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General · 7th March 2014
Claire Trevena
There is little surprise that the BC Liberal budget passed second reading earlier this week. After two weeks in which we as opposition argued that it was not good for BC, the government used its majority and the support of the Green Party MLA to win the vote.
The next stage in the budget is for us to start going through the spending, line by line, in the estimates debate. This is often boring to watch, as the Ministers take a lot of time to confer with their staff but we can sometimes get explanations about spending priorities and cuts in services.
This differs from the heated daily battles of Question Period. We started this week by launching in on the cuts to ferries, in particular the popular Discovery Circle tour from Port Hardy to Bella Coola. The BC Liberals had thought they had done damage control by talking about refits to the Nimpkish, the small ferry that will be put on the route. But those changes are laughable: they include trying (not guaranteeing) to make sure there is drinking water available for the nine-hour crossing. People on Malcolm Island and in Alert Bay may remember the 16 vessel Nimpkish which was on that run for a while. Once again, the lack of any analysis of the impacts of the government’s decisions to businesses and communities has been glaring.
The cuts at New Horizons care home in Campbell River were also under the spotlight during the week. We questioned the Minister of Health about the mass layoffs and the impact to residents and workers. We also asked that the recommendations made by the Ombudsman in her comprehensive report on seniors care, be implemented. These recommendations address mass layoffs and staff turnover and should prevent others going through what the staff and seniors at New Horizons are dealing with.
On Wednesday care aides from the facility presented me with the impressive petition gathered in Campbell River: almost 6,000 people had signed it in just four weeks. I was able to acknowledge them in the Legislature and then table the petition itself. I also made a statement in the House about the need for care and respect for seniors and staff working with them. Afterwards I met with the workers to offer whatever support I, and my office, could provide.
The BC Liberals’ arrogance is broad: it is destroying our communities with its approach to our ferries; it is destroying people’s lives by undermining seniors’ care; and, it is jeopardizing our environment.
We have been discussing amendments to the Parks Act, which would allow industry and other groups to conduct research related to pipelines, transmission lines, roads and other industrial activity in BC Parks. The bill would also remove protection for smaller parks. There’s been an outcry about this bill from the six of BC’s leading environmental organizations, none of which were consulted ahead of the bill being introduced. I, of course, spoke against it. We tabled an amendment which would have pulled the bill for six months to allow for that consultation. I suggested that we use the tools of the Legislature for that consultation: our committee system, which has never been active, and the fixed legislative calendar – bringing the bill back in the fall. In fact when that calendar was established we were supposed to debate the budget in the spring and handle other legislation in the fall: that has never happened.
We have brought in private members bills in the last couple of weeks which would make government work better and be more bipartisan, more collaborative. One of those bills would ensure that the many standing committees listed by the Legislature actually meet: of the dozen or so that are established, most exist in name only. Just three are active. The other bill would enshrine the fixed calendar in law so the government would have to be accountable six months of the year, rather than only in the usually abbreviated spring session.
The other government bill which we have been discussing this week is the Missing Persons Act. This would help the police in locating missing people by allowing them to access records related to a missing person even when a crime is not suspected. I again suggested that there was an opportunity for greater consultation on this as concerns have been raised by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the BC Civil Liberties Association. These concerns could be dealt with through a committee examination. The Missing Persons Act is one of the recommendations to come from the Missing Women’s Inquiry. But the bill does nothing to help tackle one of the most tragic instances of missing people – the Highway of Tears. Also recommended by the Inquiry head, Wally Opal was instituting a bus along that highway to allow women to have safe transit. That would be an easy and comparatively cheap fix to prevent more women going missing.
I was pleased to be able to recognize the hard work of the many volunteers at Campbell River Search and Rescue and to acknowledge the great support they get in the community.
I’m back in the constituency this weekend with meetings in my Campbell River office on Friday. Saturday I will be talking about BC Ferries, at a public meeting at the Labour Hall in Campbell River starting at 2pm. Everyone is welcome.
I can always be contacted by email: of by phone at my Campbell River office: 250 287 5100; Port Hardy office: 250 949 9473 or toll free at 1 866 387 5100. And you can friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter clairetrevena.
Best regards