It’s been a diverse week in the Legislature as the government tried to make sure that all its outstanding legislation was wrapped up, and we continued to go through the budget in line by line, estimates debate.
With the fixed sessions of the Legislature, the government can try to manage the agenda, marching the bills through the House and stick-handling the estimates. It is unusual to have the estimates debates in the autumn but that’s because a new budget was brought in after the election.
And that means time has been short to go through the many ministries. The Ministry of Environment, which has received severe cuts in the latest budget cycle, received only one day of scrutiny: this for the ministry that is involved in enforcement, compliance, conservation and climate change.
I was able to raise concerns about the Environmental Assessment process on the Upper Toba and Bute private power projects
(Hansard, p 2397). The Minister usually has 45 days to go through all the documents involved in the assessment and Minister Penner admitted that this took a great deal of work: however it only took him 11 days from receiving the controversial Upper Toba assessment to signing off on the project. And when it comes to the assessment for the Bute project – which would be Canada’s largest private power project and larger than the mega dam proposed for Site C – the Province will work independent of the Federal assessment process.
On the issue of alternative energies, and the need to do things differently I was able to also talk about BC’s one wind turbine fabricator: CNL Machining and Fabricating in Port McNeill
(Hansard, p 2577).
The Ministry of Health estimates were prefaced by a hearty rally against cuts to health care by the Vancouver Island Health Authority: dozens of protesters came out mid week to say they wanted to protect our health system, including a number from Campbell River and Quadra
(Hansard, p 2485).
I was able to raise a number of concerns in the Health estimates: the ongoing threat to the operation of our Intensive Care Unit at Campbell River Hospital because of the lack of doctors, plans for the new hospital, and the cuts to endoscopies in Campbell River
(Hansard, pp 2608, 2609). The Minister gave assurances that he would ensure the support of the ICU, and was waiting to see VIHA’s business plan for our new hospital. However, despite commitments to cancer prevention and care, he said Campbell River would see a reduction in endoscopies because more were being carried out here than in other centres on the island. That’s going to have a direct impact on many people’s health and I will continue to push for a restoration of the service.
I also questioned the Minister on the plan to close the crisis lines across the island, including those in Campbell River and Port Hardy. Unfortunately he is adamant that VIHA’s decision on the crisis lines will not be overturned. I, and all Opposition island MLAs, are keeping the fight on to make sure these lifelines do remain local.
We also raised questions about executive pay, and the fact that BC Ferries is not covered by Freedom of Information legislation, which means many facts that should be public knowledge are kept hidden. But even with Freedom of Information legislation the BC Liberal government still tries to keep the people of BC in the dark: the reports received often have large, and relevant, sections blacked out -- as we once again discovered when we again questioned some Olympic spending.
Friday sees me in Campbell River, where among other activities I’ll be marking National Child Day at the Community Centre. On Saturday I’ll be at Winterfest, in Sointula. You can always reach me by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or by phone on 250 287 100 in Campbell River, 250 902 0325 in Port Hardy (office hours there are Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon to 4pm) or toll free on 1 866 387 5100.
Claire Trevena, MLA