MLA Report, 29th June, 2017

It was, without question, an historic week in the BC Legislature. It started with throwing out government legislation and ended with the government’s demise. With fewer members than the BC NDP and the BC Green Party together, the BC Liberals knew they were fighting a losing battle. But they tried to act as though it was business as usual. On Monday, they brought in two pieces of legislation which were rejected by the opposition before debate on them could even start, which clearly showed they did not have the confidence of the House. But they ploughed on, through four days of question periods and of speeches. Every day in Question Period we highlighted how the BC Liberals were failing to meet the needs of people –from education through healthcare and the lack of action on softwood to the growing housing crisis. Each time we asked the Premier to test the confidence of the House but she did not. Instead she filibustered, giving increasingly long-winded speeches in the place of answers to
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MLA Report, 22nd June, 2017

Almost seven weeks after the election, the Legislature finally returned for the Throne Speech and the next stage of an engaging time in BC politics. (It is interesting to note that in Britain this month the House of Commons resumed sitting within days of an election which too left a hung parliament.) The session started with the election of a Speaker: Steve Thomson, BC Liberal MLA and former Minister of Forests stood unopposed and will work through the machinations of the coming week and if he chooses to stay, beyond. The Throne Speech, as I always say, is the government’s vision. This time it was a BC Liberal conversion of epic proportions, in fact it was almost all of the NDP’s platform. The promises made ranged from investments in child care through increasing welfare rates to campaign finance reform and proportional representation. These are changes that we in the NDP have been demanding for years. We have tabled countless private members’ bills on them in the Legislature and all h
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MLA Report, 16th March, 2017

The last week in the Legislature ahead of May’s election was always likely to be raucous and that was indeed the case. The Opposition loudly demanding answers to questions, which went unanswered, the government members yelling to defend the BC Liberal record of the last 16 years, and applause when a bill passed unanimously. That bill – Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act – had its genesis in the hard work of former MLA Jenny Kwan and former Opposition Leader Adrian Dix who trawled through BC’s laws to identify those which had clauses which discriminated people on grounds of race. While those provisions would now not stand a challenge under human rights laws, it is important to remove them from the statutes. The government brought in a bill to do that and on our last week, in a rare act of unity, we voted with the government. It is healthy when a government adopts good legislation from the Opposition as was the case with that act. But the BC Liberals remained obstin
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MLA Report, 10th March, 2017

Debate in the Legislature has continued on the few pieces of legislation the BC Liberals have brought forward this spring. As I have mentioned in previous reports there is nothing of great significance although there is a cynical and manipulative approach to it. Glaring in its omission is any legislation which will deal with campaign finance reform. After revelations in the Globe and Mail that lobbyists are channeling money to the governing party through individuals – apparently in contravention to Elections BC regulations – the need seems even more stark. We did ask questions on this in the House but this tired and corrupt government would admit no wrong and the Speaker claimed our questions were out of order. BC is described as the “wild west” of campaign finance because of a lack of rules and no limit on donations to political parties from vested interests. So we were not surprised when Christy Clark again refused to debate the bills we have tabled in the Legislature which would fix
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MLA Report, 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
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MLA Report, 24th February, 2017

This week was the centrepiece for the BC Liberals of the short pre-election session with the tabling of their budget. Not surprisingly it is designed to encourage people to forget the last 16 years. That however is unlikely. Their “big idea” is a cut to the MSP, although that won’t happen until next year. The BC Liberals have doubled this regressive tax over the last 16 years; it went up again just last month. But now they find that they don’t really need the money, thereby proving our argument that there is no direct link between MSP and the health care budget, it is just a cash grab. We in the Opposition have long been saying that we need to do away with the MSP completely and if elected will do just that. By the way, BC is the only province that imposes compulsory charges for the public health plan. And MSP has been a cash cow for the BC Liberals, bringing in more than corporate and other taxes. Likewise the BC Liberals have been milking BC Hydro and ICBC. They have been taking mone
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MLA Report, 17th February, 2017

The Legislature resumed this week with pomp, ceremony and politics. The Lieutenant Governor was greeted with a military display before laying out the government’s agenda for the next five weeks – and, with an election coming in May, one assumes for the next four years — in the Throne Speech. This time, however, the BC Liberal agenda was almost non-existent. Certainly there was no indication of what they intend to do over the coming abbreviated session and little about what they would want to do if re-elected. If anything the speech could be summarized as “watch this space: we’ve got a budget coming next week and all will be revealed then.” Judging by the Throne Speech, the government has neither a plan nor a vision for the province. After 16 years in government, the BC Liberals have run out of things they want to do and they are not willing to fix the multitude of problems that their governance has brought – unless of course they are forced to, as with the Supreme Court’s ruling
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MLA Report, 8th February, 2017

Next week we return to the Legislature for the final session before the provincial election in May. B.C.’s government is highly self-promoting and I fully anticipate the coming five weeks will be more about campaigning than about good governance. We already see public money being spent for purely partisan purposes with the latest series of TV commercials promoting Christy Clark’s agenda. As Opposition, we will be questioning Ms Clark’s refusal to ban big money from our political system. For the fifth time John Horgan will be tabling a bill which would prohibit donations from corporations or unions and would seek a cap on donations from individuals. We need to end the perception that any political party is in the hands of special interest groups. It has been nine months since the Legislature was last in session (another political decision by the Premier) and it is only going to happen because the law requires the government a budget. In the long absence from the legislature, many issues
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MLA Report, December 5th, 2016

It is hard to believe that the year is drawing to a close. And even though we have not been sitting in the BC Legislature it has been a politically packed 2016, with the likely BC Liberal approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline providing a depressing finale. If we had been in Victoria we would have been able to ask Christy Clark about why she would be willing to sell out our coast by accepting the decision on the pipeline. This, just weeks after the sinking of the tug on the North Coast and the environmental impact that is having on marine life. The positive aspect of Legislature not sitting when it was supposed to is I’ve been able to use the time to talk to constituents. I’ve been holding a series of community consultations to hear what people’s concerns are and how we can work together to deal with them. Top of mind for many remains access to the Internet, two tiered electricity pricing, ferries and education. Other perennial problems include care for our seniors in our communities a
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MLA Report, 14th October, 2016

As many people know, the BC Liberals instituted fixed elections every four years and, at the same time, also set dates when the Legislature must sit. We’re mandated to sit for two months every fall. But, ignoring their own legislation, the government has once again decided that the parliamentary process is inconvenient for them. The BC Legislature is not sitting this fall and will not sit again until next February. I have been using this time to get out into the community. I was lucky enough to see the inside of the John Hart project, a mammoth job that– unlike Site C – has a project labour agreement. That means well paid union workers are on the job and I am told that more than 80 percent of them are from the North Island. I also held a meeting for women business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals recently and thank all those who gave their time to take part. Interesting issues were raised and discussed, from the availability and cost of childcare to an increase in the minimum wa
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