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August 8, 2009

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Legislative Update

Following the May 12, 2009 provincial election, a new Cabinet was appointed on June 10, 2009. Nine of the 24 cabinet members are new, including seven who are new MLAs. Many of the appointments are intriguing, including new MLAs Margaret MacDiarmid and Moira Stilwell in the Education and Advanced Education portfolios, respectively. Perhaps most significant of the appointments is Kevin Falcon’s assignment to the Health Services file. Falcon has been a cheerleader for privatization since he was first elected, serving as Minister of State for De-regulation before being appointed Transportation Minister in 2004.

The legislature is being called into session on August 25, 2009 for the selection of the Speaker followed by the Speech from the Throne. A new provincial budget is expected the following week, on September 1, 2009. Early rumours are that there will be a significant legislative agenda requiring a full Fall session of the legislature.

The BC Liberals’ pre-election budget of February 2009 included a $495-million deficit, but all indications are that the real deficit is closer to $2-billion. In preparing for its September budget, the government is scrambling to find ways to bring that number down. All ministries are reviewing their expenditures and news of program and funding cuts is starting to surface, with more expected between now and September 1. A campaign to protect provincial grants to B.C.’s public libraries, which are at risk of losing millions of dollars in provincial government funding, is already underway.

Additionally, the Premier and his Finance Minister have announced they will harmonize the provincial sales tax with the GST, for which the federal government will transfer $1.6 billion to the provincial coffers.

While it is impossible to predict the government’s legislative priorities, we could see the following on the Fall agenda:

  • Harmonized Sales Tax and a variety of related measures to offset impact on restaurant and construction (likely contained in the budget)
  • Health care restructuring
  • De-regulation measures for industry (disguised as economic stimulus)

Submitted by:
Tania Jarzebiak
Legislative Co-ordinator