In a couple of weeks we finally return to the Legislature in Victoria. It is almost nine months after we last sat. We do not expect to be there for much more than one month this time.
This is democracy, BC style under the BC Liberals; a government that will try to do anything to avoid being held accountable, but spends huge amounts of public money on advertising trying to convince citizens it is doing a great job.
The latest clear effort to bypass the elected members of the Legislature was the introduction of the bill which will finally get rid of the HST and allow a return to the PST. Despite having given assurances by the government that this bill would be introduced in the upcoming legislative session and therefore subject to discussion, last autumn we were notified by a media release from the government’s communications office, that the bill will now be made public four months late and not in the Legislature.
The way a parliamentary democracy works is that legislation is brought to elected legislators; we examine it, we talk to our constituents, and we debate it in the House. In some places – notably not BC – a parliamentary committee provides further scrutiny. These things matter: ignoring these essential steps, governing without debate and openness and pretty soon democratic rights and freedoms have disappeared.
On the HST/PST debacle there’s been a litany of ways people’s trust has been exploited so perhaps it should not be surprising that the government again decided to ignore basic democratic procedures.
Instead of using the Legislature, the Premier’s office gave the job over to the communications department. It is pretty busy these days. It is running a $15 million campaign at the moment to try to convince people that BC is booming thanks to a BC Liberal government; a claim being made using a number of incorrect statements. I have no doubt that people in the North Island would rather that the $15m – public money – be spent on improving conditions in the classroom, on care for our elders, on a jobs plan that actually has funds rather than merely hot air committed to it, on improving our highways and bringing down ferry fares instead of being spent on self-congratulatory public relations fluff. We will be bringing in legislation which would mean all government advertising has to be vetted by the Auditor General.
I believe the only reason the Legislature is having an abbreviated session is that the government has to table a budget, and to break that Legislative requirement just a couple of months before the election would be one step too far.
However, it will be very good to be back in Victoria to raise the concerns of our communities, which have not been heard by the government for nine months. Some of the issues I’ll be talking about are the worries that school boards are having about trying to fund pay increases out of already strained budgets; the lack of support available to families whose children – both young and adult – have special needs; the increase in raw log exports at the cost of jobs in BC; the degradation of our streams and waterways; the lack of real jobs in the pilot jobs plan; the increasing costs of ferries, of MSP and of Hydro. And of course I’ll be questioning just why it has taken so long to move back to the PST when it took just a few months to bring in the HST.
I’ll also be raising the issues around my critic portfolio, as shadow for the Minister of Children and Family Development: social workers with unmanageable caseloads, the new $192m computer system that doesn’t work properly and children’s rights.
In the meantime – apart from critic meetings in Vancouver and Victoria – I will be in the constituency until the Legislature convenes in mid-February and can always be reached by email Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone on 250 287 5100 in Campbell River or 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy. You can also “friend me” on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.