General · 3rd March 2017
This week we voted on the BC Liberals pre-election budget. After two weeks of debate about how Christy Clark hopes everyone will forget the last 16 years, we in the Opposition stood to vote against their budget. The normal and proper practice is that the opposition is able to examine the details of how each ministry will spend its allotted funds. But because there is an election in 2 months, this process was scrapped. It is likely that if the BC Liberals win the election the budget would be largely rewritten; if the NDP forms government we will table a budget which reflects our priorities.
Being in the Legislature allows all MLAs to hold the government to account. This is usually done through Question Period and this week the focus was on healthcare – from private plasma clinics to overcrowded hospitals, from seniors and the loss of care homes to another desperately sad story about the death of a young woman who had just aged out of government care.
Christy Clark only turned up for one Question Period in the week. But she and her Ministers used every opportunity to try to score political points rather than answer serious questions about serious matters.
It is frustrating when trying to get answers for our constituents. For instance, we raised a problem I hear a lot about in the North Island, locked gates barring access to our public lands for hiking, camping, hunting and ATVing. The Minister never answered these concerns and did not indicate that he will do anything to stand up to the corporations that gate crown lands while reaping massive financial benefits from this land base we all own.
As mentioned, we are approaching an election and that means the Legislative session will be short and there will be few pieces of legislation from the BC Liberals. This week the government introduced three bills. One, an amendment to the Forest Land and Natural Resource Operations Statutes which allows hunters to apply for permits or obtain resident hunter numbers on line, may cause problems in rural areasis where there is slow internet trying to obtain a license. Another bill adds a section to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act that will create standards of care for commercial breeders of dogs and cats. And the third, some changes in regulations around adoptions.
The Opposition tabled a number of bills, which show the sort of commitments we will carry through if we form government after May’s election.
One of the central pieces was the introduction of a poverty reduction plan – for the sixth time. After 16 years the need is greater than ever. And instead of getting a serious approach to tackling the gross inequality in our province we hear from the Housing Minister dismissively saying people on social assistance – which has not increased for more than a decade – receive more money than people in the Third World. Most other provinces have poverty reduction plans enshrined in legislation with targets and timelines to ensure everyone gets equality of opportunity.
We also introduced a Species at Risk Protection Act. Eight other provinces have such a law in place. As Canada’s most bio-diverse province it is important we act. Working with independent scientists and with indigenous and community knowledge, the legislation would provide long term species protection. In an era of climate change such legislation is more important than ever.
And we also tabled a bill that tightens the rules around lobbying and another that would prevent so-called SLAPP lawsuits. These are “strategic lawsuits against public participation” and are used to try to shut down free expression or intimidate the public. Such lawsuits are a danger to democracy.
We also re-introduced a bill that would require the Worksafe BC to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder among first responders.
There was a moving ceremony on the grounds of the Legislature when a memorial was unveiled to recognise the hard work, commitment and dedication of the volunteer search and rescue teams. It was particularly poignant as it marked 47 years since four men from Alert Bay died in a plane crash while searching for another plane. I was able to talk about that tragic accident in the House.
Outside of the Legislature I had the great pleasure of going to the opening of an exhibition at Government House of art from the permanent collection of Campbell River Art Gallery and it once again reminded me of the amazing talent which we have in our region.
I will be back in the constituency over the weekend. Among the places I will be is the Childcare event in Spirit Square where I’ll be talking about John Horgan’s $10 a day childcare plan. And fashion fiends watch out: I’ll be participating in the Fashion Inferno in Campbell River on Saturday evening for the firemen's burn fund.
Then I’m back in Victoria for at least one more week. I can be reached by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or by phone in Campbell River on 250 287 5100 or Port Hardy on 250 949 9473. You can also find me on Facebook and clairetrevena on Twitter.