There was good news for Campbell River and the North Island this week, with the announcement that the new hospital will be built. The Premier came to the city to announce the long awaited news, on a day the Legislature was sitting – but as the MLA for the region I was happy to miss question period and the ongoing debates in Victoria to be there because it was such a lengthy battle to get a new hospital.
It is long overdue, and it is thanks to the hard work of many people in our community who have come together to fight for accessible public health care, that it is going to happen. Work is said likely to start early next year.
In coming to Campbell River for the announcement, I left behind fireworks in the Legislature. We have again been questioning the government about its $30 million out of court settlement with Boss Power; it turns out this was $22 million over what was recommended as a settlement after the BC Liberal government failed to follow correct procedures over a mining permit. It seems like every week there are more revelations about millions of dollars wasted – from outrageous overspending to money paid to cover up egregious behaviour.
I also left behind some of the very detailed work that doesn’t make the headlines but is an important part of the Legislature. We have been closely questioning the Minister of Justice on a bill which alters the limitation times for taking court action. We also have been going through a bill which could change the way animals are handled if taken into a shelter and we have been discussing a bill on BC’s energy self sufficiency. Often this is very detailed, methodical debate – no big flareups but it is an essential part of the democratic process. These debates provide insight into the government’s intentions when they bring in legislation.
I spent much of the week in the estimates debate of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, for which I am the opposition critic, examining its budget and plans for the coming year. I find it very troubling that such a crucial ministry be left with a static budget for three years; this in spite of having two very significant new programme areas, poverty reduction and dealing with domestic violence.
We also had the estimates debate for the Ministry of Transportation; our Ferries critic spent several hours asking whether the government had any commitment to a marine highway and whether it would act on any of the Ferry Commissioner’s recommendations. We are still waiting, three months after the Commissioner’s report was released.
I spoke about the value of building our ferries in BC and also about the value of cruise ships to our community.
Two new bills were brought in by the government: one addresses the pricing of generic drugs and a second which could allow school districts to change the school calendar to all year teaching. We have not started debate on either of these.