Hubris is perhaps the word of the week at the BC legislature as the government refuses to accept responsibility for major mistakes committed under its watch – the failure of the Auditor General for Local Government and the collapse of the Treaty Commission stand out among others.
Both these issues have been playing out in the headlines, in Question Period and in the committees of the Legislature. The Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) was a pet project of Premier Christy Clark, in spite of opposition from individual local governments and the Union of BC Municipalities. As Opposition we argued that we already have an Auditor General and we did not need to set up a whole new level of government bureaucracy. But Christy Clark pushed ahead.
And what did the people of BC get? We all got a dysfunctional office, the dismissal of the person in charge – the Auditor General of Local Government, the auditor herself being audited and legal challenges looming. In spite of this blatant and public case of incompetence the response the people of BC got from the government in Question Period was pretty well the same mantra as always, “don’t worry, we’re in control, everything’s just fine”. The trouble is that this incompetence is costing the public millions of dollars. It has been a colossal waste at a time when school boards are crying out for more money, hospitals remain overcrowded and fees for MSP, hydro and other services are soaring.
The debacle over the appointment of former government minister George Abbott as Treaty Commissioner is equally worrying as it shows signs of petty spite by the Premier. Just days before he was to take over and months after he was approached and approved for the job, he was told it was not going to happen. There has been no explanation despite grilling the Minister of Aboriginal Relations in Question Period and in budget estimates. He hides under the explanation of ‘cabinet confidentiality’. Mr. Abbott was told that some members of cabinet would not support his appointment. Mr. Abbott ran against Christy Clark for the BC Liberal Party leadership with the support of some sitting cabinet members. Many people believe the reason she nixed his appointment was because of a lingering grudge about this. She said it was a ‘principled policy change’ — very sudden if that’s the case. What it has done is throw the whole treaty process into confusion and very likely violated the federal and provincial acts that created it.
There is already some concern among First Nations about the BC Liberals’ integrity and willingness to embrace full consultation. I asked about this, on behalf of the Mowachaht Muchalaht during the estimates debate of the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations. While the Minister said he would talk with cabinet colleagues, he did not give a commitment to ensuring First Nations would no longer be treated as simple stakeholders on a list that would be checked off.
The government continued to introduce legislation through the week, some of which is inevitably going to be challenged outside the Legislature as well as inside. Amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act were brought in which, among other things, mandates that people who have been repeatedly charged with drunk driving attend remedial programmes. The extensive power the BC Liberals have given to police for roadside prohibitions are already being challenged in court and it is possible this too might follow that route. The bill also puts into legislation one of the rules of the road, that you are supposed to drive on the right unless you are passing. As I mentioned when I spoke on the bill * this is very important for safe driving but not necessarily fodder for the Legislature.
There are also some changes in the Election Act proposed in one of the classic catch all “Miscellaneous Statutes” acts. It will give people more opportunity to vote ahead of an election in advanced polling. It also appears to bring in more rules on identification. But it fails to follow our lead, from a private members bill we have introduced, to allow 16 and 17 year olds to register to vote.
We had a healthy debate on a motion I tabled about the ferry system. The full wording was: ‘Be it resolved that this House agrees that B.C. needs a ferry system that is part of the provincial infrastructure, working for the benefit of B.C.’s economy and communities.’ We were not surprised that the BC Liberals refused to acknowledge what we all know: ferries are as important as roads and bridges for our maritime province. Instead of a government talking about subsidies to the system, we need to talk about a government investing in our ferry network.
I asked the Minister of Advanced Education about increasing investment in North Island Collegebut was unfortunately dismissed. NIC has one of the largest catchment areas, in terms of geography and population, for any rural community college, but is woefully underfunded. The Minister refuses to discuss the possibility of increasing NIC’s grant, which would help the college get back into the communities from whence it came – Alert Bay, Sointula and Cortes among them.
I also talked about the State of the Child Report prepared by Campbell River’s Success by Six which paints a stark portrait of our community, but is a great spur into action for all of us.
The Legislature won’t be sitting for the coming two weeks as we are breaking for Easter. I will be largely around the constituency for the first week – with calls to Alert Bay, Port McNeill and Campbell River – and on the road for critic related business the second week.
I can always be reached by phone through my community offices in Campbell River, on 250 287 5100, Port Hardy, on 250 949 9473, or toll free on 1 866 387 5100. You can get hold of me be email: Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org, friend me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.
*If you are having problems with this link go to: http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th4th/20150325pm-House-Blues.htm (scroll to approx. 16:35)