The Legislature has been back – albeit for breaks during the Olympics and Paralympics – since early February and still the government has not brought in the piece of legislation most people in BC are dreading: the Bill which will allow for the introduction of the HST.
Another week has gone by and we are still no closer to seeing what the government intends to do, or how it intends to implement this new flat tax. When the bill is brought in, it will undoubtedly overshadow the rest of the session and the Official Opposition has vowed to fight it every step of the way through the Legislature.
In the meantime the government showed once again that it truly has no vision for the province when it introduced the first legislation, apart from the budget, that we have seen since last autumn. It brought in two acts which cover a broad range of areas: a financial act which amends various statutes, but has no mention of the HST in it and a Miscellaneous act, which makes changes across a number of ministries.
The other bill the government introduced is nothing more than smoke and mirrors: the Zero Net Deforestation Act
. The government has cloaked this piece of legislation as a way to slow down climate change. Grasping the obvious the Minister of Forests has realised that planting trees are good for the planet. There are already rules in place for forest companies on our Crown land to replant so this bill intends to tackle other logging: for instance if trees are removed to build a road, trees should be planted elsewhere to replace them.
Unfortunately this bill ignores the fact that our land base has been devastated under this government’s watch. We’ve seen the end of cut control and forest land turned into real estate. We’ve seen the massive amounts of less valuable cut trees left to rot – and emit carbon dioxide – in the bush. And we’ve seen a refusal to commit to silviculture. With that sort of record, a two page feel good bill which says that by 2015 – five years from now – there must be as many trees planted as are cut, in areas which are not used for tree harvesting, is risible.
The Campbell government’s specious commitment to climate change came under fire during question period when the premier was questioned about the Enbridge pipeline. Environmentalists and First Nations, including many from the North Island, came out very strongly against the pipeline which will transfer gas from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat. In a very rare response from the Premier during question period, he defended the pipeline and dismissed the environmental degradation that will result from its construction and the risk to our coastline of a massive oil spill.
What we should be seeing is a comprehensive plan for our land base which includes our forests, which includes communities, which includes our ecosystem. We need to redefine what we can and should do with our public lands and our waters to ensure that we deal with climate change in a lasting way. We need to be doing it in a way that supports people and our communities.
Unfortunately rural communities, except those in the oil and gas patch of north east BC, are not front and centre for the government which was again made clear in question period debates. The Liberal government promised, four years ago, it would provide funding for social service agencies to introduce pensions this year; but it turned around two weeks before the pensions were due to be brought in and said there would be no money. That means cuts in services and jobs – including Campbell River Family Services, Anne Elmore Transition House and the Comox Valley Transition Society
And Success by Six, a highly successful early childhood support programme won’t get funding after next year. In question period the Minister responsible said that does not matter because her government will be bringing in all day kindergarten. Even in pre-school children know that apples and oranges are different, but the minister clearly does not know that’s the case with early childhood programmes.
The BC Liberal’s heartless approach to the most vulnerable was again on display when the issue of dental care for children of people on welfare was raised. The government has decided to go to the lowest common denominator cutting the care for these children. This is a very sick government.
In my last report I mentioned that I would be attending the BC Rural Summit in Port Hardy last week. I was able to tell the Legislature about the historic North Island Protocol Agreement
, that was signed at the event.