As it’s getting close to Christmas and Chanukah, I thought I’d send out my wish list for BC for this time of year.First though, I want to express my appreciation for your idea of putting aside $1000 for every BC child born after January 1, 2007. I’m just wondering if this might be retroactive? I have three kids still trying to pay off student loans and this would have been nice. (Did you know that in most European and Nordic countries, universities have not been allowed to charge tuition?) I’m wondering though, wasn’t it your government that removed the freeze on higher education tuition a few years ago? I seem to recall that the tuitions went up significantly after that and have risen regularly since. Reminds me of the annual – or was it semi-annual or even quarterly – fare increases on BC Ferries. Also brings to mind the 50% increase of the MSP following your first few years in office. It’s fun to reminisce. But I digress.
So the first item on my wish list includes the provincial government taking a lead in ensuring the housing needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens are met. Just a couple of days ago I read that there are over 2000 in Victoria alone who are without homes. I don’t even know what the most recent statistics are for Vancouver and other major urban centres, but I am aware that there are increasing numbers of people without homes in Nanaimo. (I’ve recently heard the term “urban campers” applied to this group of people, but I prefer the more realistic and less Orwellian term, “homeless.”) I know the provincial government is only one of three players addressing this issue, and I have been listening to various Mayors, including Sam Sullivan, indicating that they can’t do it alone. I also listened to your Housing Minister Rich Coleman, wax eloquent about the significant new dollars that have been allocated to address this problem. I’m aware that the federal government also plays a huge role here, and has not contributed anything of significance in years to address this issue. But each level of government blaming the other does not address the problem. These people need a champion, someone holding a high office, who would be willing to make decisions, and work with local poverty groups and get housing in place - now. To be without adequate food and housing in our “healthy BC economy” is an embarrassment and immoral. To be without in the winter, is even more deplorable, and reflects badly on our collective compassion and capacity to extend the benefits of our “healthy economy” to those most vulnerable. (Just an aside, but if you’re really serious about not having a fall sitting of the Legislature – and it seems that you are – maybe the homeless of Victoria could use the building until spring. I assume you’re keeping it heated.)
The next item on my wish list is for you to take the lead and establish a minimum wage of at least $10 per hour for BC. Gord, six dollars per hour is simply pathetic. Before anyone begins to complain that this would bankrupt our provincial economy, I ask you to note that many European countries, with relatively healthy economies, have minimum wages that are far in excess of your version. Based on a 40 hour work week, Ireland’s minimum wage is just over $10/hour; France’s is almost $11/hour; Great Britain’s is $10.31/hour; Belgium’s is just over $11/hour; Greece’s is almost $6/hour; Luxembourg’s is $13.60 per hour and Cyprus is $5.70 per hour. Nice to know BC’s minimum wage is a tad over that of a worker in Cyprus. Gord, at $6 per hour based on a 40 hour week, this means some lucky person is taking home $12,480 per year before taxes. At $8 per hour (the other BC minimum wage) someone is taking home $16,640 per year before taxes. These wages keep individuals and families at or below the poverty line as determined by StatsCan. I’m hoping that this “scroogian” approach to a minimum wage in our “growing economy” can be exchanged for a more realistic standard for the people of our province. I’d advocate that you and your government take the lead here and support economic health not just for corporations but for people.
The last item on my wish list is a rather all encompassing one that relates to the environment. Please don’t allow coal to be used to generate electricity. It creates pollution, and we’ve created enough of that – so much that we’ve contaminated our planet. There are other ways to develop new sources of electricity, but it takes leadership and the capacity to envision new approaches. Please make Victoria stop flushing their toilets directly into the ocean – it’s just nasty – and likely not that great for either the fish or the tourists. Please support the moratorium on drilling for oil off the coast. We still haven’t cleaned up the spill in the Squamish Inlet. We don’t have the capacity to clean up anything potentially as big as a spill along our coast. An accident could prove destructive on a catastrophic scale. Please stop the destruction in Clayoquot Sound. We have enough other sources for softwood lumber – and regardless, the softwood lumber deal with the US just wasn’t all that great for us.
Finally, I’d suggest that it might be a good idea to terminate the apparently already signed TILMA Trade agreement with Alberta. Any agreement that reduces the capacity of us as British Columbians to make our own decisions at the local, municipal and provincial level is unacceptable. Having it signed without discussion in the Legislature or in the public arena is offensive.
There’s more, but I didn’t want to be greedy.
Season’s Greetings Mr. Premier.
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