The fall session came to a raucous close this week with many questions unanswered about ministerial and government accountability, transparency and cover-ups by the BC Liberals.
The focus for much of our final week was on trying to get some clarity on who knew what and when in two major investigations. In one case there are serious questions about the Minister of Advanced Education, Amrik Virk, a former RCMP officer. For months we have been asking about how involved he had been in breaking executive compensation rules at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, when he was a member of the board of the College. For months he has denied it. This week we received leaked emails, from his then RCMP account, that appear to show Mr. Virk had been very involved in this issue.
It is sadly ironic that this involves a post-secondary institution: the very bodies that Mr. Virk, as Minister, is supposed to have oversight. Traditional parliamentary practice is that a minister would resign. In B.C. he is defended by his cabinet colleagues and the Premier herself.
We also asked about the inquiry into the dismissal of a number of Ministry of Health staff a couple of years ago. At the time there were allegations of an RCMP investigation and the individuals involved had their reputations besmirched; one of the people committed suicide. It was a tragedy but the investigation is starting to look like a farce. The terms of reference are exceedingly narrow. We called for a full inquiry but the BC Liberals seem to prefer a cover-up rather than examining how badly things went wrong.
The reason for the fall session was so the BC Liberals could enact legislation around liquefied natural gas, both in dealing with emissions and dealing with revenue. Our position has been very clear throughout the process. We support the industry but we have to guarantee that certain conditions will be met. These are: that our air, land and water are protected; that there are guarantees of jobs and training for the people of BC; that we get a fair return for our resource; and that First Nations are involved and benefit. Despite their claims, the BC Liberals did not ensure we would have the cleanest LNG in the world and despite the fairy tale descriptions of the financial wonders LNG would provide for everyone, the government has failed miserably on that score too.
This week we introduced a bill which would ensure that companies would not be allowed to avoid environmental approval process by converting LNG pipelines into pipelines for the transport of tar sands bitumen.
Through the session we were able to keep the pressure on the BC Liberals about the destruction they are creating within our coastal communities by their misguided approach to BC Ferries. There have still been no climb downs, quite the reverse. It has been a year in which major cuts were implemented across the system and the groundwork laid for fare increases in coming years. However there is one small piece of good news. At present when going from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert or Haida Gwaii there is a difference in the cost of taking an outside or inside cabin. However, if you use a wheelchair only the outside cabin is accessible. After questions in the Legislature, the Minister of Transportation said he will instruct BC Ferries to ensure the higher rate is not charged to wheelchair users. There are still many other issues of accessibility on BC Ferries, particularly for use of washrooms and seating areas on the car decks.
An all-party committee is looking at election expense limits for municipal elections, including possible limits on third party advertisers and third party spending. It is taking written submissions up until December 5th. More information is available on the Committee’s website at http://www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/leel/index.aspI
I am very concerned about what is happening with health care on Cortes and in Port Hardy. While I have been assured the Port Hardy emergency room will not close, I know that there are still community fears for its future. I will continue to work to ensure that it does remain open. The situation on Cortes is equally troubling with the loss of the doctor and the nurse practitioner and no quick solutions being offered by Island Health. I have written to the Minister of Health about health delivery in both these communities and hope to receive positive responses.
The Legislature won’t be sitting again until February, when we reconvene and the government will likely do yet another Speech from the Throne setting out its agenda – although as I have noted in the past, that has been pretty thin in the last few years. And, as is required, it will present a budget.
In the meantime, as well as taking a bit of a break around Christmas, I will be in the constituency. The coming week includes an Open House at my Port Hardy office on Monday (1st December) from 2pm to 4pm – everyone is welcome for seasonal snacks and a good chat. I also intend to be at the swearing-in of two of our new municipal councils: Port McNeill and Campbell River. The rest of the week sees me in Campbell River and Courtenay, and, unless the lockout has been resolved, once again on the picket line with USW local 1-1937 workers from Chances.
I can always be contacted by email: Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or 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.