The Legislature is back in session with just one purpose - to pass the BC Liberals’ budget. We do not expect to be in Victoria for very long: the government hopes that no-one will really notice the cuts they are making as people enjoy this wonderful summer weather.
Neither the Throne Speech, which details the government’s priorities for the coming term, nor the budget offered any surprises. The Throne Speech was very short (perhaps a record at just 17 minutes). Coming so swiftly after the election it was a reflection of the BC Liberal platform and talked primarily about liquefied natural gas as the saviour of the province. While Campbell River may have an LNG facility in the future, worryingly for the North Island, there was no mention of some of our current economic drivers including forestry and tourism.
Likewise the budget changed little from that which was introduced before the election. Despite the continued mantra that the government has balanced the books, it is a budget based on major cuts and the sell off of government assets: a fragile base for balance. They have also said they will strengthen the balanced budget act which seems ridiculous since they have effectively broken it for four consecutive years, including this one. In seven of the twelve years the BC Liberals have been in power they have not balanced their budgets.
Because of the limited time in the Legislature, I was only able to give some brief comments on the impact of this budget of cuts on the North Island
. There are many opportunities in our communities but this budget, which will bring yet more cuts throughout the public sector, will hurt. We have been seeing for years the impacts of cuts to forestry, to parks, to the conservation service, to highways, to health and to education. The new wheelchair charge shows where the government’s priorities really are: bring in fees for those who can least afford to pay.
We have been using Question Period to challenge the government on their financial mismanagement - from a massive $342 million overspend in BC Hydro plans for the northwest transmission line, to the waste of $11 million public money on a film gala. It is impossible to talk about this waste without thinking about how that money could be better spent: for seniors, to help childcare, to deliver public transit, to wheelchairs. We also questioned a 10-year deal to export wood chips, despite the Forestry Minister’s own advisory committee saying that the deal was not in BC’s interest. Sadly, as in previous legislative sessions, it is Question Period but it is mostly not answer period.
However I did get a rare direct response from the Transportation Minister
to a question on election promises. During the campaign my Liberal opponent, now one of many failed Liberal candidates who have been put on the public payroll in political positions in the BC government, kept talking about how his party would pave the road to Zeballos. I raised this with the Minister who said categorically the road will not be paved.
I have had a meeting with the Environment Minister about the Save the Heart of Quadra Parks campaign, to urge continued commitment to the purchase of the park and to underline the urgency of action. The Minister agreed to try to find the funds needed to purchase the lands to complete the park.
I was also able to talk about the annual Miners’ Memorial ceremony held in Cumberland at the end of June. It is a chance to commemorate major historical events as well as show union solidarity.
We are going to be in Victoria until the end of July. We will be using much of the three weeks to go through the budget in detail. As North Island MLA and as the critic for Transportation and BC Ferries I will be asking many questions on what the budget numbers will mean for our communities.
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.