will begin with a throne speech that should lay out the B.C. government’s agenda for the year, followed the next week by the presentation of the provincial budget for 2014–2015.
The primary focus of the session, which lasts until the beginning of June, will be passing the budget including a process called estimates. This is when opposition members question ministers on their individual ministry budgets. The questions can be wide-ranging and often extend to several days of questioning for each ministry.
MLAs will also deal with legislation. Some specific legislation is expected to be presented, but inevitably, there will also be surprises.
The BC Liberals have indicated they intend on presenting legislation that will change the Water Act, change liquor laws, as well as set up a tax and royalty structure for liquefied natural gas. They will also potentially re-introduce a very troubling change to forestry tenures.
The legislative session also features a daily 30-minute opportunity for the opposition to question the premier and ministers on any issue the provincial government is responsible for. This is an important tool for opposition to hold the government to account.
People can watch proceedings on various cable channels in most of our communities and can also see video or printed transcripts on the website www.leg.bc.ca.
As your representative my job is to represent your concerns and your interests, and I rely on you to take the time to communicate your issues with me.
My constituency office staff and I are always available to help you with provincial matters. In 2013, more than 1250 constituents contacted my office. And my constituent caseworker handled more than 400 complex files ranging from issues with health to housing, and concerns with transportation to property taxes.
Norm Macdonald is the MLA for riding of Columbia River–Revelstoke.