The bill which brings in the HST was passed in the Legislature at the end of the week, after the BC Liberals shut down debate.
In order to push the bill through on its own timeline, the government used its power to restrict debate. We were in the middle of discussing an amendment brought in by the NDP, which would have allowed the bill to be taken out for public consultation and would have meant experts and individuals could have appeared before one of the standing Legislative committees to offer their opinions on the HST, when the debate was cut off. Then the BC Liberals voted against our amendment and in favour of the bill proceeding without public consultation.
We continued to grill the government in the limited committee time we had, and we continued to vote against the bill on each stage that we could. But at the end of the day on Thursday, the government called the final vote – with an unanimous vote against by the NDP and every single Liberal MLA voting in favour of it.
We will continue raising questions about it at every opportunity we can, and we will continue to press the government to tell Ottawa that we do not want the HST in British Columbia and that we should change the arrangements which Gordon Campbell made so swiftly, behind closed doors last summer.
But with that contentious issue still steaming another big battle has started in the Legislature, over the BC Liberals so-called Clean Energy Act, Bill 17. This is a misnomer if ever there was one. This act will allow the proliferation of private companies taking over our rivers and desecrating our watersheds so they can make a profit selling power to California.
Bill 17 is a sweeping act which, by taking away the public interest oversight of the BC Utilities Commission, will allow for fast tracking of private power projects, such as the ones promoted by General Electric and Plutonic Power in Bute Inlet and the massive plan for the KlinaKlini backed by another private corporation.
And again we are faced with an election promise broken. Throughout the campaign just a year ago, the government said it intended to protect BC Hydro and was not planning to produce power for sale to the United States. Now we see the public interest yet again being undermined with the clear statement that our power will be produced for export. Our rivers will be sold to private companies so they can sell power to keep golf courses green and the air conditioners going in the United States. These contracts for private misuse of our public lands and waters are for many years are a frightening prospect. We are already seeing the extensive environmental degradation as massive private power projects are constructed and the huge stretches of wilderness they occupy will continue to be lost to public control for generations to come.
That is unless we have courage to make a major change. The Opposition will be fighting this wholeheartedly through the Legislature and I will be proud to take my place in the debate. But in the longer term we have to be able to say that what was done by the BC Liberals was wrong, and we can put it right. We have to have those solutions and the courage to enact them.
This Friday sees the start of that move with Our Province Our Future, a major conference in Vancouver hosted by the Opposition. This will be an opportunity to engage with British Columbians about new ways of doing things: it will be a chance to discuss the need to scale back – making power projects work for local communities not for Californian subdivisions. It will be the chance to discuss whether we are using the right tools – for instance, should we still use GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as our key indicator or perhaps GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator). It will be a chance to discuss what we truly mean when we talk about a green, sustainable economy and how we can make that happen. If you want to get involved in this debate which will shape the way we all work in the future, a website is being launched after the event: www.ourprovinceourfuture.bc.ca
While debate focuses on the big issues in the Legislature, I did get the opportunity for some comments and questions about the North Island. I was able to talk about the desperate need for books in the Kyuquot school library
and the fundraising efforts to acquire them; and I raised questions of the Minister of Advanced Education about funding for literacy work and work with First Nations at North Island College
. A group from the Campbell River Multicultural and Immigrant Services Association came to the Legislature on Monday and I was happy to meet with them and introduce them in the House.
I will be at the economic conference in Vancouver on Friday and Saturday sees me in Sayward to mark the opening of a heritage sign project. Saturday evening I’ll be at the Angel Rock fundraiser in Campbell River for the Hospice Society. We are back in Victoria Monday and I expect much of the week spent on Bill 17, the power-for-export bill.
If you want to contact me about any issue, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call Campbell River on 250 287 5100, Port Hardy on 250 902 0325 or toll free at 1866 387 5100. Or drop me an email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca.