I write this as the shock at the shootings on Parliament Hill still reverberate around the country. Parliament and our provincial Legislatures are at the heart of our democratic system. They are the people’s houses, the place where ideas and laws that impact their lives, their communities and their country, are discussed. So they must remain open and accessible. Hopefully, while we are all mindful of people’s safety, we do not allow this grim event to limit both the open democratic debate we so definitely need, nor inhibit public input in person on legislative issues, nor restrict public entry to our Legislatures and Parliament.
In BC, this has been the week that was the raison d’etre for the BC Liberals fall legislative session. The government brought in legislation on the royalties and tax regime for the liquefied natural gas industry as well as the environmental standards required of it.
Sadly both are effectively sell outs of our province: our financial security and our environmental future.
Despite wild promises, made in the last election campaign by Christy Clark, that LNG would bring untold riches which would deliver a massive prosperity fund, pay off the provincial debt and eliminate the sales tax, the BC Liberals are selling it cheap. In the budget in February they said that the tax rate was going to be up to 7 percent. This week we have learned it’s going to be half that. It eventually will go up to 5 percent but not until 2037.
They are also introducing a large corporate income tax credit as well giving the energy giants tax credits for the costs they incur before building; that could cover anything from land acquisition to negotiations. So it’s not surprising that revenue projections have plummeted and Premier Clark’s election promise is being shown to be what it really is, a pipe dream.
The government also brought in the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act. This was supposed to be the legislation that ensured that we will have, according to the Premier, the cleanest LNG industry in the world. It doesn’t. It gives the LNG industry ‘flexibility” to meet its already low targets and allows for the government to financially assist those companies that are not reaching their goals.
The Legislation will let companies buy offsets but details about this and other loopholes in emission controls are vague. In fact many of the details are missing in the Legislation. A quarter of it is left to be put into regulations which are written by Cabinet. These regulations won’t even be seen by MLAs or the public until they are published. This was one of the issues I addressed when I spoke to the Bill. It is a further layer of secrecy that undermines not just this legislation but the work of the Legislature.
I also had the chance to talk about the economic opportunities that are being missed by this government in their handling of BC Ferries. The Minister of Transportation still has not addressed, nor will he, the increasing fares for ferries, the cuts to our services, and the refusal to build new vessels in BC.
I also spoke about this weekend’s celebration on Cortes Saturday afternoon: the handover of Whaletown Commons to the community after 20 years of negotiation.The area is 70 acres of woodland; there’s a creek important for salmon, wildlife habitat and valuable forest base. It will be a protected area that allows for public access through trails.
As people are too sadly aware, two young fathers died in a fishing accident just north of Campbell River last weekend. I asked the Legislature to send sympathies to the families.
Friday sees me at meetings in Vancouver on my critic portfolio and Saturday at the Whaletown Commons celebration on Cortes. Next week it is back to the Legislature in Victoria.
My Port Hardy office has reopened. I am pleased to inform you that Fred Robertson has joined me as the part-time Constituency Assistant there. At the moment we are open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and can be reached by phone on 1 250 949 9473. In Campbell River I can be reached at 1 250 287 5100 and toll free at 1 866 387 5100. You can connect on email at Claire.email@example.com or friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.