The political sphere is again heating up as MPs head back to Ottawa and MLAs prepare for our return to Victoria. But even with the legislature adjourned, it has been a pretty busy winter season with the BC Liberals trying to use the distraction of the holidays to announce some major changes.
The December declaration that the Site C dam will go ahead is disturbing. The Liberals ended their year with the arrogance that has been emblematic of their last 14 years. They stated that this $8.8 billion dollar project will happen despite challenges from First Nations, farmers and environmentalists to name a few. It is staggering, but sadly not surprising.
The end of the year also saw a cabinet shuffle in which the rewards for deception were shown. Reports revealed that Amrik Virk, former Minister for Advance Education, had broken compensation rules when on the board of Kwantlen Polytechnic University and then deliberately misled the legislature and the cabinet about his actions. The Minister should have resigned but didn’t. The Premier should have dismissed him, but didn’t. Instead he got shuffled into another cabinet post. He’s now Minister for Citizen Services.
I have been spending some time talking to young people in the constituency, at schools and in other groups. They have quite rightly been astounded that Virk didn’t resign and that there was not huge outcry when he got another cabinet post. There should be. As individuals we all try to be honest and work openly. As politicians it is our duty to do so – we are known as honourable members and should act accordingly. If we do not, our respect in the community will diminish further and with it respect for the democratic institutions which should make our society work. More cynicism and more disengagement is harmful for a civil society.
However, in our communities in the North Island I am pleased to see a great deal of engagement. I have spent some of January meeting with newly elected mayors, councilors and councils. There is a lot of energy in communities and I am happy to work with locally elected officials to get projects going.
Among the issues continues to be internet connectivity and making sure that all our communities have access to broadband. Telus is now saying that the line to Port McNeill will be operational by February and I am told that will relieve the load for Port Alice and Port Hardy. However, there is the sense that we are continually playing catch up, so this will continue to be a high priority for me.
Also high on the list is health care. There is going to be a province-wide pilot project for community paramedics and I have requested that Cortes Island and Nootka Sound be considered for those pilots. Community paramedicine is a way of ensuring better health care in our rural communities. It allows our ambulance attendants to do more work – whether it is taking blood or carrying out home visits. The scope of their work would vary depending on the needs of the community. The added benefit is that it assists in the recruitment and retention of paramedics because they only get a full salary for the hours they are responding to calls.
I’ve also been talking with doctors in Port McNeill and Port Hardy about health care delivery in the North Island and am very pleased to see the new community clinic open in Hardy.
And I had a success with BC Ferries: some of you may heard of the outrageous fees the Ferry system was charging the ambulance service for short delays of the sailing because of an emergency – more than $1500 for the Quadra-Campbell River run and more than $1400 for the Sointula-Alert Bay-McNeill run. When I brought this to light, BC Ferries was quick to back down, and will repay the monies taken from the ambulance service.
My critic role of transportation has had a local as well as provincial focus. The slide on Heriot Bay Road on Quadra Island will be repaired as soon as the weather dries up a bit. The Ministry is also talking with Emcon about culverts in the south part of Campbell River as well as road maintenance on Read and Rendezvous islands. And I am taking on the Ministry of Forests over the Zeballos road once more.
Provincially I’ve been dealing with the boondoggle of the Port Mann Bridge where usage continues to fall and the costs (now $3.6 billion) continue to rise. This is a toll bridge with a price of $3 a crossing and the promise that any increases will be no more than the rate of inflation. Something we should try to get with BC Ferries!
This week sees me on the road for critic related meetings and caucus meetings. Then I will have one more week in the constituency office before we return for our spring legislative session, which is due to run through to the end of May.
I can always be reached by email at Claire.email@example.com, in Campbell River on 250 287 5100, Port Hardy 250 949 9473 or toll free at 1 866 387 5100. You can also friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.