THE BC Liberals on Tuesday said that following weeks of criticism over a controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) bill and little time to debate or thoroughly review a substantial 80-page forestry bill, the NDP government moved to silence debate and ram through all legislation this week.
“This is a heavy-handed push by the NDP to limit the voices of Opposition and push through their agenda. British Columbians expect their elected officials to thoughtfully review and debate all legislation. What we saw from the government today is disrespectful to people in every corner of our province,” said MLA Peter Milobar, BC Liberal House Leader. “Last month, this government spent weeks essentially filibustering their own miscellaneous stats bills because they had no serious legislative agenda. Then all of a sudden they’ve dropped large, substantive bills, and decided to ram them through without proper democratic reviews. It’s an outrageous and shameful political stunt.”
The time allocation invoked by the NDP to force through their bills has previously been criticized by members of their own Caucus, including MLA Nathan Cullen who stated in 2018 when he was an NDP Member of Parliament, that it is a process used to “ram it [government legislation] through parliament,” and that government would be wise to “…just don’t use your total power to shut off peoples’ conversations because that is a way to only encourage more suspicion.”
“First Nations, stakeholders, industry, and forestry-dependent communities have not had their fair chance to be consulted on two important forestry bills, which were being simultaneously debated, that this NDP government is now fast-tracking without proper review,” said Milobar. “[Premier] John Horgan and the NDP are looking to stifle debate and shutdown the Legislature this week until February, all while rubber stamping an FOI bill that further erodes democracy in our province imposing new fees and barriers to access government information. It’s unacceptable and British Columbians deserve so much better.”
The BC Liberals introduced a last-minute motion to delay the forestry bill by six months to ensure time for proper scrutiny and force the NDP to consult with impacted First Nations, stakeholders, and forestry-dependent communities.
THE BC Green Party said that the BC NDP called time allocation on multiple bills before the Legislature, forcing them through and subverting the democratic process.
Sonia Furstenau, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Cowichan Valley said in a statement: “I am extremely disappointed to see the BC NDP government use these tools to end debate on very significant pieces of legislation. Throughout the fall session we have heard a consistent message from stakeholder organizations, First Nations, and the general public: the public consultation on proposed legislation was insufficient.
“The BC NDP have leveraged their majority to bypass the democratic process. The legislation they are using this tactic on includes bills that impact forest management and freedom of information and protection of privacy.
“Over the past several weeks my colleague MLA Adam Olsen and I have been raising questions and engaging in debate on the pieces of legislation before the Assembly. Too often we are getting communications rhetoric instead of real answers, being stalled and stonewalled by the government while we attempt to hold them accountable for the impacts of their proposed legislative changes.
“Committee stage is an essential component of the legislature. The committee exchange on each clause is entered into the official record to be used in the future by the courts as they interpret and uphold the legislation. The BC NDP has just demonstrated a clear disregard for the province they represent, the legal system, and their colleagues from other parties. Worse, they have further imperiled the trust and efficacy of our democratic system.”