Next week we return to the Legislature for the final session before the provincial election in May. B.C.’s government is highly self-promoting and I fully anticipate the coming five weeks will be more about campaigning than about good governance. We already see public money being spent for purely partisan purposes with the latest series of TV commercials promoting Christy Clark’s agenda.
As Opposition, we will be questioning Ms Clark’s refusal to ban big money from our political system. For the fifth time John Horgan will be tabling a bill which would prohibit donations from corporations or unions and would seek a cap on donations from individuals. We need to end the perception that any political party is in the hands of special interest groups.
It has been nine months since the Legislature was last in session (another political decision by the Premier) and it is only going to happen because the law requires the government a budget. In the long absence from the legislature, many issues have been brought to my attention that I intend to raise when the session convenes. These range from improving care for seniors, to investing in our highway system, to dealing with the skyrocketing cost of Hydro, MSP and ferries.
These are concerns that are daily brought to me in the office, in public meetings and even at the grocery store. As a member of the Opposition it is my job to challenge the status quo and advocate on behalf of all the residents of the North Island.
I would like to thank all those individuals who contacted me with their stories of Internet woes. Even areas in Port Hardy and Port McNeill, which are now supposed to have excellent connectivity, are still experiencing problems. Over the last few months I have met with Network BC, the provincial government’s office working to get internet in different communities, telecommunications companies and the local internet service providers to try to find solutions for the serious problems individuals and businesses face because of poor connectivity.
At the end of last year, the CRTC ruled that broadband Internet should now be treated as a utility and stated there would be money to assist in getting it to underserved areas. However, the CRTC left distribution in the hands of the private telecommunications companies who have a stranglehold over bandwidth availability. The local ISPs –whether Brooks Bay, Ragged Edge or Gulf Islands Cable – are only sold access to a certain amount of that bandwidth which is one of the reasons why individual homes on their systems can’t get access to high quality, high speed internet. There is no magic wand for this, but I will continue to work with local and provincial providers and all levels of government to ensure that all the North Island gets the 21st century communications that is now a necessity.
I was very pleased to be a speaker at Campbell River Council’s hearing on parking. The city is proposing amending its by-laws to guarantee free parking at many institutions around the community. The focus is, however, on maintaining free parking at the new hospital. There is no recognition from the provincial government nor its proxy, Island Health, that the Campbell River hospital is a regional hospital, serving the whole of the North Island. On top of the stress of going to hospital, people have to deal with the cost of ferry fares, gas and sometimes accommodation without also having to face a charge parking imposed by the province. The stories I have heard from constituents who got parking tickets at other hospitals because they didn’t feed the meter while loved ones were getting urgent medical treatment are desperately sad. This is another egregious example of this government’s willingness to download costs onto people who are already overstretched.
But I do have some good health news for Island constituents. At a roundtable on health, which I hosted on Cortes Island, a serious problem for all residents of our ferry dependent islands was raised: how to get home when you have been transferred to hospital by ambulance. As a result of the meeting, the BC Ambulance Service will now be carrying TAPS forms (the pink slips for travel) in the ambulance. So if you are taken to Campbell River (or beyond) by ambulance, your return ferry will be covered under the TAPS program. Many thanks to the quick work of the Ambulance Service in sorting this out.
I have been raising with the Ministry of Transportation the many problems on our highways as we struggle through this long winter. Our neighbours, working on the road crews and out gritting the roads in the snow or patching them when there’s a thaw are doing their best. However, I have been seriously questioning the ability of the contractor to meet the most basic expectations of road standards.
We’re back in Victoria just after the long weekend. I hope that everyone is able to get a bit of a break and some time with your family this “family day”.
And at anytime, I can be contacted by email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone on 250 287 5100 in Campbell River or 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy or toll free at 1 866 387 5100. Feel free to check out my page (Claire Trevena) on Facebook or friend me. And I’m occasionally on Twitter @clairetrevena.