Cuts — whether to transit passes for the disabled, to education or to environmental oversight – all are a result of government priorities. Unfortunately, the BC Liberals priorities often are not in the best interest of many people in BC and the North Island.
The loss of transit passes for people on provincial disability have been central to debate in the Legislature this week. We have been raising this injustice daily in Question Period, in debate on legislation and even from the steps of the Legislature at a rally. I have heard from many people who can see their lives being diminished by this callous cut. The hurt is all the worse when people see Christy Clark travelling on a private jet, with her own personal camera crew, to get to photo ops in her Okanagan constituency. The arrogance is astounding and reflects a government that has been in power so long that it no longer recognizes such inequities as wrong.
The BC Liberals still don’t see that cuts to public education add to inequality. I asked the Minister of Education about the ongoing cuts to the education budget which is having a significant effect on School District 72. The sad irony is that the cuts SD72 are have to make as a result of government policy are just over $1m; the savings from closing two schools is just under $1m.
Advanced education was also in the spotlight when we raised the issue of increased fees at North Island College and other post-secondary institutions. When students from NIC met the Minister in January, he said he knew nothing about these increases, but college presidents say approval for them is coming directly from the Ministry. In Question Period the Minister refused to take responsibility for putting the cost of education further out of reach to many students.
We are not expecting much this session. The BC Liberals are running out of ideas after 15 years in power. For instance, one bill corrects the grammar – fixes commas and replaces US spelling with Canadian – in bills already passed. This is the second such bill in only a few months and such bills are anticipated every session to fix the slipshod spelling and grammar.
However Christy Clark has taken much pleasure in announcing the completion of the Great Bear Rainforest agreement between First Nations, forest companies and environmental organizations. There was one announcement in January and a second this week at the Legislature. This week’s event was to mark the introduction of legislation which will govern land use in the region. This is a process which began two decades ago with North and Central Coast land use planning. The Great Bear overlaps part of the North Island constituency and I acknowledged the hard work done by everyone to get to the agreement which allows for logging and resource use under what is known as eco-system based management.
I asked the Minister of Forests about the awful state of the Zeballos Forest Service Road . This winter has been particularly bad and has forced an ambulance to turn back. The Minister gave little hope to the people who depend on the road, saying only that he would review it.
Resources are vital to our economic well-being in BC and tight environmental controls ensure their safe development. This week we debated the Mines Amendment Act which increases the penalties for mines that breach their permits. This Bill follows the investigation into the disaster at the Mount Polley mine in which 25 million cubic metres of tailings and debris spilled into Quesnel Lake. While the legislation will allow for increased penalties for violations, the fact is no fines have been levied under the Mines Act since 1989. There is also the problem of oversight and inspections. There were no inspections at Mount Polley three years prior to the disaster. Concerns about tailing ponds not only affect active mines. With Quinsam Coal and Myra Falls closed in the North Island, people are still watchful about potential environmental problems and want continued oversight. I have raised this with the Minister of Mines and like everyone hope and expect safeguards are in place.
I continue to work on my Shadow Ministry role as Opposition Spokesperson on Transportation and BC Ferries and was pleased to introduce to the Legislature two past presidents of the BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union as we continue to raise inequities in our transportation policies across the province.
Friday sees me at the Island Coast Economic Trust meeting in Courtenay. We have two more weeks in the Legislature ahead of a constituency break over Easter. I can be reached by email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone in Campbell River on 250 287 5100, in Port Hardy at 250 949 9473 or toll free on 1 866 387 5100. I’m a Facebook user so feel free to friend me or check out my page and you can also follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.