We have come to the end of a rare summer session of the Legislature, made more remarkable by the fact that the Premier did not even once take her seat during the five weeks we were in session. She made a brief appearance in the audience - before her by-election victory - during the Speech from the Throne and the Budget. And since then she has not been in the Legislature.
The focus of the five weeks was the budget. We did not actually need to return to Victoria in July to pass the budget as we had passed an “interim supply” bill back in March that allowed the government to continue operating until September. However the BC Liberals rush to get it passed, when many people are not really paying much attention because it is holiday time, strongly suggests we won’t be having a fall session.
While the BC Liberals campaigned on eliminating the debt, the public accounts released this week, shows there is in fact a massive hidden debt - $100 billion in contractual agreements -- and a continued deficit. Despite election rhetoric, debt rose faster than before and climbed to $5.6 billion. The deficit came in at $178 million higher than expected, which puts the BC Liberals on track for a fifth consecutive deficit budget.
We challenged the government on these and other issues through Question Period over the weeks. We spent some time unraveling the so-called Quick Wins strategy in which public money was used to gather information for the BC Liberal election campaign. The latest information shows various BC Liberals were involved in offering inducements to a woman who was involved in the scheme to ensure she did not tell anyone anything about the strategy, which might damage the Premier ahead of the election.
We also raised questions about the BC Liberal government’s introduction of wheelchair charges for seniors in public care homes, about foreign workers, lack of apprenticeships and health issues.
As we debated the budget we were able to ask ministers specific questions on areas that impact our constituencies. I had the opportunity to take up some health care concerns for the North Island
, asking about the possibility of extra beds for the new hospital, looking at the need for youth mental health beds in our community, addressing the lack of support our hospice gets compared to those in other communities and asking for more flexibility in the payment systems for doctors to ensure that some of our problems in recruitment can be addressed.
Earlier, I raised concerns about funding availability for North Island College
, the reduction in conservation officer staff across the North Island
and the BC Liberals’ commitment to ecotourism
in resource communities.
As the Official Opposition Transportation Critic I had some time to question the new Minister, who is from Kamloops, about BC Ferries
. He is determined to reduce services as a way of reducing costs and he would not consider looking at the near tripling of management as a way of dealing with the issue.
And the BC Liberals have said that they won’t guarantee that the three new ferries which will be built in the coming years will be constructed in BC. In fact, despite the continual spin about their Jobs Plan, when I asked the Minister of Jobs whether they have done any analysis on the economic benefits to our province of building the ferries here
she admitted none had been done. That despite multiple studies commissioned by this same government on the still pipe dream of the economic nirvana which will be brought with liquefied natural gas.
We highlighted how much the BC Liberals are ignoring our coastal communities and our economy in a question period about BC Ferries
. We didn’t just highlight economic issues but also the fact that there’s massive secrecy around their safety protocol - a freedom of information request on the evacuation plans of the individual BC ferries has come back with page upon page of information blanked out.
Being in the Legislature does allow me to highlight local events and I had two opportunities this session: one to talk about the annual Miners’ Memorial and the fight for union rights and a second to talk about the new second stage housing for women in Campbell River at Rose Harbour.
As I mentioned, it is highly unlikely that the Legislature will be called back into session this fall, despite the BC Liberals introducing a fixed calendar for sessions. If that’s the case we won’t return until February. So I will obviously be travelling the constituency as well as addressing issues in my critic portfolio.
This coming week sees me back in Campbell River for a couple of days, and then I have critic meetings with truckers and road builders in Vancouver. Although my Campbell River office will remain closed the first week of August (the week of the August long weekend), I will be up island for various meetings and I’ll be at the Musical Ride at Storries Beach.
I will be taking a bit of time off during August and expect to see people at some of our wonderful campsites, lakes and trails around the North Island.
I can always be reached 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.