General News · 27th March 2014
The BC Liberals set the tone of the week in the Legislature by tabling back-to-work legislation in their attempt to end the strike at Port Metro Vancouver. While there was eventually a negotiated settlement, this heavy-handed approach is symptomatic of the attitude of this government to unions. As I mentioned when I spoke against the bill the BC Liberals, like their Conservative counterparts in Ottawa, continue to try to eliminate the rights of trade unions. We see this time and again, whether arbitrarily stopping strikes, such as with the paramedics or teachers, or by allowing contracting out work, such as at New Horizons in Campbell River.
The sad irony of this latest back-to-work legislation is that the majority of those truckers who work at the Port are not in unions; 1200 non-union workers were out and 250 members of UNIFOR. The bill would have forced only the union members to go back to work. It has now been dropped.
The government also introduced another piece of significant legislation this week, one that could fundamentally change the operation of the Agricultural Land Reserve and its guiding body, the independent Agricultural Land Commission. The ALR is fundamental to our province’s well-being – environmentally, socially and economically - and any changes to it must be extraordinarily measured.
Unfortunately, another damaging bill passed its final stages and became an Act this week. I have heard a great deal from constituents who are deeply concerned about the Parks Amendment Act and spoke against it during debate. This piece of legislation makes it easier for industrial activity to take place in our parks. We supported an amendment that tried to define the term ‘research’ which, under this legislation, would be permitted in the parks. The amendment failed. But in fact it would have done little to stop other industrial work to going ahead in Provincial Parks.
There was, however, some good news for our parks with the announcement of the completion of a deal to acquire land which will link Octopus Islands and Small Inlet Marine Parks at the north end of Quadra. This has long been in the making, driven primarily by the energy of a group of volunteers on Quadra and with the amazing financial support of individuals in the community. Some of those who had been involved came to the announcement at the Legislature and I had the privilege of welcoming them.
The furor continues over the government’s complete mismanagement of our ferry system. Now the Minister of Transportation is indicating he’d consider axing the Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay run because of the cost of seismic upgrades at the terminal. I asked the minister whether he would give a definite answer about his intentions but he refused.
And I again questioned the Minister about increasing ferry fares. They go up, yet again, by 4% on Tuesday. That is a 7.5% increase in just three months, which is simply gouging. It is completely unsustainable for individuals or for businesses and it’s no wonder latest figures show ridership plummeting. The BC Liberals have completely turned their backs on anyone living or working on the coast and clearly do not understand that a healthy BC relies on our significant contribution to the economy.
As Opposition, we tabled a bill which would protect many families from the 28-percent hydro rate hikes which will start coming into effect in a few days. The Hydro Affordability Act would give the British Columbia Utilities Commission the authority to require B.C. Hydro offer a discounted lifeline rate in order to maintain the affordability of energy for eligible low-income British Columbians.
The government brought in a number of bills through the week. Among them was one that would allow municipal politicians, regional directors and school board trustees to have for four-year terms instead of the current three years and would bring the elections forward to October from November.
At the end of the week we started to debate the BC Liberals plans to change the liquor laws in the province. One of the concerns that has been raised is whether there will be an impact on rural agency stores and I will be asking the minister for clarification on this.
I raised with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs the continuing protest by the Kwakiutl First Nation who are concerned logging is abrogating their treaty rights. The Minister has refused to meet with the chief, council or elders. I had previously asked the Minister of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Development whether he would meet and he also refused. Understandably, people in Fort Rupert are very upset by this.
Earlier this year I attended a homeless strategy session in Campbell River, hosted by Campbell River Family Services; this week I was able to talk about that meeting and what else the community is doing to try to tackle homelessness.
On Friday I am in Vancouver for meetings on critic issues but 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.