This week in the Legislature, the Official Opposition continued to raise questions about the potential conflict of interest within the BC Liberal government because of political donations paid to the party.
We started the week by debating a motion which would solve the problem immediately by the government implementing reforms which would take big money out of politics. That set the tone for the rest of the week, both in subject matter and the raucous debate that ensued when we raised it.
We brought examples of perceived conflict of interest, in which it appeared that corporate donations may have influenced government decisions, to the floor of the house every day. And the BC Liberals clearly did not like it. It is usually impossible to prove a definitive link, but we cited logging companies that escaped fines, garbage companies that got helpful regulations and mining companies that operated without oversight all after donating to the BC Liberals.
The Auditor General released a damming report this week, describing the BC Liberal’s approach to our province’s mining as a ‘decade of neglect’. The report was scathing and looked at how the BC Liberals actions – or rather inaction — led to the Mount Polley tailings disaster which devastated Quesnel Lake. Of course, in the BC Liberal government there is no accountability or responsibility; the Minister of Mines is still in his job. The mining sector gave more than $4m to the BC Liberals.
It really does not have to be this way. Other provinces have restricted or banned corporate and union donations. We have tabled a bill which would do the same. But the present system works in the interest of the BC Liberal party and they will not countenance any change. Ridding politics of corporate and union donations is part of a democracy strengthening package of reforms we would implement if we become government.
We did not debate any legislation this week, instead our time in the House was spent on the budget estimates debates of the Ministries of Health and Jobs. I asked the Minister of Health about paid parking at our new Campbell River Hospital. I have written to him a number of times about this but his intransigence was reflected in his response: he effectively said we should simply be grateful we are getting a new hospital and we should expect to pay for parking.
However, I am pleased to see that my lobbying for community paramedics for our smaller North Island communities has paid off. Cortes and Port Hardy are the pilot projects but over the coming year community paramedics – extending the role of our ambulance paramedics and providing more economic certainty for them – will be hired to work in Alert Bay, Sointula, Port Alice, Port McNeill, Sayward, Tahsis, Gold River, Zeballos and Quadra Island. This should help to retain our paramedics and expand health care in our communities.
The BC Liberal commitment to education is always a concern and I was pleased that the president of North Island College was in Victoria to lobby for money to reconfigure the Campbell River campus. This would allow the trades unit presently located on Vigar Road to be moved to the Dogwood site and would separate North Island College from Timberline.
Salmon farmers were also in Victoria this week for meetings with government and the opposition. I had the opportunity to recognize the people who work in the industry, many of them members of the United Steelworkers in Port Hardy.
And I was also able to talk about the work of the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences **, a fascinating lab in Campbell River that is unique in BC. It works for all sectors interested in the health of our marine environment.
We have just two weeks remaining in our spring session in Victoria. I can always be reached by email at Claire.email@example.com, by phone on 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy or 866 387 5100 toll free. I’m also on Facebook and on Twitter @clairetrevena.