It has been a busy late winter at the Legislature: five weeks in which we have tabled a budget which will make life more affordable for tens of thousands of British Columbians as well as starting to deal with a raft of long overdue legislation. It will take a while to clean up the 16-year legacy of the previous government but we are underway.
Having been in opposition for 12 years, I was very pleased to be able to finally support a budget that puts people front and centre. Our healthcare investment includes getting rid of MSP premiums and investing in Pharmacare. We have put a record amount of funding into education so there will be more resources for all our kids in the classroom. We are making significant investments in childcare to help families and help businesses, with an initial focus on the youngest and most vulnerable kids. We have committed to a 30-point major programme to deal with the housing crisis in nearly all communities.
And those are just some of the highlights that will help people in the North Island and around the province. We are consulting widely on a number of issues, including how you think ICBC should work. You can contribute to this here: consultation process
As Minister of Transportation I was pleased that I was able to deliver on our promise to cut ferry fares by 15 percent from April 1st as well as freezing fares on the routes between the Island and the mainland. We have also ensured the reintroduction of free travel for seniors from Monday to Thursday. Importantly, my Ministry is conducting a comprehensive operating review of BC Ferries. I’ve described it as “soup to nuts” which means we are examining a wide range of areas. I look forward to getting the report late spring and deciding the next steps for our marine highway.
My ministry has managed to get record infrastructure funding and the North Island will soon start to see some benefits with work happening on roads and highways across the constituency – from Port McNeill to Quadra Island. And I am still working with my colleague, the Minister of Forests, Land and Natural Resources, to get funds to improve the Zeballos Forest Service road.
I am still very concerned about the move from rail to highway hauling by Western Forest Products at their Woss operation. There has been a significant increase of logging traffic on Highway 19 and we are increasing the safety enforcement on the stretch of highway they are using. We are also examining other avenues to ensure the roads are safe and maintained well. The impact of decisions by WFP on our North Island communities remains huge.
Aquaculture has been back in the headlines over the last few months and I continue to receive many emails on both sides of the debate from constituents. I have met with local industry representatives and open net fish farm opponents while my colleagues, the Ministers of Forests, Agriculture and Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, have been meeting on a government to government basis with First Nations and are due to sit down with them again in the coming weeks.
Moves by our government have made possible broadband connectivity for our rural communities. After years of working on the issue I was happy to see positive results which should mean our more remote communities – from Cortes to Kyuquot – will be able to have quality, high speed, access to the internet.
We have a break from the Legislature for the coming three weeks. However, for much of the time I will be travelling the province. I do get some days in the constituency but also will be in the Lower Mainland as well as northern BC. I will be looking at the work of the my Ministry in different communities as well as examining shipbuilding opportunities and engaging with people about the loss of Greyhound service in their regions.
The session continues until the end of May but I remain determined to be back to the constituency every two to three weeks. But, as always, I can be reached at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone in Campbell River at 250 287 5100 and Port Hardy on 250 949 9473.