General · 2nd August 2011
As I write this, we are in the final days of the HST referendum campaign. To many it must seem to have been going on forever; the outcome is anticipated by everyone.
I was very public in my support for the tax to be rescinded. My ‘yes’ vote was not only because the HST is an unfair tax, or that it takes away provincial control over or tax system, or that those that benefit most from it are the corporations not consumers.
Beyond those reasons, I voted in favour of getting rid of the tax was because of the way it was brought in without consultation after the Liberals were deceitful about it during the last provincial election and because of the continued manipulation of the playing field by the Liberal government. We’ve now all heard of the untendered contracts to sell the people of BC on the tax. We’ve seen months of taxpayer-funded commercials telling us that it is good for us. Further, we’ve even been offered a bribe - the promised reduction in the rate by 2014 - a promise made without any details being provided.
But this is not the way tax policy should be developed or implemented. We should not be having a referendum on a significant revenue stream. We should look towards California to be aware of the dangers of setting tax policy through initiatives and referenda: a state which is broke and cannot provide basic public services.
If there is anything positive to come from the exercise we have gone through in the last two years is the realization that we need an honest and open discussion about fair taxation and other revenue available to a government to provide the services our society needs to function and to thrive.
Many people gripe about taxes, but without them, and without money coming to the government through stumpage, crown leases, and resource rents we would not have any infrastructure - whether that be roads, hospitals, teachers or conservation officers: all paid for by the public purse.
Unfortunately for the last ten years we have seen taxes go down while fees and bills for public services rise. MSP has been going up 6 percent a year; we are paying more for our 100 year old provincial parks which are now operated by private organisations; hydro bills are sky-rocketing; ferry fares are unsustainable. So while a person’s tax bill may be lower each April, other costs to each of us are much greater.
But we need to ensure society’s infrastructure is secure - and we have to pay for it. We regularly see emergency room closures at Port Hardy hospital: that’s because VIHA, and by extension the Ministry of Health, will not provide the money for staffing. Radiologists across Vancouver Island called for a mobile MRI for the North Island; that was turned down by VIHA because, again, it says there’s no money.
There is an acute shortage, from Campbell River north, of speech therapists, occupational therapists and others who can help children with special needs. It’s not because they are not being trained, it is that the budget for the Ministry of Children and Family Development is flat for the next three years. On the 100th anniversary of our provincial parks we see 10 full time rangers for the whole province, and a budget continually being cut. Across the constituency I hear complaints about the roads, but there’s no money for those, nor for our ferries.
As MLA I take these issues on and argue with the government for a cut of the pie for the North Island: but the philosophy I am faced with is that there is no money and so if the service is going to be provided it will likely come from the private sector. Frankly that is not good enough. We have a communal and community responsibility to ensure that services are there so our children have an excellent education, so essential health services are accessible to all of us, so everyone has a basic standard of living, so that there is a safety net in place for the vulnerable and so people can have equality of opportunity.
I am spending the summer travelling around the constituency, meeting with people and trying to find solutions to their problems and community needs. And as the critic for the Ministry of Children and Family Development I am busy advocating for children, young people and their families across the province. I am also involved in the selection process for the Representative for Children and Youth, and hope that a speedy, unanimous, resolution is found by the bi-partisan committee. It is no secret that the opposition is strongly in favour of the present representative’s reappointment.
I will be taking a couple of weeks off in August, but apart from that can be found through email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca, on Facebook (Claire Trevena), clairetrevena on Twitter, or by the old fashioned contact: phone at 250 287 5100, or toll free 1 866 387 5100.
I always look forward to hearing from you.