This has been an intense week for any watcher of politics and I believe for most Canadians. I am very pleased that federally, the North Island once again has a NDP MP. Rachel Blaney is engaged, inclusive and passionate about our communities. She will be a great voice for us in Ottawa and I look forward to working alongside her in my capacity as MLA.
Just hours after the final BC results were announced, MLAs were gathering in Victoria for a slightly shortened legislative week.
We picked up pretty well where we left off with questions to the Minister and the Premier about cuts to the Ministry of Children and Families that have left young people vulnerable. It is sad to see the Premier laughing and chatting in the legislature while we asked about deaths of young people. It was the cuts made when she was minister 13 years ago that started putting the ministry under stress and it has become even worse,
It was also sad to see the BC Liberals determination to avoid responsibility for the crisis in the Children and Families Ministry. Their government callously published its response to a report from the Representative for Children and Youth about the death of a young person on federal election day when they hoped no one was paying attention.
The BC Liberals also tried to avoid to take any responsibility for a damming report from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC on the culture of cover-up within the government. The Commissioner questioned the lack of written records and the commonplace deletion of emails. Emails were knowingly deleted by political staff in the Minister of Transportation’s office; emails were not provided when requested under freedom of information legislation by Nick Facey, the chief of staff (and former BC Liberal candidate in the North Island) of the then Minister of Advanced Education; and the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Premier’s office has kept no email records at all.
The Minister responsible, Amrik Virk, a former RCMP officer, refused to admit that his government was in the wrong and offered no explanation or apology for the lack of transparency. The ability of people to know what their government is doing and why decisions have been made go to the very core of trust in our democracy. The shameful actions by the BC Liberals undermines this trust.
The main piece of legislation before us this week was amendments to the Workers Compensation Act. People facing problems accessing WCB continues to be one of the biggest challenges brought to me as MLA. This bill however addresses none of the problems brought about by the BC Liberals when they changed the legislation on first coming to power. These problems relate to access, to pensions cut off and to simply putting workers first. The amendments are in response to the mill explosions in Prince George and Burns Lake, in which four people died. While some of the changes should lead to tougher enforcement of rules it was the BC Liberals own reduction of oversight that created the environment in which these tragedies could happen. In this legislation, workers are being shut out from accident investigation teams. Instead of being active participants in the process, which should improve safety conditions and reduce occupational hazards, workers will be reduced to observer status.
The government is also preparing the way for changes to the electoral boundaries ahead of the next provincial election and introduced a motion ahead of bringing in legislation. The changes are the result of work done by the Electoral Boundaries Commission. While the Commission did a valiant job, its hands were somewhat tied by legislation brought in by the BC Liberals that pre-determined that a number of interior ridings would be safeguarded and that two new seats would be created.
The North Island constituency remains the same but there are big changes for the Comox Valley. That constituency will be split with Comox and Courtenay becoming one constituency and Cumberland, Denman and Hornby becoming part of a constituency which goes out to Tofino and the islands beyond. This is a concern for people in the Valley and especially for those in Cumberland.
As I mentioned in an earlier report, I had the honour to attend the celebration at Cape Mudge to mark the return of Chief Billy Assu’s House poles to the community. I was able to talk about this in the Legislature (tues am).
I am also continuing to follow up on the question of paid parking at our new hospital. Island Health’s excuse is that we will need to pay for parking in order to maintain the parking lot. I do not think this is an acceptable justification and am asking for the matter to be revisited.
The cross-party Finance Committee has completed public hearings and this week we started the task of going through the many hundred submissions and recommendations. We are aiming for consensus on our report, which will then be submitted to the Finance Minister for consideration in preparing his budget.
This weekend sees me back in the constituency ahead of another week in the Legislature. I can always be reached by email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone in Campbell River on 250 287 5100, in Port Hardy on 250 949 9473 or toll free at 1 866 387 5100. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena or check out my web page www.clairetrevena.ca.