It is hard to believe that it has been almost two months since the NDP was sworn in as government and I had the honour to be appointed as Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. Summer was spent getting up to speed and dealing with issues that had been left hanging during the long inter-regnum after the election.
It was also a summer, and continues into this early fall, of unprecedented forest fires. There’s been a provincial state of emergency for many weeks; volunteers and professionals have been working hard and people’s lives have been massively disrupted. Everyone’s heart goes out to the many thousands affected.
We are now back in the Legislature, have had our first Speech from the Throne, and this week the budget update. We’ll be here until the end of November as there is a lot to do, including discussing the budget.
For the first time in 16 years issues of poverty and inequality were tackled head on – with measures which ranged from help for people on income assistance through to encouragement for small business with tax breaks. And this is just the first step. Our government will be expanding on these and many other areas in the full budget next spring.
We are committed to making life more affordable for people throughout BC. It will take time to right the wrongs of 16 years but we have started. This budget update included cutting MSP by half, investing in housing, education and dealing with major issues such as the opioid crisis.
Monday’s budget speech was just an update: the first full NDP budget will be in the spring. That is when we’ll be able to reduce ferry fares and bring back free travel for seniors. In the meantime I’m initiating an in-depth review of BC Ferries. While everyone has a view on what’s wrong with the organisation, it is time to find out what has really been happening over the last 16 years. I am committed to making sure the system works for all people living and working in coastal communities.
Being in the Cabinet definitely gives a different outlook on many of the activities of the Legislature. I spent much of Wednesday’s Question Period answering questions about our decision to stop the Liberals’ plans for the ten lane Massey Bridge.
And I also had the pleasure of introducing, and later meeting with, a group of union representatives whose job it is to keep our roads safe for all of us in their work for road maintenance contractors.
Of course, just ahead of the budget, Campbell River’s new hospital opened its doors: and I’m very pleased we have free parking, thanks to a great local campaign and a promise from Premier John Horgan.
I am extraordinarily honoured to be a Minister in this new government. What is unfortunate is that I will not be in the constituency as often as I would like, as I am now working for everyone in the province. And it will likely mean I will not be able to do as many written updates from the Legislature as I did when in Opposition.
This weekend, for instance, I will not be back in Campbell River but instead in the Okanagan, talking with many people about road and transportation issues.
As a result of my new appointment there will be some changes in my Campbell River office. My long time Constituency Assistant, Lynne Stone, has been appointed my Executive Assistant. She will be representing me at times when I am unable to get back to our communities. I will be filling that full time constituency assistant’s job as soon as possible.
However I am still available through email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org. My Campbell River office can be reached at 250 287-5100 and Port Hardy on 250 949-9473.