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
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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
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MLA Report, 7th March 2014

There is little surprise that the BC Liberal budget passed second reading earlier this week. After two weeks in which we as opposition argued that it was not good for BC, the government used its majority and the support of the Green Party MLA to win the vote. The next stage in the budget is for us to start going through the spending, line by line, in the estimates debate. This is often boring to watch, as the Ministers take a lot of time to confer with their staff but we can sometimes get explanations about spending priorities and cuts in services. This differs from the heated daily battles of Question Period. We started this week  by launching in on the cuts to ferries, in particular the popular Discovery Circle tour from Port Hardy to Bella Coola. The BC Liberals had thought they had done damage control by talking about refits to the Nimpkish, the small ferry that will be put on the route. But those changes are laughable: they include trying (not guaranteeing) to make sure there is d
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MLA Report 27th February, 2014

Much of the debate in the Legislature this week centred on the budget. That is normal the week after it is tabled, but the focus tightened after the premier’s extraordinary claim that there are no new taxes. She also said the budget was balanced “without raising taxes, borrowing or stealing.”   We challenged the government on its claims repeatedly in Question Period and in our responses to the budget in debate because new taxes, fees and levies will actually bring in $4.4 billion. This is a budget that raises MSP by another 4 percent, leading to a doubling of this regressive flat tax over the last 10 years. MSP now brings in more than property tax, more than carbon tax, more than fuel tax and more than natural gas royalties. It raises for the province the same amount as corporate taxes. And small businesses as well as individuals are going to be hit by the 28 percent increase in hydro bills, sanctioned in the budget. This increase is a consequence of the BC Liberals gross m
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MLA Report 20th February, 2014

It is interesting how quickly BC Liberal government promises are broken. A week ago we had the Throne Speech, with its skimpy and pessimistic Legislative agenda. It was followed this week by the Budget, which made no mention of how any of the proposals presented in the Throne Speech would be paid for. The Throne speech’s promise of Violence Free BC will be no more than another slick slogan. There is no new money in the justice system to pay to implement it. A 10 year Transportation Plan will be largely fueled by the hot air of the BC Liberal government because no cash was committed to develop a comprehensive strategy. And $5m is being taken out of BC Ferries. As for skills training, which was hailed as the solution to many problems; well, there are no funds committed for that either. Nor is there any money set aside to settle the bills the government has run up in its politically motivated fight with BC’s teachers. And this budget will have an immediate impact on individuals and busine
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MLA Report 14th February, 2014

After 200 days we are back in the Legislature and immediately the BC Liberal government held it in contempt. The first day was the Speech from the Throne. This is usually the opportunity for a government to provide a vision for the province and set out its legislative agenda for the coming year. If there was a vision in this speech, it was most definitely blurred. It was a pessimistic diatribe in which the government predicated the future of BC on the development and export of liquefied natural gas. In my response to the speech I talked about the need for a real vision: one that dealt seriously with climate change, one that took on our dismal record of child poverty, one that embraced affordable public child care. The BC Liberal’s boasted record exports of logs to China; I said a vision would keep many of those logs in BC, keeping our small, family-owned North Island mills open and allow the prospect for new ones. A brave vision would guarantee high quality internet access to everyone
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MLA Report 7th February, 2014

We will finally return to the legislature after the long weekend – the first time since our brief post-election session back in July. I often write about my anger at the manipulation of our democracy because of the lack of legislative sitting days so I will make the most of this limited spring session. And as the representative for the North Island and member of the official opposition there are a lot of issues I am looking forward to take directly to the government. One of them is the arrogant abuse of power that has epitomized the last 13 years of this government. One of the top issues on our agenda will be the ruling from the Supreme Court on the war between the BC Liberals and the BC Teachers Federation. It is incredible that a government is chastised by a Supreme Court judge for deliberately engineering a dispute with a union so that government can make political gains. The judge ruled that’s what happened. And now the BC Liberals are going back to court to continue the fight. The
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MLA Report, 20th December, 2013

Another year is drawing to a close, giving us the opportunity to look back to the last 12 months and forward to the coming year. Unfortunately we already know some of what is in store for 2014 and most of it is not good. Cuts to our ferry service and increases in fares; massive hikes to hydro bills and of course, the annual rise in the cost of our MSP. The government’s announcement of system-wide cuts to our ferry service and the community meetings held around the coast have kept me busy as both constituency MLA and as the Official Opposition Transportation critic. The meetings started in Port Hardy, where cuts to the ferries to Prince Rupert and to the central coast will devastate the tourism industry which has been so successfully nurtured and they will tear the heart out of those isolated communities up the coast. The panel from the Ministry of Transportation and BC Ferries heard from businesses and individuals from across the region saying the cuts were foolish and irresponsible. L
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MLA Report 18th November, 2013

The Agriculture Minister allegedly using his position to influence a decision by the Agricultural Land Commission (which he wants to disband); the Premier saying that meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets is far less important than exploiting and exporting liquefied natural gas; millions of dollars misspent on child welfare; the continued massive mismanagement of BC Hydro: these are just some of the reasons the government decided they did not want to be held accountable and have the Legislature sitting this autumn. There are of course many other reasons the BC Liberals want to avoid scrutiny but these alone should be enough to humble a government, if not bring it to its knees. Sadly, in BC, the arrogance of the BC Liberals knows no bounds. In the coming days, coastal communities will be told which of their ferry services are going to be cut. The government has appointed a (politically supportive) consultant to hold “community engagement” meetings. This time they are not even pretend
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MLA Report 7th October, 2013

It seems, sadly, to be my annual complaint: once again it is fall and once again the Legislature is not sitting. The BC Liberals have made a mockery of our parliamentary democracy, calling the Legislature into session at their whim. They have exploited people’s distrust of the political system and effectively said that our Legislature is completely unimportant. I joined a group of Opposition MLAs – including Opposition Leader Adrian Dix and House Leader John Horgan – on the steps of the Legislature on the day we were supposed to return to do the people’s business. All 34 NDP MLAs would be willing and ready to be in Victoria to ask questions of the government, to debate issues important to the people of BC, to work together on bipartisan committees. This is what we are supposed to do; this is why we were elected. But the Liberal government thinks that 36 days in the House is adequate for accountability this year. Legislators in Manitoba, a province with a quarter the populat
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