MLA Report 24th July 2015

As most people reading this report will be aware, we were called back to the Legislature for a rare summer sitting. The purpose was for the government to expedite a bill on liquefied natural gas, which effectively sells out the province for the next quarter of a century. It is an absolutely astounding piece of legislation. In a desperate attempt to get at least one LNG facility operating in BC by the next election, the government has already fixed the tax regime to be so low that we are effectively giving away our resource. This latest bill adds insult to injury. It ties the hands of this and future governments so that if any changes are made in laws that will negatively impact the earnings of the LNG producer the corporation will be compensated by the BC government. In other words, if any government in the next generation chooses to change to environmental laws, tax laws, carbon reduction initiatives, royalty rates or make any other changes that negatively affect the corporation’s bot
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End of Session MLA Report, 28th May 2015

This report marks the end of the spring session in the Legislature. The session left the perception it had been driven by a government bereft of ideas but desperate to stay in control. By contrast, the Official Opposition introduced a number of bills which would have strengthened our democracy, expanded our industries, improved the agricultural sector and dealt fairly with First Nations. The last few days of debate in the Legislature are a microcosm of the manipulation of the parliamentary system by the BC Liberals. Just after Question Period on the final Wednesday, the Minister of Energy tried to introduce a motion about construction of Site C. In the parliamentary system it takes two days for a motion to be tabled and then debated but this was impossible as there was only one day left in the session. The BC Liberals were deliberately manipulating the parliamentary process so they could try to score political points having just signed an agreement with the BC Building Trades. While th
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MLA Report 14th May 2015

Tempers frayed more than usual at the Legislature this week. Once again it was because of a lack of answers from the government on a number of issues – from a massive overspend on an IT project for BC Hydro, to the failure of another expensive IT project in the Ministry of Health, to questions of integrity and conflict of interest in gaming contracts to the government’s Partnerships BC, the organization responsible for public private partnerships. Government ministers refused to respond directly, or even indirectly, sometimes changing the subject entirely when responding to questions on all these issues. Outside Question Period two important pieces of legislation were discussed: debate took place on Bill 20, the Election Amendment Act and the Education Statutes Amendment Act entered committee stage. The focus in the media on Bill 20 has largely been about privacy and clauses that expand political parties’ ability to find out who voted, although obviously not who they voted for. While t
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MLA Report 7th May 2015

For any political watcher, and in fact for many Canadians, there is no question that there is just one political story this week – the stunning and unexpected victory of the NDP in Alberta, bringing to an end the 44 year reign of the Conservatives. There is a BC connection to the story: Rachel Notley, the Premier-elect of Alberta was a Ministerial Assistant in BC when the NDP was last in government here. That was proudly acknowledged by our current leader, John Horgan, who congratulated Ms Notley in the Legislature. On one of her rare appearances in the Legislature BC’s Premier, Christy Clark, made no reference to the election in the neighbouring province nor did she offer good wishes her new fellow premier. But then again, nor did she even attempt to answer any questions about massive cost overruns on an IT project at BC Hydro. While hydro costs are spiraling out of control for users, more and more money is being pumped into the project which is already two years overdue. Instead of r
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MLA Report 30th April 2015

Public healthcare and public education underpin our society. Investment in both is vital for us to develop a just and equitable society in which everyone can live their lives to the fullest. Unfortunately that’s not happening at the moment, so we, as Opposition, have been raising these issues in the Legislature. Over several days in Question Period we highlighted the unfortunate truism that many people who are in urgent need of health care are only able to get the treatment they need after their situation has been raised by the Opposition or by the media. We live in a large province and delivery of specialty care is complex but knowing that, we should work all the harder to ensure people get the care they need when they need it. Debate in the Legislature this week centred on one bill: the Education Statutes Amendment Act. This bill has not become the flashpoint that some legislation around education provokes, but it has created real concern for school trustees, school districts and tea
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MLA Report 23rd April 2015

It has been an engaging week at the Legislature in Victoria, with debate on bills that will bring changes to the liquor laws and the new Societies Act which will govern charities and not for profits. Question Period has swept from the somber to the surreal. Among the topics we discussed were the consequences of the very sad death of a young man in Surrey in a gang shooting and why the staff of the Minister in charge of freedom of information blocked freedom of information requests. Much of my week in the Legislature centred on my shadow cabinet role, looking at the way the government is spending its Transportation budget. That means a lot of detailed questions as well as the opportunity for political discussions. My focus on ferries was the capital budget – the renewal of the ferry fleet. I was particularly concerned that millions of dollars were spent on refitting the Queen of Chilliwack, which used to run on the central coast and then the vessel was almost immediately taken out of co
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MLA report 16th April 2015

BC Liberal fiscal incompetence was on display this week in Victoria, when the Opposition revealed that a sell off of publically owned lands cost the province $43 million. The land in question is in the lower mainland and was sold quickly and well below its appraised value. The government tried to shrug this off, but in anyone’s estimation it is a huge amount of money that was lost. It is bad enough that the government is selling off public lands in an effort to balance the books. But this comes at a time when school boards are being told to cut the “low hanging fruit” (which already was picked by previous cuts), when we see BC among the worst places in the country for hospital wait lists, when people are simply paying more and getting less. And further financial incompetence was displayed when the government brought in an amendment to the Liquified Natural Gas Act. That Act was passed in November and since then we’ve seen the opportunities for LNG in BC become even more far-fetched tha
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MLA Report 27th March, 2015

Hubris is perhaps the word of the week at the BC legislature as the government refuses to accept responsibility for major mistakes committed under its watch – the failure of the Auditor General for Local Government and the collapse of the Treaty Commission stand out among others. Both these issues have been playing out in the headlines, in Question Period and in the committees of the Legislature. The Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) was a pet project of Premier Christy Clark, in spite of opposition from individual local governments and the Union of BC Municipalities. As Opposition we argued that we already have an Auditor General and we did not need to set up a whole new level of government bureaucracy. But Christy Clark pushed ahead. And what did the people of BC get? We all got a dysfunctional office, the dismissal of the person in charge – the Auditor General of Local Government, the auditor herself being audited and legal challenges looming. In spite of this blatant and
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MLA Report 13th March 2015

MLA report For a government that boasts that it is economic and fiscally competent and efficient, this week has shown the chaos that really exists after 14 years of a BC Liberal government. Whether it is the disarray in the office of the Auditor General for Local Government or complete confusion over plans to change liquor pricing, there are never any clear answers, particularly in Question Period. The Auditor General for Local Government was a pet project of the Premier who felt there was a need for a special body to ensure we get value for money from our hard working local governments. Unfortunately more than $5m has been spent and there’s only one audit to show for it. And a leaked report revealed that in an office of 10, more than half are unhappy with what is happening. But hear either the Premier or the Minister talk about it and everything is allegedly fine. There was a similar response from the BC Liberals when we asked in Question Period about their changes to wholesale liquor
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MLA Report 5th March 2015

A government that has been in office for 14 years tends towards arrogance, perhaps none more so than the BC Liberals. Their attitude in the Legislature this week was one of contempt. As so often it happened during the Question Periods. In one instance we were asking about the contracting out of laundry services from hospitals in the interior. The Minister of Health made a mockery of the question implying laundry services are not important to health care and then said he’d rather ensure there are endoscopy services rather than washing machines in hospitals. The privatization of housekeeping services has resulted in dirty hospitals and, as I would have hoped the minister would have acknowledged, dirty hospitals lead to the spread of germs. I would also have hoped he would have realized that laundry facilities are part of the structure that keeps hospitals operating – so the doctors can perform the endoscopes, the joint replacement and all other medical interventions. Another example of a
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