BC Liberal fiscal incompetence was on display this week in Victoria, when the Opposition revealed that a sell off of publically owned lands cost the province $43 million. The land in question is in the lower mainland and was sold quickly and well below its appraised value.
The government tried to shrug this off, but in anyone’s estimation it is a huge amount of money that was lost. It is bad enough that the government is selling off public lands in an effort to balance the books. But this comes at a time when school boards are being told to cut the “low hanging fruit” (which already was picked by previous cuts), when we see BC among the worst places in the country for hospital wait lists, when people are simply paying more and getting less.
And further financial incompetence was displayed when the government brought in an amendment to the Liquified Natural Gas Act. That Act was passed in November and since then we’ve seen the opportunities for LNG in BC become even more far-fetched than the Premier promised. Last November’s legislation allowed for massive tax breaks for the LNG companies; the amendments increase the size of the giveaway which will allow corporations more tax breaks in perpetuity. And when the government decides it wants to make such changes, they won’t have to bring them back to the Legislature for scrutiny.
As I say, this comes at a time when our public education system is being starved of resources, where parents are raising money to pay for school books and kids are going to school hungry. I raised some of the concerns of our communities and school districts in the North Island
during the budget estimates debate. I specifically asked about the inequity in Internet access for our rural schools compared to the lower mainland. The Minister acknowledged the problem but gave no assurances for change.
Debate took place on the Workers Compensation Amendment Act that arose from the sad incidents in which workers were killed in two mill catastrophes in the interior. The bill tightens up workplace safety regulations after years of deregulation under this government.
We also continued to discuss restrictions on the sale and distribution of vaping equipment to make it compatible with laws around smoking. As Opposition, we tabled a couple of amendments to the legislation; one of which would have limited the sale of flavoured tobacco and another, on which I spoke
, would allow an exception on the ban on vaping in the workplace to allow people to use vaping equipment in dedicated vaping supply stores.
And we examined
amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act
. This is the legislation which further prohibits so called left lane hogs and provides a new definition of winter tires and where and when they should be used. I asked the Minister in detail about those definitions as they will now allow car and light truck drivers to use “M&S” (so called mud and snow tires) which are effectively all- season tires, year round, no matter the weather conditions.
I also started to go through the Ministry’s budget in the estimates process
. This means a line by line analysis and the opportunity to focus in on some of the major topics: this year it will include government plans for our ferries, for our highways and for other infrastructure projects.
It would not be a complete week in the Legislature without a reference to the ferry system. Last year the government announced a $200,000 feasibility study on the construction of a bridge to Gabriola Island. This came after a group of around 500 islanders sent a petition to the government requesting such a study. On Monday a group promoting a Bridge Free Salish Sea were in the Legislature when their MLA and my colleague Doug Routley and I presented a petition
with almost 3,000 names asking for local zoning which prohibits the construction of a bridge be respected.
While in the House I also had the opportunity to recognize the fact the Campbell River Storm reached the Keystone Cup
and urged hockey fans from both sides of the House to root for our local team.
This weekend sees me around the constituency. Then I’ll be back in Victoria for another week, raising the concerns of the North Island and dealing with issues of transportation. I can always be reached by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or by phone in Campbell River on 250 287 5100, in Port Hardy on 250 949 9473. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter clairetrevena or check out my web page www.clairetrevena.ca