General · 30th March 2012
Despite the political drama playing out in the corridors of the Legislature - the resignation of a former BC Liberal cabinet minister from the government and questions over who among the BC Liberals will stay on to fight the next election - the work of committees and questioning continued through the week.
One of the reasons that John van Dongen said he was quitting was because of the still unanswered questions about BC Rail and taxpayers paying the legal costs for Basi and Virk. We raised this scandal yet again in question period: but the government continued to stonewall. We also raised again questions about the multi-million dollar overspends at BC Place, and the cavalier rejection of the Telus sponsorship deal.
However, we urged the government to put politics aside and show support for the workers who recently lost their jobs at Aveos, the company that operated maintenance services for Air Canada. On Thursday the Legislature unanimously voted in support of such a move.
We were not so lucky when we asked the Minister of Jobs to act to protect the hundreds of retirees from Catalyst whose pensions could be at risk because of the company’s insolvency. He refused to take any responsibility. Likewise we asked ministers again about the impact of raw log exports on mills and local economies, to have the question sloughed off.
I was able to talk about the sometimes difficult balance between protecting the environment and encouraging employment in the mining sector. I spoke about the situation for both Myra Falls, in Strathcona Provincial Park, and Quinsam Coal with the close oversight it receives for impacts on the watershed.
The government’s initiative to download more work on municipalities, through the Local Government Auditor General office, has now become law. We spent several days examining the bill closely and presented a number of amendments to it to try to make it more palatable but they were not accepted.
We also examined the Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act. This is the bill which takes away the right of elected executive members of faculty associations to be on the boards of governors of universities and colleges. This is an unnecessary bill, an arbitrary attack on both unions and on the good governance of post-secondary education.
We have been drawing attention to problems with the government’s testing of senior drivers through the DriveAble programme. We asked a number of questions about the test’s validity as well as problems in accessing it, both because of the distance to test centres and the cost. I will be holding two DrivAble meetings next month (on April 27th) to talk to seniors in the North Island about problems they have faced or are facing.
We also asked the Minister of Transportation how he can allow yet another increase in ferry fares. The rates are due to go up on April 1st by more than 4%, despite the Ferry Commissioner’s report acknowledging the fact that ferry dependant communities find it impossible to continue to bear such increases.
As the critic for Children and Families I asked the Attorney General about an horrific failure in the justice system which allowed a case of alleged child sexual abuse to be stayed. What I was hoping to hear was that the government would put priority on cases in the courts system - whether it be criminal or child protection - to protect children.
I also had the opportunity to ask the Minister of Agriculture if there was any specific government assistance to communities who want to expand their agricultural base. Campbell River is already looking at ways to do this and I hear from other communities in the constituency that they are also considering it.
And I had the opportunity to tell the Legislature about the walk that Phoenix student, Janine Annett, is making from Port Hardy to Victoria over the coming month. She’s raising awareness about child poverty - here and abroad - and to encourage youth empowerment.
I’ll be at the start of Janine’s walk in Port Hardy on Tuesday morning. Before that I will have been to Prince George as part of the Opposition Forest Working Group tour, and will be at the No Pipeline Rally in Comox on Saturday at the public hearings on Enbridge.
The coming couple of weeks around Easter sees me in the constituency and on critic trips. I can always be reached at claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca 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.