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Budget panel suggests fixing fixed election schedule

The provincial government should make changes so that budget debate is finished before election day in years when British Columbians vote, a government-appointed panel has recommended.

“The Review Panel recommends that . . . Government make whatever changes are necessary to the budget calendar, Estimates debate schedule and the fixed election date so that there is time in an election year to complete the budget debate and pass the Supply Act before the legislature is dissolved,” the seven-person budget process review panel chaired by Douglas Enns said in its report released today.

It was one of two dozen recommendations made in the 76-page report, which also suggested shrinking the economic forecast council from 12 to 10 members and including more discussion of the risks associated with the government's decision on whether or not to include a forecast allowance in the budget.

In February Premier Gordon Campbell’s government introduced a budget with a $495-million deficit, but it was not fully debated before the May 12 election, a date set in provincial law. In September the government produced an updated budget showing a $2.8-billion deficit.

If the government were to move the election date, the panel said, it should be early enough in the fall “to have an appropriate pre‐budget process and prepare a budget for the next year that fully complies with the [Budget Transparency and Accountability Act].”

Newpapers quoted Campbell himself in 2004 making a similar suggestion to move the fixed election date to the fall, but it was not done.

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

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