MLA Report October 10 2017

MLA Report   There is a different atmosphere in the Legislature these days as our new government starts making changes that will help to build a better BC. Unfortunately, there is one new negative element: with the roles reversed and the BC Liberals now in opposition, the atmosphere of Question Period has become more raucous and nasty. It was a huge privilege to stand and vote in favour of our bill to take big money out of politics. This is landmark legislation which bans corporate and union donations and will cap the amount any one person can donate to a political party at $1,200 a year. This is the second lowest level in Canada: only Quebec has a lower limit at $100. The legislation also reduces the amount political parties can spend on elections which, hopefully, will help to clean up the electoral system. We were not surprised to see the BC Liberals vote against the bill. Our package of democratic reforms continued when we introduced a bill that may lead the way to proportional rep
Continue Reading →

  Report from the Legislature It is hard to believe that it has been almost two months since the NDP was sworn in as government and I had the honour to be appointed as Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. Summer was spent getting up to speed and dealing with issues that had been left hanging during the long inter-regnum after the election. It was also a summer, and continues into this early fall, of unprecedented forest fires. There’s been a provincial state of emergency for many weeks; volunteers and professionals have been working hard and people’s lives have been massively disrupted. Everyone’s heart goes out to the many thousands affected. We are now back in the Legislature, have had our first Speech from the Throne, and this week the budget update. We’ll be here until the end of November as there is a lot to do, including discussing the budget. For the first time in 16 years issues of poverty and inequality were tackled head on – with measures which ranged from help
Continue Reading →

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
Continue Reading →

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
Continue Reading →

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
Continue Reading →

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
Continue Reading →

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
Continue Reading →

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
Continue Reading →

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
Continue Reading →

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
Continue Reading →