General · 14th March 2014
Ferries took central stage at the Legislature this week – both inside and outside the building. A large rally brought together Islanders and other residents of coastal communities, while inside during Question Period, I joined the Leader of the Opposition and other MLAs from coastal constituencies to challenge the Minister of Transportation on his blinkered and ideological approach to our marine highway.
On the day of the rally we devoted Question Period to asking the Minister why no economic impact studies were carried out ahead of the cuts. The City of Prince Rupert has done its own assessment of the impact of rising fares and cuts to services and it is gloomy. Entitled “Beyond Hope” it shows that it will not only be tourism-related businesses which are effected but business across the community and throughout the North. The Minister refuses to acknowledge that our communities are economic generators and that we have a right to have public access to them like residents elsewhere in BC have to their communities.
When we came out from Question Period it was a joy to see hundreds of neighbours and friends from the constituency and other islands and coastal communities gathered on the lawns of the Legislature. I had acknowledged their presence in the House and was pleased to see the good-natured protest. But the smiles and music don’t undermine the fact that people are angry about the cuts to our ferry service and the gouging we all get from inflating fares. I was privileged to speak to the protestors. There is no doubt the fight will continue both inside and outside the Legislature until ferries are back working for the public good and for all the people of BC. I want to acknowledge and thank organizers on Quadra and in other coastal communities whose hard work made the protest happen.
We’ve been getting a number of petitions about the ferry crisis which we have been able to table in the Legislature; a hefty petition came from senior citizens organizations, which was presented by our critic for seniors, an equally weighty one from campaigners on the Sunshine Coast which I presented the day after the protest and one from residents of Bowen Island.
The other focus in Question Period has been what can only be described as pork barreling. We questioned the BC Liberal government’s judgment in giving highly paid jobs to their own people – whether they be defeated BC Liberal candidates, such as the one who ran here in the North Island, or former cabinet ministers. People were so shocked when the former MLA for Chilliwack and former Solicitor General, John Les, received a $140,000 a year position on an earthquake preparedness project that the Premier had to back down and cancel his contract, within a day.
We have been discussing a number of bills in the Legislature – from increasing the regulation of off-road vehicles, to increasing the ability of people to contribute to pension plans. The week also saw the introduction of the much anticipated Water Sustainability Act, which will completely overhaul the century-old Water Act.
We are also into the period when we do the detailed examination of the budget. Much of this week was devoted to the Ministry of Forests. I asked the Minister whether he would meet with Chief, Council and elders of the Kwakiutl First Nation, to try to break the impasse between them and Island Timberlands which has led to a demonstration of nearly two months. He has refused. I still await an answer from the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.
I also asked the Minister about the government’s policy about conservation and hunting of wolves on Vancouver Island. Unfortunately the BC Liberals have cut the Conservation Service so severely that there is no ability to truly determine the number of wolves on the Island or nearby islands.
At the beginning of the week I joined Adrian Dix, opposition leader, in meetings in Campbell River. He came to the city to talk with workers from New Horizons who have been laid off by the new owners; teachers and members of the school district; and to others. He was highlighting the BC Liberal’s malicious policies which undermine public education and public healthcare. We see the direct results in Campbell River, with numerous classes where there are simply too many special needs students and in the unfolding social calamity at New Horizons.
The coming week is a break week in the Legislature, to coincide with Spring Break in many school districts. We’re then back in Victoria until Easter.
I can always be contacted by email: Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca 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.