Public education was at the heart of much of the discussion this week in the Legislature. It is not only Campbell River and other North Island communities that are facing tough decisions about school closures. Across the province, school districts that also have been severely underfunded for years now have no choice but to close the doors of schools.
While the decision is ultimately one made by each school board, most the closures are the consequence of BC Liberal policy. School boards have been starved of cash for 15 years while they have had to absorb increased costs downloaded on them, from MSP through hydro. In addition, they are often compelled by necessity to offer social services – providing a stable place for kids, at times ensuring they are fed – all the while trying to do their legislated job as public educators.
There is a meanness of spirit reflected in the funding coming from the BC Liberals. I’ve mentioned these last few weeks about the loss of bus passes for people on disability benefit. This has a significant impact on thousands of people and yet the BC Liberals refuse to back down. Instead when Christy Clark bothers to come to the Legislature she says it’s not a cut, it’s giving people “choice”. It’s a false choice for those with no income who often have to choose between food on the table or heat in their home. Those people who have lost their bus passes know it is not a choice, it is a cut.
That meanness of spirit was seen again when the BC Liberals tried to stand by a policy which clawed back WCB death benefits paid to children of workers killed on the job if their surviving parent is claiming a benefit. The Minister for Social Development, a person who boasts her success as a para-Olympian, defended the claw back for 24 hours before realizing she was truly defending the indefensible.
But then this is a Minister in a Christy Clark government. The Premier does not come to the Legislature very often and when she does her comments and behaviour are questionable to say the least. This week she said of rape victims “Some will say they became stronger as a result”. She also played on her phone while a member of the Opposition made a statement about the horrors of child sex exploitation. She chews gum while sitting in her place in the legislature. She laughs while we ask serious questions of her ministers. She has little respect for the institution and plays at politics rather than working at governing.
John Horgan, leader of the Official Opposition, introduced two bills this week; both designed to deal with part of the housing crisis facing BC, particularly in the Lower Mainland, at the moment. One will stop so-called shadow flipping, which rapidly inflates the price of property. The other would impose higher tax rates on vacant investment properties. Together these bills should help tackle some of the problems facing many people.
One of the main bills we debated this week was that which will create the Great Bear Rainforest. It was a long time coming and is the result of a huge amount of hard work by many people over many years. While it is without question something to celebrate and could be a model for forest and land management in many other places, I urged some caution when I spoke to it. My concerns are primarily around logging plans already in place and whether they will go ahead now the agreement has been finalized. I also noted that the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation in Kingcome Inlet were not included in negotiations because they are not part of the Nanwakolas council. I put their letter to the Premier on the record.
We are now on a two week break from Victoria, which means I’ll be in and around the constituency.
I’ll be taking a tour of the new hospital on Friday to get an update and see how the work is progressing. The question of paying for parking will undoubtedly come up. People rightly continue to be frustrated by the plan to charge on public property and I continue to raise the issue with the government.
Saturday sees me at the 30th annual Walk Away from Racism in Campbell River. It is always an energizing event. It shows our diversity and our ability to live, work and symbolically, walk together. I hope to see many of you there.
On Monday I’ll be holding a public meeting with Rob Fleming, our education spokesperson, at 11am at Banners in Campbell River. With the school closures and other pressures on public education we expect a busy event.
And later in the week, I’ll be checking out the Baynes Sound Connector, the new cable ferry to Denman that keeps having problems. The situation appears so tenuous that BC Ferries is paying for a standby crew for the old ferry because of continuing breakdown concerns on the cable ferry. So much for the cost savings that were supposed to be made in the switch to the new ferry.
I have been asked again about what happens at night when there’s an ambulance call out on one of the islands that needs to get to hospital. BC Ambulance Service calls BC Ferries who in turn checks whether the ferry can be crewed (ferry workers are not obliged to do call outs at night). If it can, that is the route taken but if there’s not enough crew available the coastguard is called out.
As always I can be reached by email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone in Campbell River on 250 287 5100 and in Port Hardy on 250 949 9473, and on Facebook or by Twitter, @clairetrevena.