MLA Report 15th February, 2013
The Legislature is back in session after nine months and if the government’s Throne Speech is anything to go by, it is clear why the BC Liberals did not want to reconvene. In the Legislature they can be held accountable for their actions.
The Throne Speech traditionally sets out a government’s agenda for the upcoming session. The one which was delivered this week in Victoria didn’t look to the coming five weeks of our truncated session, but forecast an alleged rosy future 30 years from now.
Instead of dealing with real concerns facing people in BC, which I hear daily in the constituency - jobs, ferries, education, healthcare - the government talked about establishing a Prosperity Fund. This supposedly would be set up in order to invest the money the province could receive from liquefied natural gas (LNG). I am sure most people agree that establishing a savings fund is not a bad idea - but this one will be created when there will be no money to put into it for many years. That’s because there is no LNG industry in BC; the major players in that industry have not even committed to the billions of dollars required just to create the LNG plants. Currently the gas and oil industry is asking the Federal government to give them two billion dollars in tax breaks. Why would Ottawa do that if BC grabs the tax instead? And if Ottawa doesn’t agree why would the oil and gas industry accept the BC Liberals taxation plan when there is no guarantee what the market price of LNG gas will be 15, 20 or 30 years from now? At the moment, and for many years to come, the Fund is simply a fantasy. A sad commentary when our province needs so much.
In my response
to the speech I talked about what I had been hearing across the North Island since we last sat, back in May. I am particularly concerned about the BC Liberal’s lack of emphasis on our forest sector and our land base as well as the way they have effectively written off island communities by ignoring the crisis we face with ferry fares.
I also raised concerns about my critic file, as the shadow for the Minister of Children and Family Development (MCFD). Despite having received a devastating report about the failures of the child welfare system published the week before and despite the continued debacle of the new $200m computer system being used by the Ministry that does not work, there was no mention of child welfare in the government’s speech.
Being back in the Legislature allows us to bring a spotlight on the government and demand some accountability. The waste of public money on partisan ads was our first target: the government is spending almost $17m tax payer money - money which could be invested in children’s classrooms or on seniors’ care - on the series of ads, which according to government documents are supposed to “close the credibility gap”. I don’t think the BC Liberals realise how great that gap really is.
We also raised questions about the use of temporary foreign workers when there are trained BC residents available for the work; the minister responsible simply avoided the question time after time.
A number of pieces of legislation are being brought in during this short session. We have started to discuss the bill which will allow the reintroduction of the PST - almost two years after the referendum which demanded the HST be removed. A bill that will establish Destinations BC, a tourism marketing body, has also been tabled. The BC Liberals closed the Crown Corporation for BC’s tourism industry and brought management directly under government control . That proved to be disastrous and now the government is shifting back to a Crown Corporation.
And the Minister of Environment has introduced a bill which will allow for the changes in boundaries of Elk Falls Provincial Park needed for the John Hart Generating Station replacement project to go ahead.
As critic for MCFD, I spoke in the Legislature about the 20th anniversary of the advocacy group, First Call, and the important work it does for children and youth across the province. I also spoke about the report on the work of the Standing Committee on Children and Youth, of which I am the deputy chair, when it was tabled.
And I presented two petitions - one on behalf of constituents who are concerned about threats to the sale of natural health products, and one from people in the across the province who are angry about the continuing high child poverty level in BC.
I won’t be getting back to the constituency this weekend as I have meetings in the Lower Mainland, however you can always reach me at claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca, by phone at 250 287 5100 in Campbell River or 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy, or friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter clairetrevena.