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

Chilliwack students learn about business and charity during entrepreneurship fair

Mt. Slesse Grade 8 kids will be donating 20 per cent of their business profits to the food bank

Work wrapping up in Chilliwack on the Valley Rail Trail expansion

The trail is envisioned as the north-south spine of a future cycling network

Chilliwack saw sub-tropical blast of warm air Wednesday

It didn’t break any official records but it was warmer than usual by several degrees

Around the BCHL: Junior A cities to host World Junior tuneup games

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s happening in the league and around the junior A world.

GW Graham wallops Ballenas Whalers in junior football playoff

Logan Buchwitz scored four touchdowns for the Grizzlies in a one-sided 40-0 win.

VIDEO: People with diabetes meet their alert dogs

A diabetic alert dog is trained to detect low blood sugar in people who have Type 1 diabetes

Hunter who saved B.C. man pinned inside smashed truck says ‘God was sending me to him’

Sayward man describes chance discovery of Duncan Moffat, 23, in northern Vancouver Island woods

Road-weary Canucks thumped 6-2 by Wild

Vancouver hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday

Toronto private school didn’t report alleged sexual assault to police

Police say a sexual assault at an all-boys Catholic institution was not reported to them

China says butt out; Canada calls for release of “arbitrarily” detained Muslims

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Canada’s envoy of going beyond their diplomatic roles

Dead Saskatoon tattoo artist’s skin removed and preserved

The skin was removed in honour of the well known artist’s work

Metro Vancouver mayors cancel Surrey LRT in favour of SkyTrain

TransLink will immediately suspend work on light rail

Lower Mainland couple missing in Thompson-Okanagan area

Barriere RCMP received a missing persons report for two senior overdue travellers

Vancouver Warriors cancel first 2 weeks of season as labour dispute continues

The announcement means games scheduled for Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 will no longer be played

Most Read