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Harper to address B.C. legislature on eve of Games

A worker cleans the fountain in front of the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will address the B.C. Legislature on the eve of the Olympics next Thursday, thanking the province for its efforts to prepare the Games. "The Prime Minister will salute Vancouver, Whistler and British Columbia for its magnificent work in organizing and hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games - 'Canada's Games,' " said a statement from Mr. Harper's office.

A prime ministerial speech to a provincial or territorial legislature is rare and last occurred in 1990, when Brian Mulroney discussed the Meech Lake accord with the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly.

Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell noted Mr. Harper's speech before B.C. members will be the first time a prime minister has so addressed the B.C. Legislature.

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"To have the Prime Minister come and speak to the legislature for the first time in the history of the province, effectively to recognize the contribution of thousands and thousands of British Columbians to bring us these Games is something that's very special," Mr. Campbell said Thursday after Mr. Harper's formal acceptance of an invitation to visit by the speaker of the legislature. "I am pleased he's coming."

Mr. Campbell said the Speaker, Bill Barisoff, will have to seek formal agreement from legislature members to allow for the Thursday speech.

NDP Leader Carole James said her party will welcome Mr. Harper, but acknowledged some may raise questions about him being at work in the B.C. assembly amid questions about Parliament being prorogued.

"If the Prime Minister is coming to address the legislature, he's obviously the Prime Minister and he has a right to do that," Ms. James said. "The questions that British Columbians will ask and Canadians will ask around proroguing and around the House not sitting in Ottawa - I think those are very valid questions and I expect them to be asked outside the legislature."

Political scientist Norman Ruff of the University of Victoria said Mr. Harper's appearance speaks to the state of harmonious relations between Ottawa and Victoria, and Mr. Campbell and Mr. Harper.

At various times throughout modern history, relations between B.C. and Ottawa have been too fractious to make such an event likely, he said.

Since coming to power in 2001, Mr. Campbell has tended to get along with prime ministers, whether they were Liberals Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin or the Conservative Mr. Harper.

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