General News · 2nd May 2014
While I usually open my report by the weekly happenings in the Legislature, I think everyone’s week has been overshadowed by the terrible shooting at the Western Forest Products mill in Nanaimo. It shook everyone, and perhaps was especially felt in our forest dependent communities. While we see anger expressed in this way in the United States we are lucky that it is so very rare here. There will be discussion for some time about what was the root cause of the attack but nothing will lessen the grief of the families and the sad sense of loss of the workers, the company and the community. My thoughts are with them.
This week started with the National Day of Mourning, an opportunity to remember those killed or injured at work. For the first time, at the instigation of our Labour critic, the flags outside the Legislature flew at half-mast and we had a minute’s silence before we started the day’s debate. As Opposition, we tabled a Workplace Accountability Act, which would help to keep workers safer by making make companies more accountable for their actions, ensure police investigation when there is a serious injury or fatality and by dedicating a Crown Prosecutor so the possibility of conviction could be determined more precisely.
One of the central pieces of the BC Liberal’s legislation this session is undoubtedly Bill 24, which breaks up the Agricultural Land Reserve and undermines the independence of the Agricultural Land Commission. It is very clear the new Minister of Agriculture has been deluged with correspondence opposing this bill. When appointed to cabinet just a week earlier, the Minister indicated that he would have province-wide consultation and may even pull the bill.
However during Question Period we discovered that his idea of consultation is just reading the emails he has received and that the BC Liberals still intend to pass the Bill by the end of this session at the end of May.
I spent much time during my two weeks in the constituency around the Easter break, talking with many people about the ALR: farmers, small holders, people working on food security, all emphasized the importance of our being able to grow our own food, in our North Island communities and around the province. They staunchly believed the Agricultural Land Commission should remain independent and the ALR protected. Sadly that will not happen if Bill 24 is passed.
Consultation does work and the BC Liberals should not be afraid of it. The new Water Sustainability Act, passed this week is a case in point. It was much needed and replaces a more than 100 year-old piece of legislation. A White Paper was drafted and that allowed widespread discussion around the province for about two years before the bill was tabled in the Legislature. While there were some concerns about the legislation, on the whole that consultation meant that it was well grounded, that concerns had been discussed and taken into account and we were able to support it. It went through close examination during committee consideration this week. I was able to ask the Minister some specific questions about who is responsible for communities’ access to water when an independent power project (IPP) is operating in the community watershed. This has resonance for Tahsis and also likely many other communities trying to deal with IPPs.
Detailed examination of other Liberal legislation also continued through the week: the Animal Health Act, changes to municipal elections and their financing, and the establishment of pooled pensions all came under scrutiny by opposition critics.
In addition, we are still going through the budget, which allows MLAs to ask about impacts of cuts to our communities. I was most disappointed when asking the Minister of Education about how school districts are supposed to continue to provide high quality public education with ongoing budget shortfalls and was told everyone had to make “difficult decisions”. This from a government that earlier in the week talked about shifts in priorities for public education – bringing more trades training to high schools and post-secondary institutions without increasing their budget.
I had the opportunity to talk about the importance of hospices and Campbell River Hospice Society this week in the Legislature and used it to highlight the massive disparity in funding between hospice in Victoria and ours in Campbell River.
I will be heading to Nanaimo on Friday to meet with the CEO of Coast Community Credit Union to discuss his flawed plan to close the Cortes, Sointula and Alert Bay branches and cut the hours at Quadra. The move goes against everything credit unions stand for. Unlike banks, they are supposed to work with and for communities; they are not supposed to be about profits but about their members. Closing these branches will be devastating for the communities affected.
I can always be reached by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca, on Facebook or clairetrevena on Twitter. You can contact me the traditional way by phone: 1 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 1 250 949 949 9473 or toll free at 1 866 387 5100.