The three month fall session in the Legislature came to a close this week, and perhaps appropriately it ended with questions about government secrecy and the Olympics
Under Freedom of Information Legislation, everyone should have the opportunity to find out how government decisions are made, and how much they cost. Unfortunately these requests often come with large sections blacked out for various reasons, undermining the real intent of freedom of information legislation. The most recent freedom of information material which the opposition requested and finally received not only had much material obscured but came with a price tag of more than $10,000. Instead of being a healthy part of a democratic process this clearly indicates that only those who can pay can have access to government information.
Freedom of speech is fundamental to our society. No organisation, nor government, has the right to diminish that. Instead of openness, and the ability to discuss questions freely, there is a fearful proscripition of debate.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, because after months of cuts, underlined by a stringent budget passed this session, there is a similar mentality for much of what we should take for granted in BC. It’s only for those who can afford it. Post secondary education: only for those who can afford it; no frills (like library books and text books) for children in public education. Housing for those who can pay high rents: otherwise you face homelessness. Healthcare’s quicker if you are a member of a private clinic. A two tier society is becoming entrenched under this government.
And over the three months in the Legislature were answers given for people who are worried about jobs in the forest sector, for the hundreds of families across the north island who’ve seen their jobs disappear. No. We did see a Wood First Act – which legislates the use of wood in new building. It does not legislate the use of BC wood.
Did we see anything for families of special needs children? No. We saw cuts to programmes and the elimination of a highly successful autism programme. There was nothing for the working poor, for the families who need child care.
And once again we saw the shifting of priorities. A couple of years ago, the BC Liberals tried to position themselves as environmentally friendly. While BC became the first jurisdiction to introduce a carbon tax it was, and continues to be, too low to be anything more than a gesture. There was nothing over these last three months which recognised climate change as a reality, nor anything which would shift our approaches or attitudes to do something new.
The last week in the Legislature continued with the line by line debate on the budget estimates with two afternoons devoted to a head on discussion between Carole James and Gordon Campbell. Carole asked questions about the deficit and the HST.
We also finally reached the discussion on the budget for the Ministry of Education. I was able to extract some assurances that there would be a decision on which schools will be the first to host all day kindergarten well ahead of the January registration for the coming year. Unfortunately when I raised concerns of the District Parents Advisory Committee of School District 72
, I was told that those issues did not relate the ministry of Education but rather to that ministry which dealt with gaming money allocations.
We’re back in the Legislature at the beginning of February, when we will hear the government’s plan for the coming year. I’ll be primarily in the constituency for the coming months.
This week sees me in Campbell River and in Port Hardy. 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