When teachers bring their students to the Legislature they and their students are often dismayed by the behaviour of MLAs in Question Period. Saying the atmosphere is boisterous would imply it is good natured but often the heckling is loud and disrespectful.
This week saw two ends of that extreme: on Tuesday it was very discordant but on Wednesday, anti-bullying day, it was much calmer. That being said, our questions, as Official Opposition, focused that day on the hectoring and bullying approach of Premier Christy Clark. For Ms Clark, you are either with her or against her. There is no middle ground, no willingness to negotiate, no desire to compromise. This is not a good approach for anyone, let alone a premier.
This has been exemplified as she tries to push through her pet projects. She has described many respected First Nations’ leaders who oppose the siting of a LNG plant on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert as a “rag tag” bunch. Instead of apologising to the individuals concerned, Ms Clark displayed her usual arrogance and described LNG as the best opportunity for First Nations since first contact with Europeans.
That arrogance was also on display with her disdain for the thousands of people who claim disability allowance and who will be losing their bus passes thanks to the recent budget. That move has caused an outcry across the province as people see their lives diminished because they wont be able to afford to get around. We asked daily whether the government would reverse its mean decision; the answer, a resounding “no”.
I challenged the Minister of Transportation about the continuing losses on the Port Mann bridge*. The BC Liberals spent $1.8b more on the bridge than was planned and there are simply too few people using it to make up the costs from the tolls. Traffic is down by almost half what was forecast and the numbers aren’t growing. Toll revenue is going down. And worryingly the BC Liberals do not appear to be learning from their massive financial mistake and are ploughing ahead with another 10 lane bridge, which already has $3.6b price tag, to replace the Massey Tunnel. That is a purely political plan: it was announced just before the last election and construction starts just ahead of the next election.
I raised the political nature of pet projects and pre-election pavement politics in my speech in response to the budget . Perhaps it is of no surprise that BC Ferries gets no increase from the Ministry of Transportation which does not bode well for our marine highway system, which already is badly neglected by the BC Liberals.
It is sad to see the Minister of Transportation claiming his government’s self-described fiscal prudence as the reason for a “net zero” increase in ferry fares this April. What that really means is, because of the low cost of oil, the 1.9% fare increase is balanced out by a 1.9% fuel rebate. That means the cost of a ticket could still go up when fuel prices go up. For 13 years businesses and families in ferry reliant communities have seen fares skyrocket, undermining our coastal economies. This government is not going to make things any better.
While debate has been focused on the budget, next week we move to discussion on legislation. This week a bill was introduced that will change the administration of a number of taxes, from the carbon tax through to the PST. It will be interesting to follow the BC Liberals approach to taxation in the coming months since a commission to look at the Province’s tax regime was announced in the budget but it is proscribed by not being allowed to bring back the HST or end MSP.
We in the official opposition introduced a bill which would amend the Workers Compensation Act. This bill would mean that first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder would not have to prove that what they have witnessed in their work made them sick. This is intended to ensure timely and easy support for those who need treatment.
We’re back in Victoria next week when we start the budget estimates process. This is the opportunity we have to raise detailed questions about individual ministry budgets and their impact on our communities.
I can always be reached by email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone in Campbell River on 250 287 5100, in Port Hardy on 250 949 9473 or toll free at 1 866 387 5100. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena or check out my web page www.clairetrevena.ca.