Premier Christy Clark's decision to dispense with a fall session of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia is unfortunate. Parliaments are essential to holding governments accountable. Question periods are not always edifying, but they are vital to the political order.
The legislature was adjourned at the end of May. It is true that in 2011 it sat for 48 days; this year it has sat for 47 – a small difference in one sense. The expected gap, however, is large; the public of B.C. will be without its representative body for eight months.
Moreover, in the past two centuries, the examination and passage of legislation have become integral parts of the governing process in democracies. Any notion that there has been a shortage of legislative business is unpersuasive. Before the adjournment on May 31 "until further notice," the MLAs of B.C. consented to a number of substantial bills in unseemly haste.
The long absence suggests political weakness. The coming period of Ms. Clark's and her colleagues' consultation with the public – "real people," as she put it, in contrast to the "sick culture" of politicians in Victoria – sounds like an extended pre-election campaign, to be accompanied by attractive announcements, in the hope of turning the Liberals' fortunes around before the legislature returns briefly in February, 2013, to be followed by the election in May.
Ms. Clark has replaced three cabinet ministers who are not seeking re-election. The new Minister of Finance, Michael de Jong, in particular, could well use some time to verse himself in his present portfolio and figure out how to deal with the loss of revenue as a result of the fall of natural-gas prices.
On balance, however, the abandonment of the previously planned 28-day fall session looks more like a political manoeuvre than a public-spirited choice of a pause for deep thought.