Tempers Flare at Legislature

Gazette columnist Claire Trevena reports on the happenings in Legislature

For any political watcher, and in fact for many Canadians, there is no question that there is just one political story – 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 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 to 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 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.

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 Americanization of campaign spending by parties in the election period.

As always, feel free to email me Claire.trevena.mla@leg.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.