It’s been another rocky week in the Legislature, with the government still scrambling to explain the myriad number of cuts it has introduced – to funding to help autistic children, to school sports, parents advisory councils and special olympics, to name but a few.
Their explanations wear thin and seem to have little substance when faced with what’s really happening in our communities with organisations faced with growing confusion over whether or not they are receiving monies they had expected.
These groups range from arts and culture organisations through to local governments. Because they too are waiting to hear whether they will get funds they had been counting on for those big, capital, stimulus projects. They too have been held up by the BC Liberal government; nearly every other province has started work on the infrastructure projects aimed at helping temper the impact of the recession – except BC.
Instead we spent much of the week debating Bill 2, which includes an amendment to allow the government to effectively waive its balanced budget commitments – for a second time this year. This is the legislation which enshrines the obligation to always balance the books. In the spring the government brought in legislation which gave it the authority to be in deficit for two years: that’s when it was projecting a $495 million hole. Now with the figure at $2.9 billion the government is asking for approval for a four year cycle of deficits.
But the issue isn’t one of whether or not it should or shouldn’t have a deficit – rather it is the continuing sense that people were deceived. Throughout the election campaign the Premier and his finance minister committed to people of BC that the deficit would be $495 million. And soon after it was six times that level.
Similarly the same piece of legislation, Bill 2, is responsible for dismantling Tourism BC. This, in addition to the introduction of the Harmonised Sales Tax, has left the tourism industry fuming. Tourism BC was a world renowned arms length organisation which promoted BC internationally and worked with tourism operators and authorities. It has now been subsumed by the Ministry of Tourism. There are obviously many questions this raises about the government’s commitment to promoting the province and working with a growing and important industry.
We have also been questioning cuts to women’s services, in particular those directed to violence against women. Effectively the government is nickel and diming the organisations so vital to women’s safety. I talked in the House about two organisations which help women in Campbell River
Because the budget was introduced in September, we now have the opportunity to examine it line by line in the estimates process. There are many local issues I hope to raise during this period.
I will be in Campbell River through the weekend: on Thursday evening I will be addressing the Campbell River Services AGM. Friday sees meetings with various organisations and businesses and Sunday I’ll be at the Haig Brown Festival.
Next week the Legislature does not sit, because of the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Vancouver. I will be at that meeting, assisting councillors, regional district officials and mayors with their meetings with government ministers and their opposition critics.
I can always be contacted by phone on 250 287 5100 in Campbell River or 1 866 387 5100 toll free; my email is Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca. And I will soon reopen an office in the north island, this time in Port Hardy. We’ll be letting people know contact details as soon as they are confirmed and when the official opening will be.
Claire Trevena, MLA North Island