MLA Report, 3rd March 2017

This week we voted on the BC Liberals pre-election budget. After two weeks of debate about how Christy Clark hopes everyone will forget the last 16 years, we in the Opposition stood to vote against their budget. The normal and proper practice is that the opposition is able to examine the details of how each ministry will spend its allotted funds. But because there is an election in 2 months, this process was scrapped. It is likely that if the BC Liberals win the election the budget would be largely rewritten; if the NDP forms government we will table a budget which reflects our priorities. Being in the Legislature allows all MLAs to hold the government to account. This is usually done through Question Period and this week the focus was on healthcare – from private plasma clinics to overcrowded hospitals, from seniors and the loss of care homes to another desperately sad story about the death of a young woman who had just aged out of government care. Christy Clark only turned up for one
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MLA Report, 24th February, 2017

This week was the centrepiece for the BC Liberals of the short pre-election session with the tabling of their budget. Not surprisingly it is designed to encourage people to forget the last 16 years. That however is unlikely. Their “big idea” is a cut to the MSP, although that won’t happen until next year. The BC Liberals have doubled this regressive tax over the last 16 years; it went up again just last month. But now they find that they don’t really need the money, thereby proving our argument that there is no direct link between MSP and the health care budget, it is just a cash grab. We in the Opposition have long been saying that we need to do away with the MSP completely and if elected will do just that. By the way, BC is the only province that imposes compulsory charges for the public health plan. And MSP has been a cash cow for the BC Liberals, bringing in more than corporate and other taxes. Likewise the BC Liberals have been milking BC Hydro and ICBC. They have been taking mone
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MLA Report, 17th February, 2017

The Legislature resumed this week with pomp, ceremony and politics. The Lieutenant Governor was greeted with a military display before laying out the government’s agenda for the next five weeks – and, with an election coming in May, one assumes for the next four years — in the Throne Speech. This time, however, the BC Liberal agenda was almost non-existent. Certainly there was no indication of what they intend to do over the coming abbreviated session and little about what they would want to do if re-elected. If anything the speech could be summarized as “watch this space: we’ve got a budget coming next week and all will be revealed then.” Judging by the Throne Speech, the government has neither a plan nor a vision for the province. After 16 years in government, the BC Liberals have run out of things they want to do and they are not willing to fix the multitude of problems that their governance has brought – unless of course they are forced to, as with the Supreme Court’s ruling
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MLA Report, 8th February, 2017

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
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MLA Report, December 5th, 2016

It is hard to believe that the year is drawing to a close. And even though we have not been sitting in the BC Legislature it has been a politically packed 2016, with the likely BC Liberal approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline providing a depressing finale. If we had been in Victoria we would have been able to ask Christy Clark about why she would be willing to sell out our coast by accepting the decision on the pipeline. This, just weeks after the sinking of the tug on the North Coast and the environmental impact that is having on marine life. The positive aspect of Legislature not sitting when it was supposed to is I’ve been able to use the time to talk to constituents. I’ve been holding a series of community consultations to hear what people’s concerns are and how we can work together to deal with them. Top of mind for many remains access to the Internet, two tiered electricity pricing, ferries and education. Other perennial problems include care for our seniors in our communities a
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MLA Report, 14th October, 2016

As many people know, the BC Liberals instituted fixed elections every four years and, at the same time, also set dates when the Legislature must sit. We’re mandated to sit for two months every fall. But, ignoring their own legislation, the government has once again decided that the parliamentary process is inconvenient for them. The BC Legislature is not sitting this fall and will not sit again until next February. I have been using this time to get out into the community. I was lucky enough to see the inside of the John Hart project, a mammoth job that– unlike Site C – has a project labour agreement. That means well paid union workers are on the job and I am told that more than 80 percent of them are from the North Island. I also held a meeting for women business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals recently and thank all those who gave their time to take part. Interesting issues were raised and discussed, from the availability and cost of childcare to an increase in the minimum wa
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MLA Report 23rd September, 2016

Fall is clearly upon us, but as is usually the case in BC politics, there is no autumn session of the Legislature. Each time the Premier, Christy Clark, cancels a session saying we have no need to meet she undermines our democratic system. It is extraordinarily arrogant of her to think that she alone knows what is best for the province and doesn’t need to even consider all those elected to represent people and communities across the province. Instead, she makes announcements which are clearly designed to win votes in next May’s election. The most blatant, and really cynical, piece of electioneering is the relaunch of the Port Hardy to Bella Coola ferry. Just three years ago the BC Liberals axed the route, saying it was losing money and replaced a vessel that had $18m in public money spent on upgrades (and was later sold to a ferry operator in Fiji for cents on the dollar) with the 16 vehicle Nimpkish. The outcry was huge from Port Hardy. Bella Bella, Bella Coola and all the way up to W
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MLA Report July 29, 2016

We had a surprise, short, summer session this week with just two items on the government’s agenda but a great number on ours.  And as people have said, you could tell it was a summer session because Premier Christy Clark brought her flip-flops: first a flip-flop on changing the human rights code and then one on dealing with the crazed housing market in the Lower Mainland. We have been arguing for many years that the BC Human Rights code should explicitly include gender identity and expression. In our last attempt, just this spring, the BC Liberals said they would not make the change. Then a change of heart. For whatever reason – the cynics might suggest an upcoming election – the right move was made. The Premier, however, just came for the photo-opp, skipping the vote in favour of a BC Liberal fundraising event. Through the spring session, the Premier and her cabinet also argued loudly against government doing anything to deal with the property market in the Lower Mainland in which hou
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MLA Report July 8th, 2016

Summer is upon us with people heading off for vacations and enjoying community festivals. Many of us are making the most of our own backyard wilderness and we host lots of tourists who want to experience our North Island paradise. Unfortunately one of the most affordable holidays – camping at one of our many provincial parks – has become more difficult. Not only have we seen the BC Liberals put the rates up, but now it has come to light that private tour operators are block booking at some popular locations, keeping BC residents out of our own parks. There should be a simple fix; allow residents priority in making reservations and in access. But so far, the Minister has not dealt with this matter. I’ve raised the issue, along with my colleagues, and hopefully by next year there will be a change in the system. While looking at access to the wilderness, I am also following up with government on a number of concerns brought to my office about gates at logging roads. In a number of areas t
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MLA Report May 19th, 2016

The Legislative session ended in a way which perhaps reflects the last 15 years of the BC Liberal government. A special prosecutor charged a former government employee, Brian Bonney, with breach of trust. This stems from what became known as the Quick Wins scandal in which Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government was allegedly using public money, government databases and staff for highly partisan, pre-election, activities three years ago. On the same day as the breach of trust charge was brought, Mr Bonney and a colleague pleaded guilty to violating the Elections Act. In arguments the special prosecutor made before the judge the special prosecutor said these violations were part of a broader scheme, not an inadvertent error. Yet, under repeated questioning in the Legislature by Official Opposition leader John Horgan, the Attorney General refused to talk about that bigger scheme. Nor would she say whether the government is paying his legal fees. As unofficial campaigning starts for next ye
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