The spring session of the Legislature wrapped up this week, with another act of dramatic government arrogance – the effective closure of debate on the energy bill.
There were two issues which dominated the five months in which we have been in Victoria: the HST and, most recently, the BC Liberals plans to open up the province for unregulated export of power by private companies.
On both issues, which will fundamentally change the way that we all live and work in BC, the Campbell government did not have the decency or the courage to either consult fully with the people of the province or even allow a full debate on either issue to take place in the BC Legislature.
While both pieces of legislation were centrepieces of the Throne Speech back in early February, when the government set out its agenda for the coming months, the government took a long time to table them in the Legislature. That was a deliberate strategy so that there would be little time for debate and no time for public consultation. And true to form, on both bills, the BC Liberals cut off debate.
As people well know, the HST was brought in without any warning after the election and we in the Opposition tried to ensure that the bill would be taken out for public consultation before it was passed. That was rejected. We have since continually called on the government to recognise the overwhelming opposition to this unfair tax and halt it but the government is more interested in pleasing its own friends and forced it through.
During the debate on the energy bill
– which takes away the oversight of the BC Utilities Commission and allows for private companies to develop energy for export on our public lands and rivers – I called on the government to have much wider consultation before going ahead. I also suggested to the Minister of Energy that he come to the North Island and explain why the BC Liberals support corporate exploitation and desecration of Bute Inlet and other inlets and rivers, crown land that the government is supposed to protect for all people.
During the session, we also challenged the Liberals on the wide ranging and extremely deep cuts it forced on the people of BC. Callous cuts to assistance to the most vulnerable in our communities, cuts to education, to health care, to environmental monitoring, to the forest service. There is no area which impacts on our society that went untouched; except, not surprisingly, infrastructure funding and subsidies for the oil and gas industry.
Our last week of question period took on some energy issues but much of the focus was again on the HST and its impact: the fact it will be charged on used clothes, on school supplies, on weddings, and – during bike to work week – on bikes. The government still pushed through the bill on the last day of the session
During this last week of the session, we once again, asked the Minister of Health to stop the cuts to acute care beds at St Joe’s Hospital in Comox. He refused.
We were also able to question the government about its plans to allow school planning councils to tell school boards to bring in cameras in the classroom. The Minister of Education was able to show no research on why this was being proposed or its impact. We voted against the move which is a gross violation of privacy for our children.
The bill which brought that in was a miscellaneous act which also changed some of the Coastal Ferries Act – putting a cap on executive pay as part of it. While the amendments somewhat improved oversight it certainly did not go far enough and certainly did not do what is really necessary; bring the system back into the highways system.
The opposition was able to initiate a debate during the private members period in the Legislature on transitioning to closed containment for aquaculture. It’s a move which industry appears to agree with; Marine Harvest – the largest operator on the coast – has its own plans to test the technology.
And I was able to mark the 100th anniversary of Strathcona Provincial Park
, by talking about the centennial expedition, being launched this July.
This was a session marked by a clear single minded vision for the Campbell government: privatisation of our resources and paying off friends through the changes in the tax system. What we need so desperately in these changing times – where we are literally seeing the cost of our dependence on fossil fuels in the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where our forest industry is still struggling, where people are facing an uncertain future – is a real vision, not gifts to corporate friends.
We need to have a government that has the courage to stand up and do things differently: that will look at human and community needs and work for the social, environmental and economic good. We need a government that will help those communities become resilient in the face of shifts brought about by changing climate and global economics; that will reverse the sale of our common wealth, our lands, our health care and our education. We need a government that will ensure that there is equality of opportunity and social justice.
I’ll be in the constituency for much of the summer, continuing community meetings and getting out to talk with people across the North Island. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, do not hesitate to get in touch. My Campbell River office phone number is 250 287 5100 or toll free at 1 866 387 5100; in Port Hardy the number is 250 902 0325. You can always reach me by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca.