The Legislature resumed sitting this week with a great deal of unnecessary pomp and ceremony and very little substance coming from the government.
From June 2010 to June 2011 we sat for only 24 days so being back in Victoria, fulfilling our roles as legislators and as official opposition, is very healthy. However the session started with an unnecessary Throne Speech. This is usually given after an election or, in BC, just before the budget each February to talk about the government’s agenda over the coming year. Obviously neither has happened; the Premier decided not to call an election and the budget won’t be tabled until the spring.
Still, she chose to have a Throne Speech, complete with parades, military salutes, and the Lieutenant Governor attending. The speech he read, on behalf of the government, was insubstantial. There was a new public holiday and rehashed commitments which have been made in previous months. There was nothing to address the needs of many people in the province, whether in tackling poverty or putting forward a substantive jobs plan that actually creates work here in BC.
In my response to the Throne speech
, I raised my concerns about the Families First mantra the government has adopted. Unless it is willing to tackle real problems in communities across BC - problems of child care, of housing, of inequality and ending the HST quickly - it will be doing little to really help families. I was also able to talk about concerns which have come to light in my critic area, as shadow for the Minister of Children and Family Development, as well as concerns for our North Island communities.
I also commented on the complete lack of focus on the Vancouver Island economy in the Premier’s jobs plan; in particular the fact that most of that insubstantial document addresses raw materials exports rather than using our resources in our communities. That continual focus of shipping of logs out of our communities has to be changed.
Forestry came up in one of our early question periods as well as in one of the early bills the government has tabled. Again the government looks ready to sell off our assets, both the logs, and according to the new bill, more of the land base.
The government introduced a bill to prohibit mining and oil and gas extraction in the Flathead Valley; I spoke in support of that
- but questioned why the government hadn’t gone further and started examining whether it should become a park.
We have also been challenging the government on its record with some of the most vulnerable - the adults who are developmentally disabled and receive assistance through Community Living BC (CLBC). Once again the government failed to say it would stop the closure of group homes. These homes are like families for so many people, and now they literally have nowhere to go. It was telling that the minister responsible said she has met with CLBC just once since taking over the ministry.
We’ve also been questioning the government on its lack of commitment to the judiciary - and the fact that criminal cases are being thrown out because there are simply not enough judges in the province. And when we tried to ask about the cost of the Premier’s - dangerous - demand that cameras be put in courtrooms for the trials of the Stanley Cup rioters, she completely refused to answer. I say that this is a dangerous move for a couple of reasons. One is that the executive - the premier’s office - should not get involved directly with the judiciary. We have three pillars in our government system in BC and in Canada: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary - this is fundamental to our rule of law and an individual premier, no matter how arrogant, should not interfere with the judiciary. Secondly, the announcement stinks of a public shaming: when people break the law, we have a system which deals with them - we do not need to go back to the days of the stocks or the pillory and display people in public.
It is foster parent appreciation month, and as the critic dealing with this area, I wrote an open letter to foster parents
. They do a most extraordinary job, working with sometimes very difficult children and youth, but creating a stable foundation for them and so for all our futures. We should acknowledge and respect their dedicated work.
I am also a member of the Standing Committee on Children and Youth. The Committee has started a review of the Representative for Children and Youth Act. This is mandated within the Legislation itself and is not linked to the process to reappointment the representative. If you or your organisation would like to comment on the Legislation
, written submissions are being taken.
Although we just started back, we are not sitting during the coming week because of Thanksgiving. I’ll be in Port Hardy on Tuesday, Campbell River Wednesday and in Vancouver for a Representative of Children and Youth Conference and Awards on Thursday and Friday.
You can always contact me by email at claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or by phone at 1 250 287 5100 or 1 877 387 5100; follow me on twitter clairetrevena or friend me on Facebook. And I have a webpage; www.clairetrevena.ca
All the best for a very happy Thanksgiving,