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MLA debates in overdrive

Resistance to the carbon tax is futile.

That and seven other bills before the B.C. legislature will be pushed through by the end of May, regardless of NDP objections and delays, says B.C. Liberal house leader Mike de Jong.

Other items on the government’s “must pass” list include the Medicare Protection Amendment Act, which NDP critics have taken to calling the “Medicare Destruction Act” during a lengthy and bitter debate. The bill adds the vaguely defined principle of “sustainability” to the public health care guarantees included in federal legislation, and opponents say it will lead to cuts to universal public health care.

Another bill to be pushed through will impose new campaign financing rules in time for the May 2009 election. NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said it’s “outrageous” for the government to limit debate on contentious rules that would limit anti-government advertising before an election.

“This is just another example of a government that treats this chamber as its own personal plaything, and is not prepared to follow their own calendar,” Farnworth said.

De Jong said Elections BC officials need to know what the rules are so they can prepare for the scheduled election. The carbon tax on fossil fuels is scheduled to go into effect July 1, coordinated with income tax cuts and the payment of a $100 “climate action dividend” cheque for every B.C. resident next month.

Talks between the two parties did result in agreement to deal with most of the government’s climate change agenda, including industrial emissions trading and new vehicle exhaust standards, as well as a dozen other pieces of legislation, including a ban on smoking in cars with children present.

The political rivals also agreed to sit an extra four days this month, instead of taking a break the week following Victoria Day, May 19. An extra committee room could also be opened up for routine business so the more than 30 pieces of new legislation can be debated in the main chamber.

“At the end of the day, the government is seeking to pass approximately the same number of bills that we passed last year,” de Jong said.

He said the extra sitting days and the additional committee room will add the equivalent of a month of debate time to the normal schedule.

The government also announced it was deferring debate on four new bills, dealing with wills and estates, resource roads, social workers and insurance regulations.

Those could be debated in the scheduled fall session in October and November, but de Jong would not commit to having that session.

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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