The autumn weather is gaining in force and intensity and so is the opposition to the Northern Gateway Pipeline. The turnout for the anti-pipeline rally in Victoria was huge. The BC Liberals may try to silence the democratic process by refusing to reconvene the legislature but the rally showed that people would not let their democratic voices be silenced. It was great to be part of it and, just two days later, to mingle with almost 200 people who turned up at my Campbell River office to add their voices in protest to the pipeline proposal. And another rally was held in Port McNeill the same day.
As official opposition, the New Democrats have made it very clear that on the Enbridge proposal we would: take back provincial authority for conducting environmental reviews that the BC Liberals gave away to Ottawa, withdraw from the federal review process, ensure BC’s environmental, social and economic interests are fully addressed and that First Nations’ interests and rights are recognized. The same standards would be applied to any application from Kinder Morgan.
The recent earthquake off Haida Gwaii has raised even more concerns about the dangers that might ensue from having a pipeline down to the coast.
I was up in Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Alert Bay a few days after the quake and have to applaud the work communities did to ensure the safety of their neighbours. Everyone is treating this as a “lessons learned” exercise. We know there were a number of the gaps and one of them, without a doubt, was the time it took for the Government’s provincial emergency service to alert communities to the possibility of a tsunami. It is troubling that most people heard the information through a US network and it took up to a further 50 minutes for BC’s alert system to kick in. I am raising our coastal communities’ concerns with the minister. Rural communities are resilient, but no one should be complacent.
The recent release of the Cohen report into the failed Fraser sockeye run has also underlined that no one can be complacent when it comes to environmental concerns. The massive report had more than 70 recommendations covering important issues for all of us on the coast: from riparian management and environmental oversight through to climate change. There was, inevitably, a focus on what it would say about the interaction between wild and farmed salmon. I am pleased to see that Lord Justice Cohen’s comments have been welcomed by the aquaculture industry as well as by environmental campaigners. I hope that the Federal and Provincial governments take seriously the recommendations that reflect on their jurisdictions
Unfortunately the BC Liberal government did not listen when it came to the BC Ferry Commissioner’s warnings about the ferry service saying that the fares had reached a tipping point. Instead we hear that over three years they will go up by as much as 4 percent a year. This will add to the financial pain in all our smaller islands communities and put up the cost of living for everyone, including those living on Vancouver Island. Now there’s talk about changing schedules and cutting services to fix the mess the BC Liberals have created for our marine highway system. I would urge everyone who ever uses BC Ferries to attend the consultation meetings being held around the province later this month. They will be in Alert Bay, November 22nd (6-9pm) Port Hardy, November 23rd (9-11am); Sointula, November 23rd (6-9pm); Quadra Island, November 27th (6-9pm) and Cortes Island, November 28th (11am-1pm). Unfortunately whoever drew up the schedule did not realize that there are ferry terminals in Campbell River and Port McNeill and did not include these communities in their plans.
Health care remains a paramount concern and I continue to convene a hospital stakeholders group. This dedicated group of community and medical representatives fought to ensure the construction of our new hospital and now is committed to ensuring it is fully equipped to provide appropriate services, for all our communities. A continued worry is the public-private partnership model under which VIHA is determined to construct the hospital. This means a private consortium will design it, build it and then maintain it for 30 years. It is somewhat like leasing a car – except you can’t trade it in at the end of the lease – and is proven to be much more expensive on the public purse. The Health Authority is still not being open about whether that private model will also be used for food services, housekeeping and other non-medical services in the hospital.
As I mentioned in my last report, with no session of the Legislature I am on the road as both MLA and in my role as opposition critic for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. This week I have critic and caucus meetings in Vancouver and Kelowna; next week I’ll be at the Remembrance Day Service in Campbell River on Sunday and the week will see me in Gold River, Tahsis and at Winterfest in Sointula.
And I’m very pleased to say that the Port Hardy office will be re-opening next week: the phone number remains the same 1 250 949 9473. You can always reach me by phone on 1 250 287 5100 in Campbell River or 1 866 387 5100 toll free, by email at Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to friend me on Facebook or follow me @clairetrevena on Twitter.
Best regards, Claire