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General · 18th November 2011
Claire Trevena
The continued cover up about the BC Rail deal and the government pay off for Basi and Virk has been the daily fodder of our question period this week. We cannot find out what was behind it - and neither can BC’s Auditor General. He keeps requesting information and the government refuses to hand it over; and they refuse to answer questions in the Legislature.

There is very little new in the Liberal reluctance to be open about what is happening. Their government resents even answering questions during the committee period of a bill, when we have the opportunity to go through, in detail, what a piece of legislation means. This week we spent hours going through the bill which tries to prevent metal thefts - the increasing incidence of cables and wiring being stolen. This sort of questioning is part of the job of an Opposition: to find out just what the government is doing and why. But instead of respecting the democratic process, the BC Liberals accused us of wasting time. That is an insult to people who want and expect to see government working openly and with accountability.

However we did find ourselves in rare agreement with the government over some bills this week, including the Family Law Act. This is a major piece of legislation which encompasses many different issues, including putting the child’s best interest at the centre of guardianship (and replacing the word custody with that of guardianship), clarifying parental responsibilities when relationships break down and encouraging out of court settlements. It also attempts to increase protection for children and women in cases of family violence as well as making provision to families where the child is the result of assisted reproduction. I was pleased to speak about it and while largely supportive, noted that there are still significant questions which will need to be raised during the committee stage.

We’ve also seen another Miscellaneous Bill introduced (the third of this session) which, among other things, will exempt some mining activities from permitting processes, as well as the introduction of Bill 18, the Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act, which if passed would prohibit faculty or union members from sitting on the board of a college or university.

There is a period every week where government backbenchers and opposition MLAs can put forward bills and motions for debate. This week the BC Liberals discussed a motion about the long gun registry. In fact, this is a federal issue over which we have no control over in BC. I used my opportunity to speak to raise a concern which we do have control over and has a major impact on those who want to hunt, hike, canoe or camp: access to the back country. Instead of spending an hour discussing something about which we can do nothing, we could have better spent the time talking about the increasing number of locked gates and private property signs on roads which have traditionally given North Islanders and others access to the bush.

I submitted a petition on behalf of Denman Island residents who are concerned about a plan by BC Ferries to replace their ferry with a cable ferry; this will have a real impact on jobs on the island community as it is also proposed that its home berth be moved to Buckley Bay.

As critic for Children and Family Development I hear from many families who have children with mental health problems who are getting no help, even though the Ministry has responsibility for the file. I raised one such case in question period but the Minister refused to stand up and respond. The question was deemed by the Liberals to be a health issue and because the Minister of Health was not in the Legislature, it was not answered.

It is not only children with mental health problems that cannot get the help they need. I discussed the massive caseloads carried by social workers and described it as a crisis waiting to happen. It is only when a child falls through the cracks does someone decide that a social worker caseload of 200 is too high.

Although National Child Day is not until the 20th November, I marked it in a statement in the Legislature this week. I made the point that BC is not living up to its responsibilities as a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child because the Liberal government has allowed child poverty to worsen and because of our poor child labour laws.

The Standing Committee on Children and Youth met again this week. Among the topics we looked at was the Representative for Children and Youth’s recent youth summit; we heard from two of the young refugee organizers who were very impressive. Earlier I introduced them to the House. The week also saw the reappointment of Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond as Representative; she received a rare standing ovation in the Legislature, although not all Liberal MLAs joined in.

This weekend sees me in Campbell River on Friday then to Sointula for Winterfest. I’ll be back in Victoria for the last week of session next week. But you can always reach me by email at , by phone on 250 287 5100, toll free on 1 866 387 5100. Work is proceeding on the Port Hardy office and we hope to have phones in there shortly: watch this space!

Best regards