Mr. Premier, in spite of establishing dates for both the spring and fall sittings of the legislature, you have once again cancelled the fall sitting. According to House Leader Mike de Jong, “this year the government doesn’t wish to advance any legislation.” You claimed in interviews that this decision had nothing to do with avoiding direct questioning from the opposition, but rather it was because you wanted to travel around the province speaking one on one with people about “how we can share the prosperity.”
Okey dokey then. Well, although I haven’t seen you here talking one on one with anybody, I figured I’d take you up on your invitation and present a few issues we could chat about.
Even though those big pay raises (22-43%) for senior provincial staff in August raised a few hackles, you next proceeded to announce more pay raises for public service executives on Sept. 22 ranging from $15,000 to $27,000. All of this was on the heels of those 30% MLA pay increases. So Gord, this would be an interesting discussion with the approximately 100,000 people across BC who “share the prosperity” by existing on the minimum wage in this province that hasn’t changed in seven years. According to your Labour Minister, Ian Black, “the current minimum wage is necessary to keep the province competitive.” Seems to me this could be fodder for a good debate in the Legislature.
There’s also the issue of the Auditor General, John Doyle, who in July condemned the decision by Rich Coleman to remove land from three tree farm licenses on southern Vancouver Island for residential development. Mr. Doyle stated that this decision “was made without sufficient regard for the public interest.” This too could raise interesting questions from the opposition in the Legislature.
Then there’s the fact that BC is now the only province to charge flat rate premiums (MSP) for health care in the country now that Alberta has decided to abolish this distasteful form of regressive health care taxation at the end of this year. This could also use a bit of debate and exploration.
There’s the small detail that your government has allowed/encouraged BC Ferries to gleefully increase fares, add on numerous fuel surcharges, decrease services, build new ferries out of country and then park them because ridership has gone down 12%, and then discover that these new floating billboards use more fuel than the old ferries they replaced. In the middle of all this kafuffle, BC Ferries management increased salaries to their executives and Board of Directors and just handed out 1.6 million bucks to their employees as a Thanksgiving bonus. (I’m not saying the ferry workers don’t deserve more money, I’m questioning the timing of all this. Seems like David Hahn has been taking lessons from you regarding the timing of making financial announcements.)
How about that “green plan” of yours? That would make for interesting discussion. The whole idea of a “revenue neutral carbon tax” is one of those oxymorons that governments love to mouth. (If it’s revenue neutral, how come the $100 dividend in the mail?) There’s the fact that tree planting is down by over 30,000 seedlings this year and orders indicate a drop of 100,000 seedlings by next year in spite of the damage caused by the pine beetle. Then there’s BC Ferries charging almost 80% as much for a moped as it does for a car, and plans on charging $1.10 for a bicycle when both of these modes of transportation are far healthier for the environment than a car. What’s next, 50 cents for backpacks? Just bad optics Gord.
Mr. Premier, let’s face it. There are more than enough serious issues challenging our province at the moment that need to be well debated and considered. Our elected representatives should be in session, not only to work towards resolution around these issues, but to do the work they have been elected to do.
Dennis Pilon, a University of Victoria political scientist said the cancellation of the fall sitting is “an affront to our democratic system.” Pilon said “the most basic accountability in a British Parliamentary system is the idea that the elected officials are accountable to the public through their regular appearance in the legislature” and that he couldn’t “help but feel that with an election looming, this is quite convenient for the government to deny the public this opportunity.”
Mr. Premier, decisions like this can only make British Columbians more disillusioned about how your government runs the business of the province. With the huge challenges facing BC, one can only assume that cancelling the fall sitting is only about you and your government avoiding questions, debate and challenges to your decisions. No question period = no questions = no public embarrassment. Shame on you.
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