Fall B.C. election looks more likely

Premier Christy Clark has announced she will run for the B.C. Liberal nomination in Vancouver-Point Grey.

VICTORIA – The B.C. legislature is getting set for a spring session from the last week of April through May.

Premier Christy Clark has kept her options open and held her cards close since winning the B.C. Liberal leadership in February. She announced Monday that she is seeking the nomination to fill the seat vacated by Gordon Campbell, with a byelection expected in May.

But a byelection would have had to be called by now to put Clark back on the front bench in time for the start of the spring session. And there are two legislative tasks that won’t wait: passing a $40-billion budget for the fiscal year that has already started, and changing the format and date of the harmonized sales tax referendum that has been announced for June.

A spring session must begin with the new premier coaching from the sidelines, but assuming Clark wins in Vancouver-Point Grey, it sets up her triumphant return to square off with the new NDP leader in question period before the session ends in early June.

A mail-in ballot for the HST referendum will allow several weeks for responses to be sent in. The government now says it will be August before the result is known.

Clark has indicated she wants the HST question decided before a general election is called. Thus a September vote becomes the most likely scenario.

The launch of TV ads by both B.C. parties is another sign of election preparations. Any new leader wants to take advantage of a honeymoon period that might be brief, and Clark’s upbeat ads with the tagline “this is just the start” set the tone.

NDP leadership candidate John Horgan talks about looking forward to a campaign where he hands out brochures with his picture, not Campbell’s. But the policy-challenged opposition has offered up another attack ad featuring, you guessed it, a picture of Campbell on a cereal box.

For the B.C. Liberals, the policy hits keep coming. First it was increasing the minimum wage, and now Clark’s “families first” machine is moving on BC Hydro.

Rich Coleman has a well-earned reputation for getting things done and he has wasted no time since Clark assigned him to the energy file. BC Hydro will continue with its application to raise rates nearly 10 per cent this year, but Coleman has begun a review aimed at paring back that and future increases expected to total 50 per cent by 2016.

Coleman quickly determined that delaying the imminent launch of BC Hydro’s smart grid project would be a false economy. Instead, he focused on a hugely expensive seismic upgrade, to the Ruskin Dam in the Fraser Valley. A major upgrade to the John Hart Dam on the Campbell River will likely go ahead, since the reservoir is also the city of Campbell River’s water supply, but Coleman wants BC Hydro to “restate its business case” for that and other big construction projects.

The Ruskin project is budgeted at about $800 million and is the type of project that can encounter costly surprises when digging into the dirt. Coleman has directed BC Hydro to look at decommissioning the old dam instead.

Did he really “direct” BC Hydro? Here’s what Coleman told me.

“It’s still Hydro’s decision at the end of the day I suppose, but certainly they’re going to have to report in to me on it, because I told them they have to.”

Coleman has also appointed three senior bureaucrats to find options for savings in BC Hydro’s plan, and to report back to him by the end of June.

That will give the government enough time to craft a rate relief program for BC Hydro customers, just in time for September.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com.

Just Posted

Preliminary inquiry being held for West Kelowna man charged in wife’s murder

Man charged in the killing of his wife is in court this week for a preliminary inquiry.

Kelowna a top Canadian city when it comes to moves

U-Haul ranks city 19th on its list of top 20 spots for DIY movers

SunRype puts stamp on Okanagan Marathon

The Kelowna-based company takes over title sponsorship of the annual October run and festival

Penticton man dies in Lavington train incident

Sunday afternoon incident claims 25 year old

Hot weather to hit the valley

Environment Canada issues a special weather statement.

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

B.C. pledges $550 million for Indigenous housing

Aboriginal leaders say federal government needs to pitch in too

Okanagan residents getting locked up for B.C. SPCA

SPCA events taking place around the Okanagan raises funds for abused and homeless animals

Falcons rally for win in Wenatchee

Kelowna scores four in the ninth inning to earn West Coast League victory over Apple Sox Sunday

Car crashes into City Park

A vehicle travelling at a high rate of speed crashed into a Kelowna park Sunday night

Morning balloon landing at mall

A hot air balloon landed in the parking lot of the mall in Kelowna

Sweden beats South Korea 1-0

Sweden gets benefit of video review in World Cup

Blue Jay Roberto Osuna not expected to appear in court

The Blue Jays pitcher is charged with one count of assault by Toronto police

Global warming cooks up ‘a different world’ over 3 decades

Over 30 years the world’s annual temperature has warmed nearly 1 degree according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Most Read