I’d like to start by congratulating everyone who ran for office last week: win or lose it shows a real dedication to your community to offer to work for the best interest of your communities for the next three years.
The fall session of the Legislature wrapped up Thursday, but there were many questions unanswered. One of the central ones for so many people is whether the government is really committed to getting rid of the HST. We went into the session with the strong referendum result which mandates the return to the GST and the PST: but even this week the BC Liberals would not commit to when that will happen. They are effectively shrugging off the will of the majority who have used their democratic right and voted for a swift end to the tax.
And the Premier has refused to answer questions she herself posed, when she was a radio talk show host, about the $6m pay out and cover up over the Basi Virk scandal; two Liberals who had their court costs covered by their Liberal government when the pleaded guilty. This week in question period we asked the Premier if she would give us those answers she was looking for a year ago, but she ignored it and left it to her Attorney General to continue the cover up.
This week also saw BC once again condemned nationally for our appalling level of child poverty. I joined our leader, Adrian Dix, in question period, asking for a commitment to a poverty reduction plan . We are one of two provinces which has shown no inclination to deal with the poverty in a systematic way: instead the BC Liberals provide us with slogans and gimmicks. We have again tabled our Povery Reduction Bill, which sets out a comprehensive plan to tackle this provincial disgrace.
I was pleased to introduce into the House, the outgoing Mayor of Campbell River, Charlie Cornfield, who was in Victoria to push our comumunity’s agricultural opportunities and the outgoing and incoming Mayors of Tahsis, Corinne Dahling and Jude Schooner. I met with them and the Minister of Natural Resource Operations to discuss the serious concerns about an indpendent power project damaging the village’s water supply.
We spent much of the week in “committee” stage of a number of bills. This allows for a line by line examination of bills. In many legislatures, including Parliament in Ottawa, this is done by committees and often brings in outside experts; in BC it is carried out by individual MLAs asking the Minister responsible questions on sections of the bill. While it is an extremely important part of the deliberations, it does limit some of the analysis.
I asked questions on the Family Law Act, which puts a child’s best interest at the centre of decision making when it comes to such issues as separation and guardianship; it also underlines the damage and danger of family violence to the child. I was concerned about the resources being put to ensure the legislation works: for the training of mediators, for the financial support so families can access the services, and for translation for immigrant women and their children. While we support the new law, I remain concerned there will not be the money there to make it accessible. I also used the opportunity to again raise concerns about the massive cuts to legal aid, inflicted by the Liberal government.
We passed the Nurse Practitioners Act and we discussed the Regulatory Reporting Act. The latter requires government to publish an annual report of regulatory accountability; we questioned the need for this act since the government can publish reports without it; our fear is that it is an attempt to further obfuscate deregulation. Some may remember when the now minister of Finance was the Minister for Deregulation and the cuts we saw in legitimate regulations which protect the environment, health, safety and workers rights.
We found ourselves in support of a Finance Statutes Act which streamlines the federal and provincial student loan programmes. However we used the opportunity to emphasise how outrageously costly post secondary education has become in BC: on average a graduate enters the workforce with a debt of $27,000. We are advocating eliminating interest rates on student loans. We should look to other jurisdictions where young people are not burdened with debt when they get an education. I have the pleasure of talking with the North Island College Board of Governors next week and am sure will have some debate about the affordability and accessibility of education.
We won’t be back in Victoria until February, which gives me time to get back into the constituency and to do work on my critic file. I am at a conference in Vancouver with the non-profit sector on Friday and back in Campbell River for meetings Saturday. Next week sees me in the constituency for the first part of the week and then Thursday and Friday off for critic meetings; I’ll be up island Saturday and the beginning of the following week. If you can’t keep up with my calendar you can always call me: 250 287 5100 in Campbell River; 1 866 387 5100 toll free. The phones are going in to the Port Hardy office next week – so we’ll have the numbers and opening hours then. And of course you can email me at email@example.com. Facebook friend me, or follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.