One of the things that has become so clear over the 10 years of the BC Liberal government is the complete lack of commitment to families and to communities - and this week in the House those concerns were underlined time and again.
Whether it is through the HST, yet more increases in ferry fares or lack of support for families who have a developmentally disabled child, the government has made life unaffordable for thousands of people.
The government has a $7m publicly funded campaign to convince people that the HST should stay. So we are using the short legislative session in Victoria to try to get some answers which are not being provided in their ad campaign. The finance minister still refuses to say whether, when the HST is defeated in the referendum, the tax structure will return to the way it was in June of last year when we had the GST and the PST; at that time coffee at a coffee shop, bikes, vitamins, gym memberships, weddings and funerals among other goods and services were exempt from the PST.
We’ve also raised the issue of provincial equity regarding ferry fares and the BC highways network. We heard there’s going to be another hike in June and so challenged the Minister of Transport
in Question Period on this issue. I also wrote to him
asking once again that there be fairness. The Minister represents a rural riding himself but his constituents do not have to pay every time they drive on their remote highways.
Another central theme for the week is the continued lack of support to those families who have a child who is 19 or older and has a developmental disability. Community Living BC was brought in 7 years ago by then Minister and now Premier Christy Clarke and it has been a failure. Families are struggling for support, for care, but are told there is no money in the system. The http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/39th3rd/H10518y.htmcases involved are very moving, very painful, and behind each one is a family in stress
We also challenged the government on its continued undermining of our economy and our communities with the export of raw logs. We raised it in Question Period and I also asked the Minister of Forests directly about the impact on the North Island
during the budget estimates debate. The Minister does not seem to understand either the need for local manufacturing or that those companies that have access to our public lands and forests have a responsibility to work not only for their shareholders but also in the public interest.
I questioned the Minister of Education
about the cuts to the budget which will leave School District 72 losing teachers and support staff. Once again the Minister was not able to explain how the funding system, set up by the BC Liberals, helps education in any of our communities. Likewise I was able to ask some questions of the Minister of Advanced Education about the lack of money going to North Island College
. At a time when we should be investing in post secondary education, training and the transition to a new economy, the budget has been flat-lined and that means no new programmes.
There is very little legislation coming into the House at the moment but I was very disappointed with one new Bill which brings with it changes to the Family Maintenance Enforcement programme. It will do nothing to help those people who really need it. This programme is supposed to ensure maintenance is paid to a spouse and children but often it leaves people in desperate straights and with no access to the court system for relief because of the lack of legal aid
I also asked some questions about the government’s latest tough on crime bill which eases the seizure of the alleged profits of crime. I voiced my unease about the legislation
because of the potential impact on civil liberties.
And I joined the debate for a continued ban on tanker traffic around the North Coast
. The risk to the environment and to the many thousands of jobs that rely on the oceans - from kayak businesses to fish farms - is too great to allow tar sands oil to be shipped through our waters.
It was, as always, a pleasure to meet with school groups that came to the Legislature. This week I met with students, teachers and parents from Pinecrest Elementary in Campbell River
and Kyuquot Elementary and Secondary
. I often go into the classroom to talk about parliament and our political system and it is great when young people can see it for themselves.
I will be in the constituency over the long weekend and hope that everyone has a chance for a bit of a break. We’re back in Victoria next week, but I can always be reached in Campbell River at 250 287 5100, in Port Hardy at 250 902 0356 or by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca.