Photo: The Canadian Press
BC Premier David Eby makes an announcement in Vancouver on Sunday, November 20, 2022.
The first two pieces of legislation proposed by Premier David Eby are expected to be passed on Thursday, despite grim exchanges in the legislature over the government’s move to impose time limits on debate.
The Housing Supply Act and the Building and Bylaws Amendment Act were introduced on Monday and could be passed on Thursday, the same day the legislature is expected to postpone until February.
The two bills aim to increase housing supply with measures that will end several rent restrictions and have the potential to force municipalities to meet housing growth targets.
Eby said BC is in a housing crisis and the government needs to move quickly to increase housing supply, especially since more than 100,000 people moved to the province in the last year.
The New Democrats and the two Green Party members voted in favor of second reading of the bills on Tuesday, while opposition Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon and the other 25 Liberals opposed the bills.
“What a shameful start for a prime minister to actually shut down democracy in the legislature,” Liberal health critic Shirley Bond said in the legislature on Wednesday.
Liberal Justice Minister Critic Mike de Jong said he could not recall an instance of a BC government ordering a shutdown of debate within 24 hours of being tabled in the legislature.
“God forbid those pesky MLAs should have an opportunity to ask questions,” he said in the legislature.
Eby said he recalled that the Liberals used the shutdown to pass six bills in 30 minutes in 2008.
“It must have been a crisis,” he said.
Eby said he is committed to taking swift action on the housing front.
“British Columbians want us to act and I will not apologize for acting,” he said.
The legislation aims to increase housing supply with measures that will end several rent restrictions and has the potential to force municipalities to meet housing growth targets.
Criticism of the bills includes concerns that housing growth targets are not clearly defined, potentially affecting everything from official community plans to efforts to limit urban sprawl or address climate change adaptation.
The housing debate also prompted opposition Liberals to demand that Eby launch independent audits at BC Housing and the Atira Women’s Resources Society after separate reports indicated mismanagement by the social housing providers.
BC Housing is a Crown corporation that develops, manages and administers subsidized housing in the province, while Atira is a non-profit housing provider.
Falcon said a leaked 2018 report by accounting firm BDO Canada, commissioned to conduct a financial review at Atira, found “inconsistent accounting practices, lack of budget commitment and ineffective board oversight.”
A review of BC Housing by accounting firm Ernst and Young released last June found that “the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of both the government shareholder and BC Housing are unclear.”