MLA Report, 8th April 2016

This has been a week in which some of politics’ dirty secrets have been laid bare: the fundraising tactics used by Premier Christy Clark and her inner council. While other jurisdictions have been embarrassed into changing the laws governing fundraising for politics, BC’s premier has steadfastly stuck to private fundraising, effectively selling access to herself and her ministers. John Horgan, the leader of the Opposition, this week introduced a bill for the fifth time in as many years, which would ban corporate and union donations to political parties and ensure a cap on individual donations. Private members bills rarely get debated in the BC Legislature so we tried to get the bill considered by moving it through the committee system. This demanded a vote of all members. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, the BC Liberals voted No, so the bill has effectively stalled leaving BC alone in allowing our politics to be paid for by corporations and lobbyists. This should not be a partisan i
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MLA Report, 18th March 2016

Public education was at the heart of much of the discussion this week in the Legislature. It is not only Campbell River and other North Island communities that are facing tough decisions about school closures. Across the province, school districts that also have been severely underfunded for years now have no choice but to close the doors of schools. While the decision is ultimately one made by each school board, most the closures are the consequence of BC Liberal policy. School boards have been starved of cash for 15 years while they have had to absorb increased costs downloaded on them, from MSP through hydro. In addition, they are often compelled by necessity to offer social services – providing a stable place for kids, at times ensuring they are fed – all the while trying to do their legislated job as public educators. There is a meanness of spirit reflected in the funding coming from the BC Liberals. I’ve mentioned these last few weeks about the loss of bus passes for people on di
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MLA Report, 11th March 2016

People often repeat the line that “it is Question Period but not answer period” to shrug off the fact that Christy Clark and the BC Liberals don’t answer our questions in the Legislature. However, in a healthy democracy there has to be accountability and that means not just asking questions but also getting honest and full responses. This week the Premier refused to answer questions about the health researchers who were summarily dismissed without justification four years ago. At that time, the BC Liberals misled the public saying there was an RCMP investigation. One of the researchers killed himself. Now the individuals and their families are trying to get legal help so they can fully participate in the Ombudsman’s investigation into what happened. While the Attorney General avoided giving plain answers about why the government was not providing the families assistance for legal counsel, the Premier sat in her place in the Legislature and simply smiled. Often it is the Attorney Genera
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MLA Report 4th March, 2016

Cuts — whether to transit passes for the disabled, to education or to environmental oversight – all are a result of government priorities. Unfortunately, the BC Liberals priorities often are not in the best interest of many people in BC and the North Island. The loss of transit passes for people on provincial disability have been central to debate in the Legislature this week. We have been raising this injustice daily in Question Period, in debate on legislation and even from the steps of the Legislature at a rally. I have heard from many people who can see their lives being diminished by this callous cut. The hurt is all the worse when people see Christy Clark travelling on a private jet, with her own personal camera crew, to get to photo ops in her Okanagan constituency. The arrogance is astounding and reflects a government that has been in power so long that it no longer recognizes such inequities as wrong. The BC Liberals still don’t see that cuts to public education add to i
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MLA Report 26th February, 2016

When teachers bring their students to the Legislature they and their students are often dismayed by the behaviour of MLAs in Question Period. Saying the atmosphere is boisterous would imply it is good natured but often the heckling is loud and disrespectful. This week saw two ends of that extreme: on Tuesday it was very discordant but on Wednesday, anti-bullying day, it was much calmer. That being said, our questions, as Official Opposition, focused that day on the hectoring and bullying approach of Premier Christy Clark. For Ms Clark, you are either with her or against her. There is no middle ground, no willingness to negotiate, no desire to compromise. This is not a good approach for anyone, let alone a premier. This has been exemplified as she tries to push through her pet projects. She has described many respected First Nations’ leaders who oppose the siting of a LNG plant on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert as a “rag tag” bunch. Instead of apologising to the individuals concerned, M
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MLA Report 19th February, 2016

The budget presented by the BC Liberals this year showed just what drives a Christy Clark government: fantasy The Premier promised what she called a Prosperity Fund just ahead of the last election. It was to be made up with billions of dollars generated as a result of the (fantasy) LNG industry. Since Ms. Clark’s timeline for that industry to launch has been dramatically missed, it is not producing those promised billions in revenue. But with the next election little more than a year away she needs the fantasy to continue. So this budget created a fantasy “prosperity” fund. The seed money: $100m. But how to fund it when there is no LNG billions rolling in? Well, that $100m matches exactly the amount of revenue generated by the latest hike in MSP which is, of course, paid for by everyone in BC. The Premier has derided MSP in the past as antiquated and said there should be a better way of tax collection. But she did not use the opportunity presented by her budget to deal with it. No othe
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MLA Report 12th February, 2016

The Legislature is back in session. MLAs gathered in Victoria this week ready for a very political few months. I am also getting back into work after undergoing open heart surgery near the end of last year. With an election a year away, this is the time the BC Liberals, who have been in power for 15 years, try to show that they have new ideas. However, the annual Throne Speech belied that; it was vacuous, repetitive and, to be honest, in some sections it was insulting and divisive. It was no surprise that Christy Clark clung to her LNG pipe dream in the Speech, which sets the agenda for the coming session. So much was placed on that in the last election that, despite missing all target dates so far, she is still heralding LNG as the saviour of the province. However, Ms Clark has had to scale back on her promises. She originally told British Columbians 100,000 jobs would be created by LNG. But in this Throne Speech she now says 13,000 jobs will be ‘saved’ – whatever ‘saved’ means. The S
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MLA Report 17th November 2015

The fall Legislative session is coming to a close. It has been two months where there has been little innovative legislation, but the time back in the Legislature has given us, as Opposition, the opportunity of a daily question period. Challenging government on its actions is a central role for Opposition, and we were relentless this session focusing mainly on two areas. We spent weeks asking about the desperate situation within the Ministry of Children and Families with young people taking their own lives. We then spent more weeks showing how Christy Clark’s government has been covering up its actions, seemingly in all ministries. Keeping a written record of decisions made and actions taken is simply good practice and good policy in whatever sphere one is working. When it comes to the decisions of a government, the body elected to work on behalf of millions of people, it should be essential. But clearly that’s not the thinking within Ms. Clark’s government. As far as she’s concerned i
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MLA Report 30th October 2015

This week Canadian journalist Mohammed Fahmy who had been in prison in Egypt for more than 400 days, wrongly accused of terrorism visited the Legislature. It was extremely interesting to hear how he survived, how important it was for him to know people were fighting for him and his views on diplomatic involvement when a Canadian citizen has been arrested and imprisoned. The Question Period exchange he observed was – like all of our Question Periods this week – focused on the BC Liberals abuse of freedom of information legislation and the cover-up of issues they don’t want the public to know about. It was, however, a salutary reminder that while we rage against the BC Liberals outrageous record, we have the opportunity to challenge them in the Legislature without fear of reprisals. And this can and should be reported by our free media.   It was also perhaps appropriate that the discussion was about how the BC Liberals ignore freedom of information laws, apparently on direction from
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MLA Report 23 October 2015

This has been an intense week for any watcher of politics and I believe for most Canadians. I am very pleased that federally, the North Island once again has a NDP MP. Rachel Blaney is engaged, inclusive and passionate about our communities. She will be a great voice for us in Ottawa and I look forward to working alongside her in my capacity as MLA. Just hours after the final BC results were announced, MLAs were gathering in Victoria for a slightly shortened legislative week. We picked up pretty well where we left off with questions to the Minister and the Premier about cuts to the Ministry of Children and Families that have left young people vulnerable. It is sad to see the Premier laughing and chatting in the legislature while we asked about deaths of young people. It was the cuts made when she was minister 13 years ago that started putting the ministry under stress and it has become even worse, It was also sad to see the BC Liberals determination to avoid responsibility for the cris
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