Once again the HST took the central focus in the Legislature this week with an incredible government announcement that it has suddenly decided to cut the tax rate over the coming three years. The government has been crass and exploitative in the past, but this is a blatant attempt to buy votes ahead of the coming referendum.
When the Premier was running for leadership of the BC Liberal Party, she herself said that dropping the rate by a point or two ahead of the referendum vote would be akin to buying votes. It used to be that politicians wanting to win votes would buy drinks where the election was being held (usually a public place); the BC Liberals offer cheques to people with children and untrustworthy promises that in a few years the HST will be less than it is now.
I have to ask why anyone would trust this government. After all, it came to office just two years ago having said the HST was not even on the horizon. That was the same election when we were told the deficit would not be a penny more than $496 million. Well, neither of those promises were kept. So why would anyone expect them to stick to these latest attempts to cling to power.
And it is nothing more than that. The government over the last few weeks has shown that it is completely empty of ideas. We have a bill which amends the coastal ferry act - but it is not likely to bring the radical changes that people who live in ferry dependent communities hope for: rolling back fares or bringing the ferry system back under the Ministry of Transportation. In fact while the commissioner’s review is taking place, the Minister himself is sloughing off all responsibility about our ferry system.
And because the government is determined to end the Legislative session on June 2nd, despite our not sitting through the whole of the spring, pending legislation will be force-fed through with little or no time allowed for debate. They include a First Nations’ treaty, bills which change the family and community services act and the clean energy act (which in itself was passed without scrutiny last year). Even the motion covering the just announced, cynical changes to the HST will not get full debate.
The usual process of going through the budget estimates, where the opposition can get a line by line analysis of what is in the budget, is also being truncated. However I did have the opportunity to underline the need for continued government commitment to our new hospitals
. I also pushed for our public healthcare to be provided in a publically built hospital - rather than getting entangled in a P3 - but am less hopeful about that. Because of the truncated estimates process, I was not able to raise the ongoing concerns about the lack of space for seniors needing care in the North Island. I hope to do so next week.
I talked about the bill which sets up an independent investigations office to examine police misconduct
. This comes out of the Braidwood inquiry which followed the death of Robert Dziekansky. While we in the opposition is largely supportive of it, there are some questions which have been raised - including the scope of the office, potential conflicts with other investigative offices and the fact that no budget has been set for it.
In my role as critic for the Ministry of Children and Family Development I spoke about the first Child and Youth in Care
week; this is an important event, recognising the right of young people in proper care. However the government still shows too little commitment to our children and youth - otherwise it would be tackling the constant shame for BC, the unforgivably high level of child and youth poverty.
This week saw a visit by the T'lisalagi'lakw School from Alert Bay
, and it was my pleasure to meet with students, their teacher and parents when they came to the Legislature.
It is with some sadness that I am announcing that my Constituency Assistant in Port Hardy, Norm Prince, has decided to resign and resume his retirement. Norm has been a central part of our team over the last three years and I thank him for his commitment. His resignation coincides with a decision not to renew the lease for the Port Hardy constituency office. I will be using the summer to examine alternatives for ensuring everyone in the North Island can get the service they need. In the meantime you can continue to reach me through email at Claire.trevenaleg.bc.ca or at Campbell River office 1 866 387 5100 or 250 287 5100.