For a government that boasts that it is economic and fiscally competent and efficient, this week has shown the chaos that really exists after 14 years of a BC Liberal government. Whether it is the disarray in the office of the Auditor General for Local Government or complete confusion over plans to change liquor pricing, there are never any clear answers, particularly in Question Period.
The Auditor General for Local Government was a pet project of the Premier who felt there was a need for a special body to ensure we get value for money from our hard working local governments. Unfortunately more than $5m has been spent and there’s only one audit to show for it. And a leaked report revealed that in an office of 10, more than half are unhappy with what is happening. But hear either the Premier or the Minister talk about it and everything is allegedly fine.
There was a similar response from the BC Liberals when we asked in Question Period about their changes to wholesale liquor policy which still are not clear and which are leaving hundreds of small businesses scrambling for information. All we know is that on April 1st, the price will be going up on 5,300 products. So distributors are concerned because not knowing exactly what will happen, they can’t develop strategies to deal with the coming changes.
And then, of course, there’s the BC Liberals’ own interest in wine. Former cabinet minister Ben Stewart, who gave up his seat in the Okanagan for Christy Clark to run after her election defeat in Point Grey, is part owner of a winery. He’s also BC’s highly paid trade representative in China. And when on BC business in Japan recently he apparently met with the Japanese distributor of his family winery – but no other importer or distributor of BC wines. The Question Period exchange became farcical when the Minister of International Trade kept talking about China when we in the Opposition were asking about Japan.
The audacity of the BC Liberals is quite amazing. I asked about the continue failure of the government to meet revenue projections for the Port Mann bridge; they are still losing massive amounts of money and have no plan to pay off the debt. The Minister of Transportation claimed that all was well – which is about as believable as when he said that the bridge was built within budget, even though it was in reality $1.8 billion overspent.
Away from the theatre of Question Period, we have been getting on with other business, in most cases committee stages of bills and the budget estimates debate.
We also debated changes to the Tobacco Regulation Act, so it would include vaping and e-cigarettes. While the amendments do not prohibit vaping, they prevent any vaping equipment to be sold to people under 19 years of age. It bans vaping in the same locations that smoking is banned, although there appears to be a loophole which could allow people who are vaping because of medical necessity to by-pass this prohibition. This was one of my questions about the bill when I spoke on it * and while we do not want to see an expansion of smoking among young people, we do want those who are trying to quit have every opportunity to succeed.
In the estimates debate on the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Management (I am still shocked that we do not have a stand-alone Ministry of Forests in BC. That’s because of the BC Liberals efforts to privatize our public land base), I raised questions about the future of the Port Alice mill. This was a follow-up to a meeting I had with the Minister on getting the mill re-opened. I will continue to work on this with the Minister and people in Port Alice.
I was pleased to note some good news during the approval of the bill which confirms the extension of Small Inlet Park on Quadra Island ** and to recognize again the hard work of the volunteers and in particular Judy Leicester who so sadly died before its completion.
I was able to raise a couple of local initiatives during the week. Speaking on a motion about the aviation industry I told the legislature about the success of North Island College’s aviation programme *** in which 16 students are enrolled and learn how to build aircraft.
I also told the Legislature about the day of free dental care offered by Campbell River dentists as part of the Dentistry from the Heart Initiative .
The coming week is a break week for the Legislature and sees me largely back in the constituency: Campbell River, Quadra Island and Gold River are on my agenda so far. I do have a couple of days when I will be working on my critic file on Denman and in Victoria. I hope that next weekend I’ll see many of you at the annual Walk Away from Racism in Campbell River.
I can be reached wherever I am on email: Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org. My phone numbers are 250 287 5100 in Campbell River and 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy. The toll free number is 866 387 5100. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.ca or check out my web page www.clairetrevena.ca.
*If you are having problems with this link go to: http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th4th/20150309pm-House-Blues.htm (scroll down to approx. 16:40)
** If you are having problems with this link go to: http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th4th/20150310am-House-Blues.htm (scroll down to approx. 11:20)
*** If you are having problems with this link go to: http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th4th/20150309am-House-Blues.htm (scroll down to approx. 11:05)