A week in review – BC Ferries and the BC Liberals

The BC Liberals’ incompetence regarding BC Ferries seems to know no bounds, as recent events have shown. Just over one week ago the Minister of Transportation, Todd Stone, publicly trashed a report which showed the economic impact of 12 years of neglect of the marine highway and of sky rocketing fares has cost the province $2.3 billion. He also insulted the elected officials at the Union of BC Municipalities who had commissioned the long-overdue report. I responded with an open letter in which I expressed my concern that the minister would so completely and comprehensively dismiss the findings and provide no solution for the more than a million British Columbian individuals and businesses who rely on the coastal ferry system. The minister has not yet answered my concerns. It was heartening to see the unanimous support at the recent UBCM convention for the report and its recommendations. Those reaffirm the organization’s desire to have the ferry system included as part of the Ministry o
Continue Reading →

MLA Report 16th September, 2014

Two issues are top of mind as I write this: the teachers’ strike and the continued mishandling of our ferry system. Negotiation finally succeeded to end the strike which has left students missing five weeks of school and has pitted teachers and parents against the government. Time and again, on picket lines and at protests I heard people question how the BC Liberal government could do this to the kids. But this is a government that has played politics with education since it was first elected 13 years ago. It is a dangerous and divisive approach. However teachers, who are not generally militant people, were willing to oppose this attitude and fight for people in the education professions and for the future of public education. They stood up for their human rights: the right to bargain, to negotiate and ultimately, to strike. The dispute also showed parents understood the fight has been about their children’s future and the future of all of us. It was heartening to see the support shown
Continue Reading →

MLA Report – July

In newsrooms, summer is often called “the silly season”. It’s a time when editors are desperately hunting stories to fill the newscasts and newspapers. And it is the time when governments hope that while everyone is out soaking up the sun, fishing, camping and ignoring the workaday world, they can slip out news they would rather people don’t know about. The BC Liberals are masters at this. Just two examples from the last few weeks: one is the whitewashing over the clear conflict of interest displayed by the former CEO of BC Lottery Corporation. While he was still working at BCLC, he’d started having talks with his next employer – part of the major private gaming organization, Paragon. Yet when he left BCLC he received a $125,000 payout. An internal audit released earlier this month found a clear conflict, but the minister responsible, Finance Minister Mike de Jong, shrugged it off as though none of it matters. But it does. Integrity goes to the heart of government and is fundamental in
Continue Reading →

MLA Report 15th May, 2014

The efforts to save the Agricultural Land Reserve dominated this week in the Legislature, as we continued to argue with the government that changing the Commission and the Reserve would do great damage to the future of BC and to food security. On Vancouver Island we should be particularly aware of this since we only have an estimated three-day supply of food. Instead of diminishing our ability to grow food locally, we should be enhancing it. One of the problems is that there has been almost no consultation about the changes. Farmers, ranchers, agricultural associations and academics all say that they should have been able to have some input into the drafting of the bill. To try to make this happen we, as Official Opposition, introduced a motion to send Bill 24 to a committee to allow experts and stakeholders the opportunity to give their views on the implications of the changes and whether changes are even necessary. When I spoke about this I raised the concerns of many of those with w
Continue Reading →

MLA Report 8th May, 2014

Two key pieces of the BC Liberals’ agenda, which will have a direct impact on the future of the province, were discussed this week in Victoria – Bill 2, the Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act, and Bill 24 the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act. The first is an attempt to undermine the independent Boundaries Commission. This bill allows the government to ring fence 17 constituencies and ensure their boundaries will not change. These are defined by the BC Liberals as “rural” and include the two ridings in Kamloops and two in Prince George which are all, incidentally, Liberal strongholds. Not surprisingly, they do not include the decidedly more rural North Island, nor Alberni Pacific Rim, nor Powell River which are held by the NDP. And they shouldn’t because constituency boundaries are not supposed to be the business of politicians. The Commissioners are supposed to be able to act independently and decide where the boundaries are to best serve our parliamentary democrac
Continue Reading →

MLA Report 1st May, 2014

While I usually open my report by the weekly happenings in the Legislature, I think everyone’s week has been overshadowed by the terrible shooting at the Western Forest Products mill in Nanaimo. It shook everyone, and perhaps was especially felt in our forest dependent communities. While we see anger expressed in this way in the United States we are lucky that it is so very rare here. There will be discussion for some time about what was the root cause of the attack but nothing will lessen the grief of the families and the sad sense of loss of the workers, the company and the community. My thoughts are with them. This week started with the National Day of Mourning, an opportunity to remember those killed or injured at work. For the first time, at the instigation of our Labour critic, the flags outside the Legislature flew at half-mast and we had a minute’s silence before we started the day’s debate. As Opposition, we tabled a Workplace Accountability Act, which would help to keep worke
Continue Reading →

MLA Report 10th April, 2014

One of the interesting aspects of being the official Opposition critic for transportation is that it enables me to reflect on similar needs for communities in what would appear to be very differing circumstances. For our province to have a healthy environment, economy, and social infrastructure we have to have a transportation system that works – that allows people and goods to move easily and effectively. Sadly we don’t. That is one of the problems with the government’s intransigence over BC Ferries: by greatly increasing costs over the last few years, commerce and communities are choked. That is very clear in the regular figures we see showing declining ridership. There has been an 8% drop in ridership as fares have skyrocketed. Even BC Ferries’ spokesperson admits it’s often cheaper to fly than to take the ferry – an absurdity and a clear example of “Liberal math”. They do not realize that trying to make a profit from this highway is killing communities. There are similar deba
Continue Reading →

MLA Report 3rd April, 2014

The focus of our week at the Legislature in Victoria was affordability: the cost of living for most people skyrocketed between Monday and Tuesday, In Question Period, we challenged the government over the inflated increase in BC Hydro rates. They went up 9 percent on April 1st and will jump 28 percent in total over the coming few years. That is because the BC Liberals have mismanaged the utility. It forced BC Hydro into extremely expensive long-term agreements to buy electricity from private power producers, and we are all paying the cost. And of course ferry fares went up again this week. This was at the same time that new, reduced service schedules were announced. While we were told that the increase would be “on average” 4 percent, in reality it is, for a passenger, a 5 percent hike. The “average” 4 percent is for vehicles. This is on top of the 3.5 percent increase back in January. So we are paying 8.5 percent more than we were three months ago to use our highway. I raised this in
Continue Reading →

MLA Report 27th March, 2014

The BC Liberals set the tone of the week in the Legislature by tabling back-to-work legislation in their attempt to end the strike at Port Metro Vancouver. While there was eventually a negotiated settlement, this heavy-handed approach is symptomatic of the attitude of this government to unions.  As I mentioned when I spoke against the bill the BC Liberals, like their Conservative counterparts in Ottawa, continue to try to eliminate the rights of trade unions. We see this time and again, whether arbitrarily stopping strikes, such as with the paramedics or teachers, or by allowing contracting out work, such as at New Horizons in Campbell River. The sad irony of this latest back-to-work legislation is that the majority of those truckers who work at the Port are not in unions; 1200 non-union workers were out and 250 members of UNIFOR. The bill would have forced only the union members to go back to work. It has now been dropped. The government also introduced another piece of significant le
Continue Reading →

MLA Report 13th March, 2014

Ferries took central stage at the Legislature this week – both inside and outside the building. A large rally brought together Islanders and other residents of coastal communities, while inside during Question Period, I joined the Leader of the Opposition and other MLAs from coastal constituencies to challenge the Minister of Transportation on his blinkered and ideological approach to our marine highway. On the day of the rally we devoted Question Period to asking the Minister why no economic impact studies were carried out ahead of the cuts. The City of Prince Rupert has done its own assessment of the impact of rising fares and cuts to services and it is gloomy. Entitled “Beyond Hope” it shows that it will not only be tourism-related businesses which are effected but business across the community and throughout the North.  The Minister refuses to acknowledge that our communities are economic generators and that we have a right to have public access to them like residents elsewhere in
Continue Reading →