I hope that many of you can join me at the office Open House, at 908 Island Highway in Campbell River, on the 21st of December to mark the holidays and the end of the year.
As this year draws to a close I’d like to use this opportunity to reflect on the last few months and to look forward to the coming year.
The last months have been very difficult for many people in BC. The global recession has hit our resource-based North Island communities particularly hard. Yet instead of putting more money into essential social, health and education services like many governments in Canada and elsewhere have done, the BC Liberal government opted for its favourite approach of ‘slash and cut’.
In recent weeks training funds have been frozen leaving many people, especially the unemployed with families, with no ability for retraining. Earlier the Liberals froze funds to school districts while downloading more costs; this has led, not surprisingly, to lay-offs and pressure in the classroom. They tried to cut funding from gaming revenue to hundreds of community, social and cultural organisations which rely on that money. In fact they were so eager to take these funds from our communities they didn’t realize they were violating contracts and were forced to give it back. But the sad reality of the BC Liberal government is that they will be going after gaming money next year when those contracts with community organisations expire.
In the North Island we’ve seen the continued decline in the forest industry, with Catalyst closed, logging support companies struggling and closing and people not getting enough work to get them through the year. And there has been no commitment from the Campbell government to regenerate this industry which is central to our economy.
People are worried about the imposition of the HST next year which will see costs rise at a time when many, many families and individuals are struggling just to meet their basic needs. The HST many help some big businesses and the provincial treasury but it will hit all consumers.
And the backdrop of all of this is climate change. Politicians from around the world have joined policy makers, economists, environmentalists and academics in Copenhagen to try to agree on coordinated policies to tackle climate change.
It is an issue none of us can ignore, and should be central to our year ahead. We have to take real actions as a province, as communities and as individuals to deal with it. We need to look at how to make our communities economically, socially and environmentally resilient. We need to have the discussion about whether it is even still possible to talk about our economy growing. We need to address our future in a way that is suited to the 21st century, not relying on the industrialised approaches that evolved through 19th century. And on an individual scale we need to be prepared to live our lives in ways that reduce our impact on the environment.
There are two phrases which have been co-opted by the neo conservatives and which we hear regularly from the BC Liberals. These are “sustainable economy” and “green power”. But the economy that Gordon Campbell’s allies are drawing up is not sustainable. Allowing the gap between the rich and the poor to become even larger in the last year is not going to create a sustainable economy, nor a stable one. Pouring millions of dollars in subsidies and infrastructure development into the oil and gas sectors in the north east is not promoting green power.
In fact, we in BC have had green power for decades. BC Hydro uses water, it uses reservoirs and dams. There are few jurisdictions in the world that have as much “clean, renewable, green power” as BC. But the Liberal government has dictated that our public utility cannot develop more green power, except for possibly one more dam on the Peace River. Instead the Liberals are in the slow but deliberate process of privatizing BC Hydro. The government wants to hand over power development to its corporate friends who have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the BC Liberal Party. The government is going to force BC Hydro to buy this power at high prices and we will all be paying more for our electricity in order to guarantee big profits for private industry.
The consequence of losing public control over power development is the current or planned desecration of Toba Inlet, Bute Inlet and many other inlets and rivers in BC. In these remote places, where there is little government – or any other -- oversight, massive run of river projects are being planned and built. These projects are not needed. Small run of the river developments can plug any gaps in local areas. Most of the power these projects create will be exported at prices subsidized by everyone who pays hydro bills.
It’s too late to save Toba and East Montrose – although if there were any environmental inspectors left working for the government they should investigate what is happening in those inlets – but not too late to save Bute from industrialisation. These are our rivers and inlets. They do not belong to Plutonic Power or General Electric.
In the coming year, I am looking forward to being able to work with people here in the North Island to develop resilient communities, to develop a new framework for the future; one that gives equal weight to social, environmental and economic factors; a framework that gives real meaning to the word ‘sustainable’.
I will of course be raising these and other issues of concern to people in the North Island in the Legislature when we resume sitting in February. In the meantime I will be working throughout the constituency and you can reach me any time at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or on 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 250 902 0325 in Port Hardy or toll free on 1 855 387 5100.
A very merry Christmas to everyone and my hope that 2010 is a better year for all.
MLA North Island www.clairetrevena.ca