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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MLA Report 9th March 2012

The week in the Legislature has been dominated by debate on Bill 22, the inappropriately named Education Improvement Act. In very simple terms, it attacks the right to free collective bargaining for teachers and, in its prescription on the size and composition of classes, it seriously undermines the quality of public education. It is an ideological tool being used by the BC Liberals to go after two things they appear to hold in contempt: trade unions and public education. The BC Liberals have said they want a full debate on the Legislation, but very few government MLAs have chosen to join in. I hope that the Agriculture Minister, Don McRae, will make his voice heard. When he was a teacher in the Comox Valley, he wrote a heartfelt letter about the problems he faced daily in overcrowded classrooms. He said he could not give proper attention to his students because of the lack of support for those with special needs. I quoted his letter in my speech on the Bill as well as the voices of ma
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MLA Report 2nd March, 2012

The focus for much of the week in Victoria was the teachers’ dispute, although the government didn’t start to debate the bill which would end the dispute until Thursday afternoon. Bill 22, or the Education Improvement Act, is a heavy handed piece of legislation. It will result in increasing class size, weakens protection for special needs students, and undermines free collective bargaining. I’ve had many calls and letters from teachers who are extremely concerned about the impact of the Bill on their ability to carry out their work, and particularly what will happen to their students. What concerns me is that it is yet another attempt by the BC Liberals to play politics with the classroom. In 2002, when the current Premier was the Education Minister, she took away local control over class size and composition; that decision was last year ruled to be illegal. What is being offered now will do nothing to rectify the problems created. The new bill will allow an indefinite number of specia
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MLA Report 24th February, 2012

It has been a bleak week in the Legislature, with the tabling of the Government’s latest budget. Put simply it shows that the government’s priorities do not reflect the real needs of families or communities and do not respond to the economic inequalities or environmental issues in this province. The BC Liberals claim it was “prudent”. But for the poor it is devastating; for the environment it’s a crime and for students it’s a debacle. It ignores our forest base and our rural communities.Ahead of the budget, in question period I again challenged the government about raw log exports: laid end to end, the number of logs exported last year alone would circumnavigate the globe one and a half times. On the 100th anniversary of the BC Forestry Service, and in the wake of devastating reports on our forest health and sustainability, it was deeply disappointing to see no renewed commitment to one of our most basic resources. It was just a few years ago that the BC Liberal
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MLA Report 19th February, 2012

Our first week back in Victoria this year has been marked by independent officers of the Legislature producing damning reports on BC Liberal government policy. On our first day back, the Ombudsperson’s office released a scathing indictment of the government’s approach to seniors’ care, which contained 170 recommendations for improvement. The same day the government came up with its seniors’ package: a vague six point plan. However it does include a U-turn for the BC Liberals: after years of saying the province does not need an independent seniors’ advocate, it now says it will create the position. The NDP has been calling for such an appointment for years and in fact last autumn we tabled a bill which would have allowed for the office to be created. To expedite the creation of the position, we tried to get the government to adopt our bill this week. But they refused. It will likely take months for a seniors’ advocate to be in place but hopefully it will happen and the office will be ab
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MLA Report 21st December, 2011

As we near the end of 2011, I would like to take a few moments to reflect on what has been a significant year in BC politics then look to 2012. This year, both major parties elected new leaders, a referendum driven by the people overturned a highly unpopular tax and the conversation about inequality became unavoidable for the elites. Both the new premier and the leader of the official opposition have been in their posts for about nine months now, enough time for their visions to be known to most people. From Premier Clark we have seen a switch from vague sloganeering about families first to rhetoric about job creation; from Adrian Dix we have heard about fighting inequality through a poverty reduction programme, assisting students through a grants system, ensuring CLBC meets people’s needs, and committing to a truly sustainable and resilient economy. Campbell River has been chosen as a pilot for the government’s jobs plan. I join with others in hoping that jobs are created in our commu
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MLA Report 25th November, 2011

I’d like to start by congratulating everyone who ran for office last week: win or lose it shows a real dedication to your community to offer to work for the best interest of your communities for the next three years. The fall session of the Legislature wrapped up Thursday, but there were many questions unanswered. One of the central ones for so many people is whether the government is really committed to getting rid of the HST. We went into the session with the strong referendum result which mandates the return to the GST and the PST: but even this week the BC Liberals would not commit to when that will happen. They are effectively shrugging off the will of the majority who have used their democratic right and voted for a swift end to the tax. And the Premier has refused to answer questions she herself posed, when she was a radio talk show host, about the $6m pay out and cover up over the Basi Virk scandal; two Liberals who had their court costs covered by their Liberal government when
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MLA Report 18th November, 2011

As we near the end of 2011, I would like to take a few moments to reflect on what has been a significant year in BC politics then look to 2012. This year, both major parties elected new leaders, a referendum driven by the people overturned a highly unpopular tax and the conversation about inequality became unavoidable for the elites. Both the new premier and the leader of the official opposition have been in their posts for about nine months now, enough time for their visions to be known to most people. From Premier Clark we have seen a switch from vague sloganeering about families first to rhetoric about job creation; from Adrian Dix we have heard about fighting inequality through a poverty reduction programme, assisting students through a grants system, ensuring CLBC meets people’s needs, and committing to a truly sustainable and resilient economy. Campbell River has been chosen as a pilot for the government’s jobs plan. I join with others in hoping that jobs are created in our commu
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