The last week in the Legislature ahead of May’s election was always likely to be raucous and that was indeed the case. The Opposition loudly demanding answers to questions, which went unanswered, the government members yelling to defend the BC Liberal record of the last 16 years, and applause when a bill passed unanimously.
That bill – Discriminatory Provisions (Historical Wrongs) Repeal Act – had its genesis in the hard work of former MLA Jenny Kwan and former Opposition Leader Adrian Dix who trawled through BC’s laws to identify those which had clauses which discriminated people on grounds of race. While those provisions would now not stand a challenge under human rights laws, it is important to remove them from the statutes. The government brought in a bill to do that and on our last week, in a rare act of unity, we voted with the government.
It is healthy when a government adopts good legislation from the Opposition as was the case with that act. But the BC Liberals remained obstinate when it comes to our legislation on campaign finance reform. We have tabled bills six times to clean up financing of political parties and get big money out of politics but they were willfully ignored by Christy Clark. Instead we saw this week an insipid piece of government legislation about when political parties have to report donations to the Chief Electoral Officer.
As I said when I spoke on the bill the perception, and for the BC Liberals the reality, is the more you donate the likelier it is that you will be heard and your interests met. It is outrageous that, in what is supposed to be a sophisticated democracy, this is the way that the BC Liberal government operates. We, as Opposition, have been criticized because we too fundraise in the corporate and union sectors: we want the system to stop but are caught in a quandary – these are the rules right now and we do not want to further disadvantage ourselves by stopping these revenue sources while the BC Liberals continue to haul in the money. Without raising another cent they have enough money now, thanks to their corporate friends and their lobbyists, for at least the next two elections – that takes us to 2021!
We spent much of the Question Periods grilling the BC Liberals on political financing. Much of the time government ministers refused to even stand up and answer and not surprisingly, when the Premier was finally goaded into speaking, she didn’t either, choosing instead to turn her response into more political spin.
Another bill which was a weak nod to critics was the Information Management (Documenting Government Decisions) Amendment Act. This was the BC Liberals’ long overdue answer to the “triple delete” scandal when government ministries were willfully deleting records of meetings and the decision making process. In other instances no notes or minutes were taken at all. This obviously is not good for governance as there is no traceable history in how policy is developed and decisions are made.
This bill is supposed to rectify that but in reality falls far short. Under it, the “duty to document” – that is, keep records – is discretionary rather than mandatory, stating officials “may” keep records rather than they “must” do so. The bill was dismissed by BC’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Association as “a pathetic excuse for a response”. That phrase could be used for so much of the BC Liberal legislation.
I raised some issues in my Transportation portfolio: presenting a petition about a proposed new interchange on the Trans-Canada Highway and asking questions about road access for property owners. There were many other questions which I know constituents wanted me to raise as well as others on the transportation file but with only five short weeks and 34 other opposition members, there simply was not enough time.
It was with sadness that I told the Legislature of the sudden passing of Rod Naknakim, a man dedicated to First Nations rights, title and culture. He was also deeply involved in the Nuymbalees Cultural Centre on Quadra working on the repatriation on cultural artifacts and had been involved in the majestic Tribal Journeys event that will occur this summer.
That is the end of our time in the Legislature until after the election. I have already had many queries about what will be in our platform and some of our promises have already been made: $10 a day childcare, an end to MSP, an increase to the minimum wage, a green energy policy, reforming our democracy, to cite just a few. The rest will be unveiled when the campaign is underway in April.
I remain your MLA until April 11th, when the official election period begins. I will be working around the constituency until that time and can be reached at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone in Campbell River at 250 287 5100 or Port Hardy at 250 949 9473 and toll free 1 866 387 5100. Find me and friend me on Facebook of follow me .@clairetrevena on Twitter.