MLA Report 25th January, 2013

In a couple of weeks we finally return to the Legislature in Victoria. It is almost nine months after we last sat. We do not expect to be there for much more than one month this time. This is democracy, BC style under the BC Liberals; a government that will try to do anything to avoid being held accountable, but spends huge amounts of public money on advertising trying to convince citizens it is doing a great job. The latest clear effort to bypass the elected members of the Legislature was the introduction of the bill which will finally get rid of the HST and allow a return to the PST. Despite having given assurances by the government that this bill would be introduced in the upcoming legislative session and therefore subject to discussion, last autumn we were notified by a media release from the government’s communications office, that the bill will now be made public four months late and not in the Legislature. The way a parliamentary democracy works is that legislation is brought to
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MLA Report 3rd December, 2012

It is hard to believe that we are already in December; like so many others I am wondering where the year went. With just 48 days in the Legislature this year, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in the constituency and on my opposition role as critic for the Minister of Children and Family Development. Unfortunately I have not been able to challenge the government in Victoria on the many concerns raised because the BC Liberals refuse to reconvene the Legislature. Instead, they are ploughing ahead, spending millions of dollars of public money without any scrutiny: the most obvious instance being the $15 million advertising spree they launched this fall. That amount of money could be spent far better on our most important resource: the people of BC. In the past month I have been visiting many communities in the constituency and dealing with common problems such as highways – marine, paved and gravel, health care, education and economic opportunities. I attended the consultations
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MLA Report, 5th November 2012

The autumn weather is gaining in force and intensity and so is the opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline. The turnout for the anti-pipeline rally in Victoria was huge. The BC Liberals may try to silence the democratic process by refusing to reconvene the legislature but the rally showed that people would not let their democratic voices be silenced. It was great to be part of it and, just two days later, to mingle with almost 200 people who turned up at my Campbell River office to add their voices in protest to the pipeline proposal. And another rally was held in Port McNeill the same day. As official opposition, the New Democrats have made it very clear that on the Enbridge proposal we would: take back provincial authority for conducting environmental reviews that the BC Liberals gave away to Ottawa, withdraw from the federal review process, ensure BC’s environmental, social and economic interests are fully addressed and that First Nations’ interests and rights are recognized. Th
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MLA Report, 23rd September, 2012

Imagine a stunningly beautiful place with abundant natural resources that are exported offshore at an unsustainable rate. Imagine a place where one out of every four children is not ready to enter school. Imagine a place where once kids do get to school many of them are going there hungry because there’s no food at home (if they have a home). Imagine a place where the head of government decides to shut down the parliament and govern by decree. Most of us in the liberal west would decry this as a dictatorship, a banana republic, a place of extremes where democracy has been stifled. But look in the mirror, BC. This is what is happening here. Once again our Legislature will not be sitting this autumn. That means your democratically elected representatives, won’t be in Victoria from May 2012 through to February 2013. We have been in the legislature only 48 days this year. Democracy 101: a democracy works because one political party has been given an elected mandate to govern and other poli
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MLA Report 16th July, 2012

Summer is here at last and hopefully that’s good news for our busy tourism sector in the North Island. I know that the ridiculously high ferry fares have had an impact on some businesses. The season is short and there is a great deal of economic and emotional investment on both the business and consumer end. I have been working with some tourism operators in facilitating meetings with the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation to explore ways of integrating their needs with those of the natural resource sectors. Our communities survive because we can find balances between differing needs and demands. The Minister returned to Campbell River this week, for the second round of meetings on the pilot jobs plan. There is no question that the tight time frame for the pilot is linked to the election timetable and a quickly organized meeting could be an excuse for a government photo-op, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of working together on economic regeneration. Rivercorp, the economi
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MLA Report 1st June, 2012

Once again the legislative session concluded with closure: another appalling mockery of the democratic process. Instead of allowing for reasoned debate, scrutiny and public input of bills, the government pushed through 17 pieces of legislation in just hours – from approval for the Family Day holiday to the new form of Provincial Sales Tax. In fact, the final two days of the session were like a three-ringed circus. As well as debate in the main chamber, two other committee rooms were being used for discussion. To illustrate how absurd it became, our energy critic had to substitute to debate a piece of tax legislation introduced on Monday because the finance critic who should have been handling it was in another committee room debating the reintroduction of the PST. In addition the government limited the time allotted to debate and committee stage on each bill. Some bills received 30 minutes, others 20 minutes, some just 15 minutes! It really is not surprising why people lose their
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MLA Report 18th May, 2012

Sadly, once again the government has circumvented the democratic process in its effort to force through a significant amount of legislation with little scrutiny. We have four days remaining in this legislative session and still 20 bills to be analysed and debated. We in the Official Opposition had hoped that the government would abide by the legislative calendar it introduced at the beginning of its mandate, a decade ago, which calls for the legislature to meet in the fall as well as the spring. Adhering to this schedule would mean we could continue to debate the legislation which could have be tabled, rather than jammed through when this session ends. This would have allowed us to discuss the bills with stakeholders and do in-depth analysis during the summer. Among the outstanding pieces of legislation are the 160 page bill to bring in the new version of the provincial sales tax (introduced this Monday), the changes to the Coastal Ferries Act and changes to pensions legislation. In fa
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MLA Report 11th May, 2012

Once again we are heading towards the close of the Legislative session with the prospect of substantial amounts of legislation neither fully debated nor properly scrutinized. The very reason we have a Legislature with duly elected members is so that government proposals – the laws of BC – are not imposed without the opportunity for them to be discussed, critiqued and sometimes amended. This is a basic foundation for our democracy – a foundation this BC Liberal government has once again chosen to undermine. The Throne speech, which started the session, was delivered last October. This spring we have been in Victoria since February. But instead of bringing forward its legislation over this period, the BC Liberals have introduced 16 bills in the last ten days. With just ten sitting days left, and the Premier resolute that the session will not be extended beyond the end of May, this leaves us unable to give any real scrutiny to these laws. The government’s incompetence, a
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MLA Report 4th May, 2012

Much of the focus for the Official Opposition in the Legislature this week was trying to get the government to take a position on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. I, along with all my colleagues, signed a letter to the National Energy Board stating our opposition to the pipeline and to the lifting of the moratorium on tanker traffic in our coastal waters. While it may be good for Alberta’s coffers, there is no upside for BC just downsides. The risks to our coastal economy and environment are simply too great to allow it to go ahead. For a government that, just a couple of years ago portrayed itself as the environmental saviour of the country it is dismaying that the new premier will not take a strong position on this. It is also discouraging that government will not deal fairly on other environmental issues. For instances, I joined the debate on the Pacific Carbon Trust Instead of being able to focus on reducing their energy consumption, public sector institutions will have to pa
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MLA Report 27th April, 2012

There was good news for Campbell River and the North Island this week, with the announcement that the new hospital will be built. The Premier came to the city to announce the long awaited news, on a day the Legislature was sitting – but as the MLA for the region I was happy to miss question period and the ongoing debates in Victoria to be there because it was such a lengthy battle to get a new hospital. It is long overdue, and it is thanks to the hard work of many people in our community who have come together to fight for accessible public health care, that it is going to happen. Work is said likely to start early next year. Now it is a matter of making sure that VIHA keeps its commitment to provide the level of service we all expect from this regional facility. There is also the question of the funding model for construction: the government has said it will be a private-public partnership; this is an extremely expensive option for public infrastructure projects. I will be argui
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