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Campbell recalls legislature, but sitting days remain at record low

Premier Gordon Campbell's commitment yesterday to recall the legislature may increase the total number of days the house is likely to sit this year. Or not.

Speaking with reporters after a speech to the Truck Loggers Association, Campbell committed to meeting Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson's request to bring the MLAs back to Victoria and approve Vancouver's plan to borrow up to $458 million to finance the Olympic athlete's village.

The Tyee last week reported that the recently posted parliamentary calendar showed a maximum of 46 likely meeting days in 2009, once the election period was subtracted, and as long as there were no changes. That's 10 fewer days than in 2008 when the Campbell government was criticized for avoiding the legislature.

The emergency sitting could add as many as three more days in the house, especially since NDP opposition leader Carole James has reportedly said her party won't help rush the legislation through—there's been enough Olympic spending committed with insufficient scrutiny already. That would bring the total number of sitting days up to 49.

Not so fast, said Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix. To estimate how long Campbell will likely face the legislature it is worth looking at the precedent set before the 2005 election, he said. That year the government closed the house on March 10, a couple months ahead of the election.

Doing the same thing this year, finishing after the second week of March, would knock another eight days off the schedule. “Our view is that shouldn't happen this time,” said Dix, but it may well be Campbell's plan. “We know the government doesn't like the legislature to sit. They've proved that.”

So even with the three days added to help resolve the Vancouver mess, the legislature may sit as little as 41 days this year, or 15 days fewer than in 2008.

And if you look at how much the house will have sat in the May-to-May year between April 1, 2008 and May 30, 2009, said Dix, it may well be a Canadian if not a Commonwealth record for the fewest days a legislature has sat.

By our count, if Campbell adds three days but then ends the spring session on March 12, the house will have sat for just 27 days in the 12 months ahead of the election.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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