Sadly, once again the government has circumvented the democratic process in its effort to force through a significant amount of legislation with little scrutiny. We have four days remaining in this legislative session and still 20 bills to be analysed and debated.
We in the Official Opposition had hoped that the government would abide by the legislative calendar it introduced at the beginning of its mandate, a decade ago, which calls for the legislature to meet in the fall as well as the spring. Adhering to this schedule would mean we could continue to debate the legislation which could have be tabled, rather than jammed through when this session ends. This would have allowed us to discuss the bills with stakeholders and do in-depth analysis during the summer.
Among the outstanding pieces of legislation are the 160 page bill to bring in the new version of the provincial sales tax (introduced this Monday), the changes to the Coastal Ferries Act and changes to pensions legislation. In fact 17 of the 32 pieces of legislation tabled this spring have come in the last two weeks. It shows a government that is either completely unable to manage its own legislative agenda or one that seriously does not want any oversight.
The government’s solution is for debate to consider some bills in a separate committee and for us to sit extended hours in the evenings. This simply does not allow an opposition to provide reasoned analysis or scrutiny of the bills. Our job is to represent our constituents, to review legislation and assess its impact and this is not done in a vacuum. All MLAs should consult people in their communities and those who specialise in the relevant fields. This cannot be done properly in such a condensed time. It is inevitable that this gross mismanagement will be compounded by closure: this happens when the government stops all debate in order to use its majority to force through the bills. It is a sad reflection of the government’s belief in the democratic process and the parliamentary system.
An indication of its contempt of democracy was the reintroduction of the gag law which prohibits third party advertising in the run up to an election. The original was deemed unconstitutional by the courts. But the government has paid no heed and used its majority to get the law on the books again.
I was able to talk about the reintroduction of the provincial sales tax
and acknowledged the power of the people who used the initiative and referendum process to defeat the HST. However I did question why it is still taking so long for the government to implement its changes. It took just ten months to bring in the HST but the PST - and all its exemptions - still will not come into effect until next April. That will have a continued impact on the economy of communities and the bottom line for many families.
As I mentioned last week, the Coastal Ferry Act is to be amended with a piece of legislation which does nothing to fix the root problem: the exorbitant cost of riding on our ferries. While this amendment addresses some of the problems in the original act, there is still no acknowledgement that this is our marine highway.
I also spoke about the government’s failure to act on the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management plans
The Federal government pulled out of the process, leaving it in limbo. While the BC government should be showing leadership and ensuring that we have a plan for our coast and coastal communities, it appears to be too eager to embrace the Enbridge pipeline and offshore tanker traffic than stand up to its friends in the Conservative government in Ottawa.
At the same time as we have been discussing legislation, we continue to go through the budget of the different ministries. I was able to ask the Minister of Health about providing more accessible dialysis in the North Island
. And I questioned him about his government’s commitment to hospice care given that Campbell River Hospice Society continues to face inequities in funding.
I also had the opportunity to question the Attorney General about how delays in the courts system are impacting child protection cases
. Unfortunately kids are falling through the cracks waiting for many months, a long time in the life of a child, for a hearing. And I questioned the Attorney General about protection for children in the polygamous community of Bountiful
Next week is the second annual Child and Youth in Care Week. I mentioned in the Legislature, that while this is an opportunity to recognise the resilience of kids in government care
, that we need to commit more than one week a year to these youngsters.
The legislature is not sitting next week and I am looking forward to meet with people in the constituency. You can always reach me at claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or by phone at 1 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 1 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy, or 1 866 387 5100 toll free; or you can friend me on Face book or follow me on Twitter clairetrevena.