General · 20th December 2013
Another year is drawing to a close, giving us the opportunity to look back to the last 12 months and forward to the coming year.
Unfortunately we already know some of what is in store for 2014 and most of it is not good. Cuts to our ferry service and increases in fares; massive hikes to hydro bills and of course, the annual rise in the cost of our MSP.
The government’s announcement of system-wide cuts to our ferry service and the community meetings held around the coast have kept me busy as both constituency MLA and as the Official Opposition Transportation critic. The meetings started in Port Hardy, where cuts to the ferries to Prince Rupert and to the central coast will devastate the tourism industry which has been so successfully nurtured and they will tear the heart out of those isolated communities up the coast. The panel from the Ministry of Transportation and BC Ferries heard from businesses and individuals from across the region saying the cuts were foolish and irresponsible. Likewise at the packed Community Centre on Quadra Island, one after another person stood up to denounce the erosion of our marine highway.
It is extraordinary that a government that just a few months ago sold itself to the people of this province as sound economic managers could have gone into this process so blindly. It did not follow accepted best practices before making such a fundamental decision and did absolutely no analysis of the economic or social impacts of such widespread cuts.
What was clear from the Port Hardy meeting on – through Bella Coola to Bowen Island – was that the decision to make cuts has already been made and the meetings were primarily for show. There may be some minor changes –which we will be told shows how much they listened to people at the community meetings – but nearly every route will see service reduced. And of course we know fares are increasing by another 4 percent in April – just when seniors will have to start to pay. However it has been truly heartening to see a coalescing of coastal communities. Chambers of Commerce and high school students, seniors and shift workers are with one voice saying that our marine highway is too valuable to lose and the government’s approach to BC is seriously damaging ferry-dependent communities.
I have been working with individuals and groups from communities around the coast to support their efforts in attracting the BC Liberal government’s attention. I have written an open letter to the Minister of Transportation urging him to look at other alternatives. And in the New Year I will be taking this into the Legislature.
At the same time as the cuts to ferry services was announced we also heard the bad news about BC Hydro. The government has mismanaged our public utility so badly with its ideological approach, such as forcing it to buy expensive power from private producers in contracts that tie Hydro up for 40 or more years, that the utility is forced to increase rates by 9 percent this spring and 28 percent overall.
I have been talking with both large and small businesses, with school districts and other institutions and all are fearful of the impact this on their operations. How people on low income, those dependent on benefits, seniors – and anyone who is living on the tight budget that most people work within – are expected to survive with this raise is beyond me. It belies all the BC Liberal spin about caring for families or for business.
I had a meeting recently with the new head of the Island Health Authority and discussed a number of issues including how best to deliver health care in our rural communities and plans for facilities in Port Hardy and Campbell River. An area of growing interest is Community Paramedics, where ambulance paramedics would do a variety of medical support work within communities – from checking in on someone recently released from hospital to taking blood in a clinic. I was assured that plans for the primary health clinic in Port Hardy are on track but once again was disappointed in the intransigence from Victoria on increasing the number of beds for the new Campbell River hospital. However, the health authority is receiving a study on the potential of retaining part of our existing hospital.
I have had discussions in various communities in the constituency about the delivery of health care and I will continue to lobby for the best possible care – including adequate beds in the new hospital – through the coming months. Unfortunately, although I wish otherwise, there is nothing I can do about the coming 4 percent rise in MSP.
However in the New Year I will finally be able to take these and the many other issues that have come to me as your MLA and as transportation critic to the government. I am still astounded that the BC Liberals can get away with just 36 days of Legislative time in a year. It is a third world approach to governance that is an insult to the people of the province, and a danger to our democracy. We are returning to Victoria in early February and I will be fighting for justice and equality – whether that is in relation to our marine highway, our access to services or in the treatment of those most in need.
In the meantime the Campbell River and Port Hardy constituency offices will be closed from Monday 23rd December and will reopen on Thursday 2nd January, so my impressive assistants can take some time off. You can always get in touch by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca, by phone at 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy or toll free at 1 866 387 5100. And feel free to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter clairetrevena.
Best wishes for a good Christmas and a peaceful New Year.