Why have a legislature?

The B.C. Legislature will begin sitting again this February, for the first time in months. Last year, provincial politicians in B.C. got together in Victoria for a mere 36 days.

There are excuses, of course, for the very short sittings, the cancelled fall session.

There are always excuses.

There was a provincial election, the MLAs must have time to take care of constituency business, not all government work is done in Victoria, and so on, ad nauseum.

Many of these issues no doubt affected other provinces, yet they don’t seem to have reduced their sitting days so drastically.

Alberta, not a place where extra government expenditure has ever been welcomed, managed 50 days of sitting in 2013. Saskatchewan had 65 and Manitoba 84. Ontario hit triple digits at 101 days, with a government frequently battered by scandals, yet at least willing to weather them through question periods.

Even the government of Yukon Territory sat for 60 days last year. The population of Yukon was under 34,000 people during the last census.

What is the value of a sitting legislature?

Premier Christy Clark doesn’t see much of one, preferring to be elsewhere, by her own account. She has called the culture of the Legislature “sick.” Of course, that was quite a contrast from her 2005 views, when she said this: “I love question period. I love debate. I love the people I’ve met. I even love the protesters. I love politics.”

Some of us also love politics, and the opportunity to actually see our politicians debate things, in public, on television, on the record, and under a format in which they’re held to a certain level of decorum.

The Legislature, like it or not, is where the votes happen.

Without the debates and cut-and-thrust that Clark either loves or finds sick, we have government via press release and focus group.

Both the government and opposition MLAs deserve more time to make their case to British Columbians in 2014.

– M.C.

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