It’s been a brutal week for weather across the constituency. I’d like to thank the BC Hydro crews who got out in the storms and after to reconnect families and also thank the works crews in cities and villages who struggled to deal with the multitude of problems in their communities. A crisis like the “weather bomb” brings out some of the best in people - so many thanks also to those who ran warming centres, community kitchens, cleared roads blocked by fallen trees and provided assistance for their neighbours.
The week in Victoria was dominated by the debate on Bill 22 - the inappropriately named Education Improvement Act. At the start of the week, the BC Liberals cut short the debate and ruled that it would force the bill be passed by the end of the week.
The Opposition had tabled an amendment which called for truly independent mediation to end the impasse in the dispute.
I spoke to it because that seems to be the only way that the issues can be addressed in any balanced way. Under the Liberal’s Bill, a mediator will be appointed by the Education Minister and will have a very limited remit on which s/he can negotiate.
We were only able to spend just three days on the committee stage of the Bill; that’s when there is supposed to be a detailed examination of all the nuances around the legislation, its intent and the way the Government interprets it. Having not been successful in stopping the bill proceeding by calling for independent mediation, the NDP tried to change one section of the bill which again would have allowed an independent mediator to be appointed. I raised the fact
that this would be under the government’s own Labour Code, and would benefit all the teachers, the employers, and students.
The BC Liberals used their majority to push the Bill through at the end of the day on Thursday. It is a clumsy and heavy handed hybrid that both legislates the teachers back to work and imposes their working conditions. It does nothing to deal with many of the concerns the teachers have. It takes away limits on the number of special needs students who can be in each classroom. This is extremely troubling for those teachers and students who already are in classrooms where special needs students are not given enough support. I received many letters during the debate from people involved in education who are very concerned about this undermining the quality of our public education.
It also effectively prevents the teachers from exercising their democratic right to withdraw their labour, already categorized as an essential service. If the government deems their actions illegal, individual teachers would be fined $475 a day, a union officer or local rep would face $2,500 a day fine and the union $1.3 million a day.
We have also started the process of going through the budgets of the different ministries, which allows us to some detailed questions of ministers. I raised some concerns with about medical travel and medical services for people on welfare who are living in remote areas
with the Minister of Social Development.
And I also challenged the Minister of Labour about the lack of inspection of workplaces where young people are working
. This government has allowed children as young as 12 to work, with approval from his or her parent. This makes many young people very vulnerable and the issue continues to be one that I will be raising through my critic role.
In question period we asked the Minister of Forests why he overruled the committee which advises on log exports more than 80 times. That resulted in logs from Quatsino Sound being shipped unprocessed overseas, when there were people who wanted to buy them and use them in BC. I talked about the importance of value-added
, and reminded the House that without using our forests for our communities, neither would remain.
We also highlighted the BC Liberals’ continuing economic incompetence. They walked away from a $35 million deal with TELUS over the naming of BC Place. Add that to the half a billion cost for the stadium roof, a more than $200 million over-run. And this is on top of the large overspend at the Convention Centre, the money paid out to Boss Power and the public funds paid out for Basi’s and Virk’s legal fees in the BC Rail Scandal. This ongoing economic incompetence is outrageous at any time but it is particularly galling when there is no new money in areas where it is really needed - whether it is to deal with child poverty, reforestation or rural health care.
I also met with the Minister of Transportation to discuss the Ferries’ Commissioner’s report and again to underline the necessity to freeze and roll back ferry fares. This BC Liberal government is unlikely to ever bring ferries back under direct government control; it is another ideological issue. But it may well reframe the Coastal Ferries Act under which BC Ferries operates.
I will be back in the constituency this coming week and look forward to meeting with people; I see my calendar filling up, but feel free to get in touch. I can always be reached by email at claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or by phone at 1 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 1 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy, or 1 866 387 5100 toll free; or you can friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter clairetrevena.