MLA Report 30th April 2015

Public healthcare and public education underpin our society. Investment in both is vital for us to develop a just and equitable society in which everyone can live their lives to the fullest.

Unfortunately that’s not happening at the moment, so we, as Opposition, have been raising these issues in the Legislature. Over several days in Question Period we highlighted the unfortunate truism that many people who are in urgent need of health care are only able to get the treatment they need after their situation has been raised by the Opposition or by the media. We live in a large province and delivery of specialty care is complex but knowing that, we should work all the harder to ensure people get the care they need when they need it.

Debate in the Legislature this week centred on one bill: the Education Statutes Amendment Act. This bill has not become the flashpoint that some legislation around education provokes, but it has created real concern for school trustees, school districts and teachers.

The bill further centralizes provincial government control over education. It allows the Education Minister to directly interfere with the operation of school boards and if trustees make decisions the government does not like, to overrule them.And as with much of the legislation introduced this session, the details are not set out but are left up to regulations that will be defined by the cabinet alone, behind closed doors.

School boards and teachers are very wary about the legislation. The boards had been working on principles of co-governance with the government; this legislation undermines that. Teachers meanwhile are wary about authority over their professional development being given to the Minister.

When I spoke on the bill I talked about the concerns emanating from the three school districts in the North Island who are worried about the apparent “one size fits all” approach to education and its impact on students in smaller, rural districts like ours.

Trustees run for office and serve their communities because they believe in public education. Teachers spend hours preparing classes, teaching and doing extra curricula activities because most are dedicated to their jobs. Through this bill the government is again making our all-important public education system a political football. And as always, the ones in the middle are the kids who all deserve the best education we can provide.

The BC Liberals continuing denial that anything is wrong with our ferry system was evident again this week. The CEO of BC Ferries had opined that talking about high fares was deterring tourists from coming to B.C. (again ignoring the fact that the vast majority of ferry users are local people and businesses). I asked the Minister if he would tackle the real problem – the high fares themselves – but he seems to be of the same, somewhat childlike, mindset that if you don’t talk about the fares maybe the problem will go away.

We also received the results of a Freedom of Information request asking for correspondence between the BC Ferries CEO, the Minister and the Ferry Commissioner from the start of the year through to the end of March. The response we got was that there was nothing: not one letter, not one email between the three of them. This defies belief because this was the period when the new performance term for the operation of BC Ferries for the coming four years was being developed, this year’s fare increases were being finalized and discussions were supposedly underway about the relief on import duty for the three Polish-built ferries.

The government’s unwillingness to keep records was once again fodder for Question Period when the Minister responsible for freedom of information couldn’t even explain why a training manual for staff about how to use FOI had to be requested through FOI. And astoundingly, the request was denied.

In my role as Transportation critic I also asked the Minister about the failing retaining walls on the Sea to Sky highway. These were built just five years ago as part of a $600m expansion of the highway and were supposed to last 75 years. The Minister is worryingly dismissive saying that what is happening is routine maintenance.

I told the Legislature about the first year of operation of the ‘Namgis-owned Kuterra Salmon Farm and the lessons being learned by everyone in the aquaculture industry from the operation.

I’m in the constituency this weekend – Friday I will be at BC Hydro’s John Hart project, on Saturday I’m at a health forum on Cortes and Sunday at the Emergency Social Services day on Quadra. Next week it’s back to battle in the Legislature.

As always, feel free to email me, friend me on Facebook, follow me @clairetrevena on Twitter, or phone at 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy or 1 866 387 5100 toll free.

Best regards,