This week Canadian journalist Mohammed Fahmy who had been in prison in Egypt for more than 400 days, wrongly accused of terrorism visited the Legislature. It was extremely interesting to hear how he survived, how important it was for him to know people were fighting for him and his views on diplomatic involvement when a Canadian citizen has been arrested and imprisoned. The Question Period exchange he observed was – like all of our Question Periods this week – focused on the BC Liberals abuse of freedom of information legislation and the cover-up of issues they don’t want the public to know about.
It was, however, a salutary reminder that while we rage against the BC Liberals outrageous record, we have the opportunity to challenge them in the Legislature without fear of reprisals. And this can and should be reported by our free media.
It was also perhaps appropriate that the discussion was about how the BC Liberals ignore freedom of information laws, apparently on direction from the Premier’s office. Access to information is fundamental to a healthy democracy, and is vital for journalists researchers, academics and others to do their work. However the BC Liberals prefer to erase the record rather than open up their actions to scrutiny. There is no trace of any emails in the Premier’s office – not even from her communications staff. It is an extraordinarily cavalier approach to government.
The sadness of this latest cover-up is that it came to light when we, in the official opposition, asked for information about meetings the Minister of Transportation had held about the Highway of Tears. I raised that in Question Period but the Minister and the BC Liberals see no problem in the fact that all emails had been deleted and there was no information to access.
I also asked the Minister of Transportation for some clarity on the new cable ferry for Denman and Hornby Islands. The cables are said to be rusting, there are reports that the ferry’s fuel consumption will be higher than the current ferry and there is no way the ferry can escape a high wind blowing down Baynes Sound. The Minister blustered as much as the wind often does but had no coherent answer for the people of Denman and Hornby, or indeed anyone who relies on ferries as our marine highway and sees this reckless experiment unfolding.
I raised concerns about the lack of equity in funding for our marine highway. As we all know, in contrast to the paved highways across the province or the inland ferries, we pay a huge amount to use our marine highway. And unlike those who rely on BC Transit, our fares also contribute to capital costs. As we also know BC Ferries has a promotion at the moment reducing certain fares by 50 percent. The reason behind this is to see whether it could introduce different fares at different times of day. I argued that it makes economic sense for such a reduction to be made permanent on all routes at all times. I also reminded the Legislature about the reason the BC Ferries system was created by WAC Bennett in the late 50s and 60s – to open up the coast and connect communities for the benefit of our economy. We still need these connections for the benefit of our communities and the provincial economy.
Debate this week again focused on the changes to the electoral boundaries. I spoke about my pride and honour in representing the North Island. The boundaries of North Island remain intact under the new map which is likely going to be in place for the 2017 election. However there are significant changes to the Comox Valley constituency to the south of us. That faces a major reorganization: Comox, Courtenay, Black Creek and Merville will become one constituency while Cumberland and the rest of the Comox Valley will join the constituency of Alberni Pacific Rim.
We also started the discussion of a miscellaneous bill which touches on the Ministries of Advanced Education, Children and Families, Energy and Mines and Justice. The proposed changes to legislation are: how dues are paid to student societies; how youth agreements are established for young people in care of the Ministry; implementing a number of recommendations which came from an independent review of the BC Utilities Commission; and aiming to streamline the enforcement of court orders.
I have heard concerns from a number of people in Gold River and Tahsis who are very worried about the potential loss of the pharmacy service in Gold River. I have spearheaded a campaign to fight to prevent the change, with a number of colleagues who also represent areas which could lose pharmacies.
We have one more week in the Legislature ahead of a week in constituency around Remembrance Day. As always, I can always be reached by email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone in Campbell River on 250 287 5100, in Port Hardy on 250 949 9473 or toll free at 1 866 387 5100. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena or check out my web page www.clairetrevena.ca.
Wishing everyone a safe and spooky Hallowe’en.