As the financial crisis which grips much of the world deepens, MLAs were called back to Victoria for just one week, right at the end of the scheduled two month fall session. After the Campbell government had said there was no business that needed doing, it recognised that British Columbians expected some action.
But that action is quite limited. Instead of providing the people of BC with commitments and investment to assist our communities we had a bill which provides some income tax cuts that have already been promised, some assistance to small businesses that can now receive a 50 percent rebate on school tax, and a confusing freeze on property assessment.
I took the opportunity to talk about the needs of North Island
, where for many people in the forest industry and in mining, the economic uncertainty has already started. Many of our smaller communities are fighting for their survival and in Campbell River there’s uncertainty with a question mark over Myra Falls mine, the loss of Timberwest’s saw mill and this week’s closure of the kraft mill at Catalyst and the loss of more than 400 jobs. As far as our island communities are concerned, few believe the Premier’s cynical decision to cut ferry fares for only two months will provide the economic stimulus he says it will.
It was also a chance to talk about what could be done to reinvigorate and reshape the economy: the changes that could take place in our forest industry, the opportunity to invest in green jobs, the commitment to education and to child care to cite just a few options.
But the BC Liberals don’t want to commit to the social fabric. For years they have been relying on others to provide the financial support that should come from government – that core funding that so many organisations rely on but have to turn to foundations instead. The second bill discussed in our mini session was to help the Vancouver Foundation
. It is supposed to make payments only out of interest but is facing a shortfall; it wanted the authority to use a percentage of its principle in order that the organisations it supports would have the monies they were expecting.
The disgraceful problems of homelessness and housing continue to impact many people. I was able to raise concerns about the severe housing shortages at Tsuqualte
, the First Nations’ reserve just outside Port Hardy, in Question Period. I asked the government to step in to help the families living in overcrowded homes where there is a severe problem of black mould. The minister did not give an adequate answer, but I have followed up with him in writing. Something has to be done for the families there.
I had a further opportunity to talk about the instability in our forest industry when we discussed the failed softwood bill
in a private member’s debate. And in another such debate I was able to talk about the importance of recruitment and retention in our ambulance service
– both for our urban paramedics as well as the recognition that our rural communities rely heavily on those people who are willing to give up much of their lives to be on call.
So while the Campbell government wanted to duck issues, we were able to bring forwarded our communities’ concerns. It would have been good to have more time.
I shall be returning to Victoria for a couple more weeks for meetings of the Public Accounts Committee of which I am a member. Around those trips I will be back in the constituency and am happy to talk with people about any issue. You can get hold of me by email at claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca, in my Campbell River office at 250 287 5100 or in my Port McNeill office (open on Thursdays) at 250 956 0028.