For any political watcher, and in fact for many Canadians, there is no question that there is just one political story this week – the stunning and unexpected victory of the NDP in Alberta, bringing to an end the 44 year reign of the Conservatives.
There is a BC connection to the story: Rachel Notley, the Premier-elect of Alberta was a Ministerial Assistant in BC when the NDP was last in government here. That was proudly acknowledged by our current leader, John Horgan, who congratulated Ms Notley in the Legislature. On one of her rare appearances in the Legislature BC’s Premier, Christy Clark, made no reference to the election in the neighbouring province nor did she offer good wishes her new fellow premier.
But then again, nor did she even attempt to answer any questions about massive cost overruns on an IT project at BC Hydro. While hydro costs are spiraling out of control for users, more and more money is being pumped into the project which is already two years overdue. Instead of responding to our questions, the Premier gave a campaign-like list of activities her government has been involved in over the last two years.
It is very unfortunate that Question Period has degenerated into what is little more than spin from the government. Almost without exception, no matter what we ask the government responds, not by answering the question, but by grandstanding and bragging. In other, perhaps more mature, parliaments such blatant disregard of process, procedure and simple politeness – answering a question you have been asked – would never be allowed. The media would be deriding the government as would the electorate.
But this is BC. So when we asked about important issues such as emergency preparedness at the beginning of the week, we were told in a dismissive manner, not to worry, the government has it all in hand. Actually it is a strong network of volunteers who have it in hand. I was extremely impressed at the Emergency Preparedness Fair on Quadra last weekend. It showed what communities are doing: without any financial support from the government.
I tried again in Question Period to raise concerns about the quality of work on the retaining walls on the $600m Sea to Sky highway
. It seems like each week more information is uncovered, but I don’t get an answer from the Minister and nothing is being done.
Question Period is the theatre of the Legislature: half an hour a day to get political points scored. The real work gets done in other venues: the occasional standing committee that sits (at present I am on the Crown Corporation committee which has not been convened by the government in the ten years I’ve been MLA), the budget estimates debate – when we are able to ask detailed questions of a minister – and the committee stage of bills when we can go through legislation in detail. These are usually non-confrontational.
This week we were in committee stage on a couple of bills and were asking many questions of the government about the intent around the bills. One of these was a Miscellaneous Statutes Act; this is the provincial equivalent to an omnibus bill and brings about changes to a wide range of legislation. One of the areas it touched on is expanding the royalty agreements for companies that develop liquefied natural gas. This would be of direct financial benefit to those companies and the wording of the bill allows the minister to make these arrangements in secret and they would not accessible through Freedom of Information requests. We tried to rectify this through amendments but were not successful so we opposed these sections of the bill.
I asked some questions about changes to the Maanulth First Nations Final Agreement Act
which would impact the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Chek’tles7et’h’ and potentially people accessing the foreshore in their territories. I also asked some questions on changes which will allow some municipal districts
to become cities – including the Premier’s new constituency of West Kelowna.
Debate started on the Forest Land and Natural Resources Amendment Act. Primarily this is about BC Timber sales - a quasi private part of the forest service. Real issues which arise in our forest sector as a result of 14 years of BC Liberal government – from the escalation of raw log experts, the culling of old growth and the closure of dozens of mills – are not addressed.
And right at the end of the legislative week, on Thursday afternoon, we started to debate the Election Amendment Act. While this takes into account some changes recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer, it ignores his number one priority: youth voter pre-registration, which would engage young voters. The bill is troublesome in many respects including removing spending limits in the pre-election period. That will allow for Americanisation of campaign spending by parties in the election period.
I was able to return to Campbell River in the middle of the week for the very moving ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. Canadian troops were the main force in liberating the Netherlands and it was a Canadian general who accepted the German surrender. It was inspiring to be joined by four veterans of the Second World War along with so many people of Dutch descent who continue to mark the date with respect and honour for their Canadian liberators.
This weekend sees me back in the constituency. On Friday I’ll be at the official opening of the suspension bridge at Elk Falls Provincial Park. Thanks to the fantastic work of Rotary in Campbell River for raising the money and making this amazing attraction a reality. Saturday is the first day it’s open to the public.
As always, feel free to email me Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca, friend me on Facebook, follow me clairetrevena on Twitter, or more conventionally call at 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy or 1 866 387 5100 toll free.