General · 4th April 2014
The focus of our week at the Legislature in Victoria was affordability: the cost of living for most people skyrocketed between Monday and Tuesday,
In Question Period, we challenged the government over the inflated increase in BC Hydro rates. They went up 9 percent on April 1st and will jump 28 percent in total over the coming few years. That is because the BC Liberals have mismanaged the utility. It forced BC Hydro into extremely expensive long-term agreements to buy electricity from private power producers, and we are all paying the cost.
And of course ferry fares went up again this week. This was at the same time that new, reduced service schedules were announced. While we were told that the increase would be “on average” 4 percent, in reality it is, for a passenger, a 5 percent hike. The “average” 4 percent is for vehicles. This is on top of the 3.5 percent increase back in January. So we are paying 8.5 percent more than we were three months ago to use our highway. I raised this in Question Period and challenged the Minister on it again during the budget estimates process. There is no question that the combination of inflated fares and cuts in services will hurt business and hurt families – and all this was done by the government without any assessment of the economic or social impact.
In Question Period we also raised clawbacks being made by the Ministry of Social Development: if a single parent on income assistance receives maintenance from his or her former spouse that money is clawed back so that the family gets no more than the amount allocated through income assistance. It is cruel and punitive, and primarily hurting women and their children.
So much for the BC Liberal campaign slogans of building the economy and families first - once again shown to be the lie they always were.
I spent much of the week questioning the Minister of Transportation about the budget. On ferries the questions ranged from the fact that BC Ferries gets money from the Province to cover the cost of seniors’ fares and yet has now started to charge seniors through to details about the instillation of slot machines on the vessels. I found it risible that the Minister could admit to the fact that three of his ministry’s staff worked on the minutae of service cuts and yet say he could not get involved in slimming down BC Ferries bloated management.
I also asked the Minister about a range of other transportation issues. In the Premier’s second election last year – when she ran in the by-election in Kelowna because she was ousted from her seat in Point Grey – she mentioned the possibility of another new bridge over Lake Okanagan. And despite the Bennett Bridge opening there just five years ago, $2m has been spent on preliminary work for another bridge. And while the Ministry admits having no idea of the likely cost for a bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel, work will still start on it in time for the 2017 election.
And while I do like to commend environmental initiatives, I found it hard to understand the Minister’s justification for spending $89m on a demonstration project using hydrogen fueled buses in Whistler. This ended on Monday, at the end of the fiscal year, leaving the buses worth $2m each simply parked.
We debated a major piece of legislation this week, the long awaited Water Sustainability Act. It was perhaps appropriate that we were discussing it the same week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest, worrying, report. I spoke about the potential impacts of our changing climate on water and the need for comprehensive planning. I also raised a number of specific concerns about the use of water for fracking, about water bottling, about conservation and about enforcement of the legislation.
And while we have not yet started to debate the bill which will devastate the Agricultural Land Reserve, we tabled The British Columbia Local Food Act. This is intended to encourage government institutions, such as schools and hospitals, to buy locally produced food. It would support farmers and sustain farmland.
The Protected Areas Amendment Act passed this week and I was able to confirm the plan to remove some of the land in Elk Falls Provincial Park for the John Hart remediation and for the City of Campbell River’s water supply. Other land is being put into the Park to compensate.
It has been a week of critic issues for me. I responded to a non-partisan statement about motorbikes; I used the opportunity to raise the fact that when the BC Liberals did change legislation about motorcycle safety, they prohibited riders from standing on pegs – although that is something many riders do for both safety, to help them see in traffic and on long rides to stretch their legs.
I will be back in the constituency this weekend. Friday sees me in the constituency office in Campbell River.
I can always be reached by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca, on Facebook or clairetrevena on Twitter. You can contact me the traditional way by phone: 1 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 1 250 949 949 9473 or toll free at 1 866 387 5100.