Island issues were the focus of much of the debate in the Legislature this week, starting with questions on health care cuts. The Opposition launched its attack on Monday with questions to the Minister on the massive cuts announced by the Vancouver Island Health Authority which will impact surgeries and preventative screening measures in the north island.
We were able to show how the cuts will also impact the crisis lines in Campbell River, Port Hardy, Courtenay and across the island. As of next March those, largely volunteer run lines which are central to the support of many in our communities, will be closed and replaced by a 1-800 number located well away from the people who really need the local help.
The estimates process – the line by line examination of the budget – continued during the week and I was able to raise questions about first nations housing. In the Throne speech, which outlines the government’s plans for the session, a commitment was made to tackling the appalling housing on reserves. Sadly, when I raised the continuing crisis in Tsulquate
near Port Hardy, I was told there is no cash to back the promise. I continue to work with the community to try to get some solution as the massive overcrowding and poor housing are simply wrong.
While the headlines may have been about the government handing out free tickets for the Olympics we were also raising very serious concerns about changes in legislation which would allow authorities to enter people’s homes in Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler, during the Olympics, if they had offensive signs visible. This obviously is of great concern, because of the limits to free speech; the clause related only to the time around the Olympics and only to those communities hosting the event.
Another troubling piece of legislation is an amendment to the welfare rules which will deny welfare or disability assistance to anyone who has an outstanding warrant for arrest in Canada. This is again an attack on civil liberties because it is targeting those accused of offences rather than those who are charged. If passed it could also set a dangerous precedent because ultimately it is using welfare rules - part of our disintegrating social safety net - to enforce the criminal justice system.
We have also seen a couple of bills introduced to deal with public safety. One puts much more stringent guidelines on the sale and use of body armour; that’s designed to tackle gang issues. The other is the ban on the use of cell phones while driving; this bill does permit hands-free phone use, but does stop people from texting and messaging while driving. The debate led to a number of MLAs talking about their own bad practices and also their own experiences of traffic accidents. While the law comes into effect at the beginning of January, I would encourage everyone to put down their cell, Blackberry and other hi tech toys while driving, now.
I had the pleasure of introducing two well known Campbell River residents in the Legislature on Thursday, when Bob and Linda Brind’Amour
Friday will be spent at the Island Coast Economic Trust meeting in Courtenay and then with meetings back in Campbell River. Saturday I’ll be at the 350 Degree climate change event at Quadra Community Centre.
We’re back in the Legislature again next week so feel free to bring issues or concerns to me. You can always reach me through the constituency office on 250 287 5100 or 1 866 387 5100 or by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca. We’re expecting to get the phones hooked up for the Port Hardy office shortly and will be letting people know opening hours and the contact details there as soon as we’ve got them.