Imagine a stunningly beautiful place with abundant natural resources that are exported offshore at an unsustainable rate. Imagine a place where one out of every four children is not ready to enter school. Imagine a place where once kids do get to school many of them are going there hungry because there’s no food at home (if they have a home). Imagine a place where the head of government decides to shut down the parliament and govern by decree.
Most of us in the liberal west would decry this as a dictatorship, a banana republic, a place of extremes where democracy has been stifled.
But look in the mirror, BC. This is what is happening here. Once again our Legislature will not be sitting this autumn. That means your democratically elected representatives, won’t be in Victoria from May 2012 through to February 2013. We have been in the legislature only 48 days this year.
Democracy 101: a democracy works because one political party has been given an elected mandate to govern and other political parties hold it to account. Democracy is not perfect but it is a system of balances, of give and take, of criticism and compromise. It is not about saying, as this Premier and her predecessor did, that debate is pointless or it’s busy work or it is, to quote Ms Clark, “sick”.
To do so undermines the trust that every single person has put into process when they have gone to vote. And that in turn puts in jeopardy the cohesion of our communities and our society.
The North Island is a resource rich constituency. Our forests are magnificent and a value to us for logging, for tourism, for hunting and for foraging. I, along with my opposition colleagues, have questioned the level of raw log exports. The Minister of Forests is advised, by an independent committee, about whether the logs a company wants to export are surplus to what is required by mills here in BC. If they are surplus, they can be exported. The Minister overruled that committee more than 80 times in just a few months, allowing logs to be shipped offshore that could and should have been used here. As the Opposition we were able to hold the minister to account when the legislature was, briefly, in session. But because the Premier has decided the Legislature will not have a fall session, the Forest Minister can do what he wants: without questions, without scrutiny.
As the Opposition Critic for Children and Family Development I have a responsibility to the province’s most vulnerable kids and to taxpayers to ask questions of the new minister. At the top of my list is how can this ministry, which is so overstretched, be spending $192 million on a computer system which is creating huge problems and could cost millions more to fix. That’s a lot of money to spend without scrutiny, without questions or debate. But that’s what she will be able to do.
As the MLA for the North Island I am extremely proud to represent my constituents and constituency in the Legislature. I try to ensure that the wide range of voices that makes up this wonderful place are heard – the voices of parents, of workers, of communities, the voices of First Nations, the voices of new Canadians. I talk about our access to health care, the cost of post secondary education, our economic future and the damage done to the ferry system, our marine highway.
Your voices, which I take with me to Victoria, are silenced because the Premier has decided to keep your Legislature closed and govern by decree.
Our democracy is fragile. It will continue to be abused when people do not defend it. I realize that life is busy and people are overworked; many are weary or, sadly, cynical about whether it’s worth doing anything.
But I hope that more and more people will say publicly that the Premier has no right to act as an autocrat, to close the doors of your parliament, that no single person should have the ability to shut down our democratic system and silence your voices.
So this fall I will be spending time in the constituency – working with you to find solutions to our communities’ problems – and also will be on the road both as your representative and as critic for Ministry of Children and Family Development. I would like to hear from you about your issues of concern and your views on this attack on our democratic system.
You can always reach me by phone on 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 1 866 387 5100 toll free, by email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org or friend me on Facebook or follow me @clairetrevena on Twitter. I hope to re-open the Port Hardy office by the end of October.