The cancelled fall sitting bad for business community

David Schreck draws useful attention to a significant effect of the cancellation of the fall sitting of the legislature.
The rules for the return of the PST next April have still not been set, more than a year after a referendum ordered the HST's  repeal.
A fall sitting would allow a full debate of the planned tax regime, and a chance for businesses affected to identify issues.
But instead, according to the Finance Ministry, a proposed version of the legislation won't be introduced until December, and it will be passed in the abbreviated spring session, less than two months before the tax regime changes.
That is neither prudent, nor competent. The tax regime is important, and should be debated. Businesses need more than two months to prepare. The government has had lots of time to get the legislation ready.
And it is notable that the government took 11 months from the time it announced the HST until consumers started paying, but says it needs 19 months to return to the PST.
There are other reasons for a fall sitting. The Liberal government forced legislation through without real debate in the spring, and has admitted the rush produced flawed laws that have to be changed. It would have been better to put those bills off to the fall.
The government always claimed the fall sittings would be used to introduce bills and allow public comments before they were passed in the next session - a good idea.
And Finance Minister Mike De Jong announced this week that more than $1 billion in budget changes would be required because the government's forecasts were wrong. Those spending cuts, or tax increases, should be debated in the legislature, not behind closed doors.
The legislature serves another function. MLAs - of all parties - have the chance to raise issues important to people in their ridings, and ask questions.
But those chances have been increasingly curtailed by the current government.
Between 1992 and 2000, the legislature sat an average of 77 days. Since 2002, that has fallen to 59 days. In the last three years, the legislature has averaged 47 sitting days.
That suggests a government without much of an agenda. And one unwilling to have its policies and actions subjected to debate.

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