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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MLA Report 23rd September, 2016

Fall is clearly upon us, but as is usually the case in BC politics, there is no autumn session of the Legislature. Each time the Premier, Christy Clark, cancels a session saying we have no need to meet she undermines our democratic system. It is extraordinarily arrogant of her to think that she alone knows what is best for the province and doesn’t need to even consider all those elected to represent people and communities across the province. Instead, she makes announcements which are clearly designed to win votes in next May’s election. The most blatant, and really cynical, piece of electioneering is the relaunch of the Port Hardy to Bella Coola ferry. Just three years ago the BC Liberals axed the route, saying it was losing money and replaced a vessel that had $18m in public money spent on upgrades (and was later sold to a ferry operator in Fiji for cents on the dollar) with the 16 vehicle Nimpkish. The outcry was huge from Port Hardy. Bella Bella, Bella Coola and all the way up to W
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MLA Report July 29, 2016

We had a surprise, short, summer session this week with just two items on the government’s agenda but a great number on ours.  And as people have said, you could tell it was a summer session because Premier Christy Clark brought her flip-flops: first a flip-flop on changing the human rights code and then one on dealing with the crazed housing market in the Lower Mainland. We have been arguing for many years that the BC Human Rights code should explicitly include gender identity and expression. In our last attempt, just this spring, the BC Liberals said they would not make the change. Then a change of heart. For whatever reason – the cynics might suggest an upcoming election – the right move was made. The Premier, however, just came for the photo-opp, skipping the vote in favour of a BC Liberal fundraising event. Through the spring session, the Premier and her cabinet also argued loudly against government doing anything to deal with the property market in the Lower Mainland in which hou
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MLA Report July 8th, 2016

Summer is upon us with people heading off for vacations and enjoying community festivals. Many of us are making the most of our own backyard wilderness and we host lots of tourists who want to experience our North Island paradise. Unfortunately one of the most affordable holidays – camping at one of our many provincial parks – has become more difficult. Not only have we seen the BC Liberals put the rates up, but now it has come to light that private tour operators are block booking at some popular locations, keeping BC residents out of our own parks. There should be a simple fix; allow residents priority in making reservations and in access. But so far, the Minister has not dealt with this matter. I’ve raised the issue, along with my colleagues, and hopefully by next year there will be a change in the system. While looking at access to the wilderness, I am also following up with government on a number of concerns brought to my office about gates at logging roads. In a number of areas t
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MLA Report May 19th, 2016

The Legislative session ended in a way which perhaps reflects the last 15 years of the BC Liberal government. A special prosecutor charged a former government employee, Brian Bonney, with breach of trust. This stems from what became known as the Quick Wins scandal in which Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government was allegedly using public money, government databases and staff for highly partisan, pre-election, activities three years ago. On the same day as the breach of trust charge was brought, Mr Bonney and a colleague pleaded guilty to violating the Elections Act. In arguments the special prosecutor made before the judge the special prosecutor said these violations were part of a broader scheme, not an inadvertent error. Yet, under repeated questioning in the Legislature by Official Opposition leader John Horgan, the Attorney General refused to talk about that bigger scheme. Nor would she say whether the government is paying his legal fees. As unofficial campaigning starts for next ye
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MLA Report May 13th, 2016

A central theme to this week in the Legislature was unaffordability. During the daily, half-hourly ritual of Question Period the focus was the problems in the Lower Mainland because of housing costs. And during the Premier’s estimates debate – in which Opposition Leader John Horgan has the opportunity to ask questions of the Christy Clark for several hours – the rapidly escalating costs of hydro, ferries, ICBC and MSP were on the table. Much of the time on the floor of the House was spent in the budget estimates debates with the ministries of health, natural gas, justice and the Premier’s office being questioned. There were few answers and much fantasy in response. Three years ago everyone was promised a debt free BC and tens of thousands of people working in the LNG industry. None of it has come true, it is a fantasy, but Christy Clark and her ministers continue to talk as if it is real. People get tired of political spin and want honest answers to their real problems. But even when t
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MLA Report May 6th, 2016

This week in the Legislature, the Official Opposition continued to raise questions about the potential conflict of interest within the BC Liberal government because of political donations paid to the party. We started the week by debating a motion which would solve the problem immediately by the government implementing reforms which would take big money out of politics. That set the tone for the rest of the week, both in subject matter and the raucous debate that ensued when we raised it. We brought examples of perceived conflict of interest, in which it appeared that corporate donations may have influenced government decisions, to the floor of the house every day. And the BC Liberals clearly did not like it. It is usually impossible to prove a definitive link, but we cited logging companies that escaped fines, garbage companies that got helpful regulations and mining companies that operated without oversight all after donating to the BC Liberals. The Auditor General released a damming
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MLA Report April 29, 2016

Money in politics was again front and centre in the Legislature this week, when it was revealed the Premier, Christy Clark, receives $50,000 a year from the BC Liberal Party, in addition to her salary as Premier. This money is raised in part by private fundraising events in which the financial elites pay the Liberal Party for exclusive access to the Premier. The Opposition is challenging these fundraising methods. We have taken this issue to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner arguing that this style of fundraising is effectively selling influence. The Premier has a lawyer to defend her who is being paid from the public purse by the BC Liberal caucus. This abuse is just one reason we want to end both union and corporate donations to all our political parties. No politician should be open to the accusation that they can be bought. No party should be beholden to its largest donors. But the BC Liberals do not appear to realize the significance of this. The Premier and MLAs laughed when
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MLA Report 15th April, 2016

The lack of a government agenda, or any vision from Premier Christy Clark, was magnificently apparent this week. We spent more than a day of the limited legislative calendar debating a topic that is firmly in the Federal realm: the trade deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership. The Federal Liberals have put this contentious deal to a committee for broader discussion. We suggested that if the BC Liberals wanted to spend time analyzing it, they should do likewise. The Premier disagreed and we ended up spending more than a day debating a Federal issue.  I regularly talk about the fragility of our democracy and the importance of our democratic institutions. The BC Liberals have no respect for them and instead of doing the important job of governing on behalf of all British Columbians, they play petty, juvenile political games. We, meanwhile, introduced two bills that will get likely get no debate on the floor of the Legislature.  Once again, we brought in a Poverty Reduction Act and we also ta
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