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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MLA Report 26th February 2015

MLA Report The week in the Legislature was primarily taken up with debate about the BC Liberal budget. It is, in the main, a budget that gives to the rich through tax cuts, and takes away from everyone else through increases in fees. The top 2 percent of income earners receive a tax break, which will cost the province $230 million. A millionaire will have $17,000 extra a year to play with. And yet most people will see no relief. Instead they are faced with ever increasing hydro bills (another 6 percent planned for this year), with never-ending ferry fare hikes (another 4 percent planned for this year), and with MSP fees that are going up again, just like they do year after year. In my response to the budget* I questioned why BC continues* to charge MSP to pay for our healthcare. The flat tax, which costs the same whether you earn $50,000 or $150,000, brings in more than $2 billion a year to the public coffers and is one of the main sources of revenue for the government. No wonder it do
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MLA Report 13th February 2015

The Legislature has started its spring session with the pomp and ceremony of the Throne Speech. We have seen three such speeches within the last 12 months which is very unusual. A government normally only has a Throne Speech after an election at which time it sets out its course for the coming years. I think the BC Liberals have them so often to cover up their complete lack of imagination, vision or even ideas. This year’s speech, delivered on behalf of the government by the Lieutenant Governor, was particularly thin. Perhaps most notable, after two years of hearing nothing but the wonders of liquefied natural gas, reference to it was particularly muted. Gone are the much-inflated promises of a prosperity fund, of paying off government debt, of trillions of dollars and thousands of jobs. After using these promises as the core of the BC Liberal election campaign just two years ago, and then hearing them repeated time and again through the subsequent months, it is a pretty quick about tu
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MLA Report 26 January 2015

The political sphere is again heating up as MPs head back to Ottawa and MLAs prepare for our return to Victoria. But even with the legislature adjourned, it has been a pretty busy winter season with the BC Liberals trying to use the distraction of the holidays to announce some major changes. The December declaration that the Site C dam will go ahead is disturbing. The Liberals ended their year with the arrogance that has been emblematic of their last 14 years. They stated that this $8.8 billion dollar project will happen despite challenges from First Nations, farmers and environmentalists to name a few. It is staggering, but sadly not surprising. The end of the year also saw a cabinet shuffle in which the rewards for deception were shown. Reports revealed that Amrik Virk, former Minister for Advance Education, had broken compensation rules when on the board of Kwantlen Polytechnic University and then deliberately misled the legislature and the cabinet about his actions. The Minister sh
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Year-end Review

As the year draws to a close it is an opportunity to assess the last 12 months and look forward to the coming year. There have been good moments for our communities but on the whole many people have faced ongoing struggles while the BC Liberal government ignored the real needs of our province. The ongoing mismanagement of our marine highway stands out as one of the fiascos of the year. Despite a major report that showed that the provincial economy as a whole has lost more than $2 billion because of the quasi-privatization of BC Ferries, the government did nothing. Increasing fares have driven down ridership and are crippling our coastal economies. Tourism has been severely damaged. Port Hardy, for example, has seen a huge drop in numbers of visitors with the loss of the Central Coast route and severe cuts to the Prince Rupert run. And after months during which myself and others kept demanding the removal of the fuel surcharge as oil prices plummeted, it was finally dropped. But this is
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MLA Report 27 November 2014

The fall session came to a raucous close this week with many questions unanswered about ministerial and government accountability, transparency and cover-ups by the BC Liberals. The focus for much of our final week was on trying to get some clarity on who knew what and when in two major investigations. In one case there are serious questions about the Minister of Advanced Education, Amrik Virk, a former RCMP officer. For months we have been asking about how involved he had been in breaking executive compensation rules at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, when he was a member of the board of the College. For months he has denied it. This week we received leaked emails, from his then RCMP account, that appear to show Mr. Virk had been very involved in this issue. It is sadly ironic that this involves a post-secondary institution: the very bodies that Mr. Virk, as Minister, is supposed to have oversight. Traditional parliamentary practice is that a minister would resign. In B.C. he is defe
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MLA Report 21 November 2014

It is just one year since the government announced brutal cuts to the ferry system, at the same time it said it would charge seniors, and let fares continue to rise well above the rate of inflation. And the anniversary was marked by more compelling evidence that shows how badly the B.C. Liberals have handled our ferry system. The week started with a report that revealed how tourism in the Chilcotin has been devastated by the gutting of route 40 and the introduction of the small, 16 vehicle Nimpkish to serve the Bella Bella to Bella Coola run. At a news conference hosted by Opposition leader, John Horgan, and myself, a representative of the West Chilcotin Tourism Association spoke about the economic impact on businesses in the region, many of which are facing closure because of the decline in traffic. This summer alone, cuts have cost the region $3.3 million in economic activity and $3.9 million in tourism revenue. While the B.C. Liberals said they were aiming to save $725,000 annually
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MLA Report 6th November, 2014

One of the highlights of the week in the Legislature was the Minister of Transportation’s extraordinarily rapid U-Turn on the future of the Nanaimo-Horseshoe Bay ferry run. If he’d been in a car, there would have been tire marks on the pavement. As I mentioned last week, the Ferry Commissioner has been seeking input on plans by BC Ferries for the coming years. Among those plans was the possibility of cutting the Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay route. Back in March, when rumours about this were swirling, the Minister denied any such plans. But on Tuesday this week he said the BC Liberals would look at closing Departure Bay and cutting the current service. After a province-wide outcry – and questions from me in the Legislature– he backtracked and is now saying that the government is committed to both Nanaimo routes and that the Horseshoe Bay run is “iconic”. My only fear is that the Minister will now use this as an excuse to raise the fares yet again, claiming it is necessary to cover the
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MLA Report 30th October, 2014

As politicians we all have a duty to be accountable to our constituents and more generally to the people of the province. We should be able to account for our actions honestly and openly. Which is why I am always saddened by the way Question Period unfolds. We know that there is a great deal of theatre in the daily half hour in which we in the opposition press cabinet ministers and the Premier for answers. Usually the ministers respond using prepared talking points, circling around the subject but almost never directly answering. And then there are times of complete avoidance. This week, on one of the Premier’s rare appearances in the Legislature, we asked her a number of questions about commitments she’d made to people at the scene of local disasters. After a mill explosion and after the breach of the Mount Polley tailings pond she said she would be there for those affected. But she has not been back and her government has done nothing for the people with whom she had her photo taken.
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