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General News · 8th December 2010
Claire Trevena
It’s a turbulent time in BC politics. NDP Leader Carole James has followed Gordon Campbell in offering her resignation to her party. For both the Parties and for the people of BC this is also a time of unprecedented opportunity. It is a time rarely given in which politics can be recast, where visions can be shared and, if done well, our political and parliamentary systems made relevant for people across the province.

There is no question there is a huge amount of cynicism about all politicians at the moment. It is up to us - as we all go into a discussion about who we want to lead our Parties, who will best represent our values and our principles - to be open about what we can achieve and what we can aspire to.

Usually I bemoan the fact that the Legislature is not sitting – in fact we have not been in session since the beginning of June – but now I believe the leadership races will allow us to do a better job in the House when we get back. I would hope that candidates from both parties are ready to truly embrace our parliamentary democracy and make the Legislature relevant to people in BC: make the committee structure venues where real discussion can take place and experts brought in; make Question Period time where questions are asked and real answers given instead of merely being a stage for cheap theatrics; allow legislators the ability to examine bills without facing a procedural guillotine that ends debate.

And I would hope that there will be a willingness to allow political discourse within parties and within caucuses. As I have mentioned in the past, I am often frustrated by the tight control of MLAs and MPs within the BC and Canadian party systems. This frustration was a core reason for my opposition to our party leader. It is neither good politics nor good for our parliamentary democracy to swear absolute loyalty to a leader. That is done in totalitarian states; it should not in democracies. Politicians are members of political parties because they share the common principles and beliefs but we also are representatives of our constituents. At Westminster in Britain, the “Mother of Parliaments”, MPs have much more freedom to both speak and vote against their party and their party leader This does not just happen in confidential caucus meetings, it happens on the floor of the House of Commons and in the media. This is not regarded as infighting or as backbiting but rather as a central and essential part of democracy.

As I write this we do not know when the NDP will be holding its leadership vote; the Liberals plan have theirs at the end of February. I would hope that people who care about the province and the way it will evolve in coming years get involved in these races and make their voices heard. This is essential in a healthy democracy.

I am lucky enough to have heard people talking about their aspirations and their concerns in many venues. Recently I was at a community dialogue at Tsaxana-Gold River. About 50 people turned out from both communities on a snowy Saturday morning to share what they thought worked within their two communities and how both could be improved and made more inclusive. High school students, elders, people who have lived their lives in the area and people new to the communities all contributed to the conversation. I was impressed at how engaged everyone was in the process.

Likewise in Port Hardy I recently attended the Mount Waddington Health Network-Circle meeting in which “community” was the central theme. It is impressive that people in Mount Waddington have managed to keep the Crisis Line open, despite VIHA ending its funding. But the Line is now in serious jeopardy as is the huge amount of work done by the community on a suicide prevention protocol which is integrally linked to the operation of the Crisis Line. The meeting also heard from the school district on how it deals with crises and it was presented with a report on the successes and gaps in the community emergency response to September’s floods.

We all have to work to make our communities viable. Unfortunately people sometimes struggle to ensure that there is communication and participation in worthwhile community projects. It is the ability to work together which sustains us all.

But there are still many battles as we fight against centralisation of services and continued cuts. The cost and availability of seniors’ care is becoming an ever increasing concern for many families in the constituency. I continue to raise this, and many other health care needs – from ensuring enough nurses are working through to finding clinic space – with the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

It has been a hard year for our communities: the recession is still a bitter truth for many people. The privatisation of our power production means hydro bills are going up. Well paid work is harder and harder to find. Our resources continue to be shipped out of the area and the province resulting in ever diminishing opportunity.

We have to turn the situation around for all of us who make our homes in the North Island. Our communities here are interdependent. We do need community control of our resources for our communities’ benefit. And that will only come with political change. The new year can be the moment when, together, we make a renewed commitment to take on these challenges and make the necessary changes to ensure the viability of all our North Island communities.

In the meantime, I hope that everyone has a restful, enjoyable, Christmas season. Everyone is welcome to my Christmas Open House at my office at 908 Island Highway in Campbell River on the afternoon of December 20th . And if you cannot make that, you can always reach me by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or by phone in Campbell River at 1 250 287 5100; in Port Hardy at 1 250 902 0325 or toll free at 1 866 387 5100.

My best regards
Claire