The twelve-week spring session of the BC legislature concluded Thursday evening, May 29. This session was the longest continuous sitting of the legislature since 2012. The governing BC Liberals demonstrated poise and confidence, emboldened by the leadership transition of the opposition BC NDP.

Premier Christy Clark and her team advanced the main BC Liberal themes of job creation, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) sector development and spending control. The opposition BC NDP closed the latest chapter in their history and now look towards the next one under new leader John Horgan.

In February, Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals passed their second consecutive balanced budget since returning to the black following the global financial crisis, forecasting modest budget surpluses through 2016-17. The key development regarding LNG was the announcement of a proposed tax structure which received lukewarm response from industry. In addition, the province unveiled the B.C. Skills for Jobs Blueprint that will re-orient the advanced education and training sectors, pushing British Columbians towards training that will meet forecast labour demands in LNG and other areas such as health services.

Premier Christy Clark completed her fifth international trade mission in May. Premier Clark, Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman and industry delegates travelled to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia to strengthen relationships with companies and governments interested in B.C.’s LNG industry. There are 13 proposed LNG projects in B.C. and two LNG proponents recently signed Letters of Intent with government to further the growth of LNG in B.C. The first final investment decisions are expected later this year.

Legislation Overview

The Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act was the most controversial bill passed this session. It creates two zones for the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) that will allow some types of non-farm development in parts of the province where there is less arable land. The changes to the ALR resulted in outrage from the BC NDP, who view the ALR as a legacy accomplishment of past BC NDP governments.

A complete list of all bills passed is available in the appendix. Notable legislative changes made by the BC Liberals include the:

+        Liquor Control and Licensing Amendment Act to allow sales in grocery stores

+        Park Amendment Act to allow for limited industrial activity within provincial parks

+        Water Sustainability Act to provide additional protection for groundwater

+        Local Election Statutes Amendment Act to extend the terms of municipal governments to four years

+        Pension Benefits Standards Amendment Act to create pooled registered pension plans for those British Columbians who don’t have an employer plan

+        Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act to ensure northern and rural representation

Opposition in Transition

Following their devastating election loss last May, former Leader Adrian Dix announced he would step down as party leader, opening the possibility of a leadership contest. Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth emerged as the only candidate early in the race. When nobody else stepped forward to challenge him, Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan reconsidered his earlier decision not to run. Farnworth ended up throwing his support behind Horgan, who was acclaimed Leader of the Opposition in May. New leader John Horgan is expected to shuffle his Opposition Critics soon.

Legislature to Return in October

Both sides of the House are scheduled to return to Victoria in October for a fall session of the legislature; however there is a possibility the BC Liberals may recall the House for a brief summer session to legislate the teachers back to work if labour negotiations continue to stall. Legislation enabling the LNG tax structure is expected to be introduced and debated in October.

Appendix – Legislation Passed during Spring 2014 Legislative Session

Bill Number

Title

Member

1

An Act to Ensure the Supremacy of Parliament

Hon. S. Anton

2

Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. S. Anton

3

Missing Persons Act

Hon. S. Anton

4

Park Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. M. Polak

5

Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. S. Thomson

6

Provincial Capital Commission Dissolution Act

Hon. C. Oakes

7

Laboratory Services Act

Hon. T. Lake

8

Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2014

Hon. M. de Jong

9

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act

Hon. M. de Jong

10

Pension Benefits Standards Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. M. de Jong

11

Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. M. Polak

12

Natural Gas Development Statutes Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. R. Coleman

13

Off-Road Vehicle Act

Hon. S. Thomson

14

Justice Statutes Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. S. Anton

15

Liquor Control and Licensing Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. S. Anton

16

Supply Act (No. 1), 2014

Hon. M. de Jong

17

Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. S. Anton

18

Water Sustainability Act

Hon. M. Polak

19

Animal Health Act

Hon. P. Pimm

20

Local Elections Campaign Financing Act

Hon. C. Oakes

21

Local Elections Statutes Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. C. Oakes

22

South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. T. Stone

23

South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Funding Referenda Act

Hon. T. Stone

24

Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. P. Pimm

26

The Cultus Lake Park Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. C. Oakes

Pr 401

Armstrong-Spallumcheen Student Assistance Association (Corporate Restoration) Act, 2014

Mr. Kyllo