Money in politics was again front and centre in the Legislature this week, when it was revealed the Premier, Christy Clark, receives $50,000 a year from the BC Liberal Party, in addition to her salary as Premier. This money is raised in part by private fundraising events in which the financial elites pay the Liberal Party for exclusive access to the Premier.
The Opposition is challenging these fundraising methods. We have taken this issue to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner arguing that this style of fundraising is effectively selling influence. The Premier has a lawyer to defend her who is being paid from the public purse by the BC Liberal caucus.
This abuse is just one reason we want to end both union and corporate donations to all our political parties. No politician should be open to the accusation that they can be bought. No party should be beholden to its largest donors.
But the BC Liberals do not appear to realize the significance of this. The Premier and MLAs laughed when we asked about the payments. Likewise they seem to find no fault in illegal real estate transactions which we have raised in the Legislature as they continue to shrug off people’s everyday problems caused by their policies such as hospital waitlists, school closures and the high costs of hydro and ferries.
I spent much of the week in a one-on-one with the Minister of Transportation as we went through his budget estimates. Inevitably a great deal of the time was spent on BC Ferries and the BC Liberals’ gross negligence of our marine highway. The Minister’s point of view is that everything is just fine, whether I asked him about the high cost of fares or raised concerns about the new LNG fuelled vessels. And when the going got too tough, he claimed he is not “responsible for” BC Ferries. This despite the fact he is the representative of the single shareholder in the corporation: the BC government.
He also refused to guarantee that any federal dollars allocated to BC Ferries through the New Build Canada Fund would be spent either in BC or in Canada. BC Ferries has already spent millions of dollars in Poland and other European countries on vessels. It would be a sad irony if thanks to the BC Liberal Government, the Build Canada Fund is used to support industries in Poland.
I also tried to get answers on why the BC Liberals are pushing ahead with a $3.5 billion bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel. The BC Liberal record on major construction projects is not good, with multi- million dollar overspends on every past project. And this replacement comes just seven years after a previous transportation minister said the tunnel had another 50 years of life. However, Christy Clark wants a vanity project so the bridge was announced at the time of the last election and the building will begin just ahead of the next one.
I also asked some local questions about plans for Highway 28 and about concerns of hydroplaning on the Inland Island Highway . The minister did say he would immediately have a technical survey done to assess the problem.
Among the legislation debated this week was the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Control Amendment Act. It was less than two years ago that we opposed the first iteration of this bill which did nothing to guarantee a reduction of emissions from the LNG industry; the amendments give the industry even more latitude. We voted against them.
We also finalized the Great Bear Rainforest Act and voted in favour of the new approach to managing our land base. As I have mentioned before there will have to be strong oversight to ensure that the plan works and I have concerns that the First Nations from Kingcome Inlet and the Gwa’sala Nakwaxda’xw were not fully consulted.
On the International Day of Mourning, the Opposition introduced a bill which would officially recognize the day. But we all know we have to go beyond symbolism to ensure worker safety. This is a poignant time for everyone; in the North Island three workers were killed on the job last year. That is three too many. The BC Liberals have weakened many labour laws and we need to rebuild regulations on workplace safety.
It was a pleasure to recognize the 50th anniversary of Carihi in the Legislature and to talk about the school’s continuing legacy.
I’m back in the constituency this weekend and will join the Walk for Hearts in Willow Point on Sunday. As always I can be reached by email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone on 250 287 5100 in Campbell River or 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy. Check my Facebook page for regular updates and feel free to follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.