By Shane Simpson, New Democrat caucus chair
In the first five weeks of the B.C. legislature’s spring session, New Democrat MLAs have brought the concerns of people all over the province to Victoria.
We have held the B.C. Liberals accountable for their failures – the tax and fee increases that will make life less affordable for families, the failed job creation strategy that saw 10,400 jobs disappear last month, and the appointment of their political friends to patronage jobs while 150,000 British Columbians are looking for work.
And we have asked the government to take action on many positive initiatives that will make life better in this province.
We fought for a Silver Alert program that would alert the public when a person who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of cognitive impairment is missing.
Selina Robinson, MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville, introduced the Silver Alert Act in the legislature. She was joined by Sam Noh whose father, Shin Noh, a Coquitlam resident with mid-stage Alzheimer’s, went missing and was never found.
New Democrats stood with families like the Nohs, along with
Alzheimer’s Society of B.C., police, search and rescue units and a number of other groups that want to see a Silver Alert program implemented.
We also spoke up for survivors of childhood cancer struggling with the late effects of cancer treatment.
New Democrat health critic Judy Darcy presented a motion to establish and fully fund a specialized health clinic for pediatric cancer survivors in Vancouver. With survivors and their families gathered in Victoria to support the bill, she argued that there is currently no formal program or co-ordination in the health system for the long-term care of British Columbians who have survived childhood cancer. A specialized multi-disciplinary health clinic in B.C. would provide childhood cancer survivors with the comprehensive level of care they require.
New Democrat house leader John Horgan also introduced legislation that would make our government run better, fixing our broken committee system, and making fall sessions of the legislature mandatory. With these changes in place, British Columbians would never again see a legislature that sits for a mere 36 days a year, as British Columbia’s did in 2013.
And when the government refused to listen to grieving families and injured workers calling for an independent public inquiry into the Babine sawmill explosion in Burns Lake, we brought their concerns to the legislature.
With families and workers present, New Democrats pressed the government to proceed with an independent inquiry, both for accountability and justice, and to ensure the safety of other sawmill workers in the province.
We also joined with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs in calling for the retrofitting of seniors’ homes after a fire in a Quebec care home killed 32 seniors. With more than 1,200 seniors still living in care homes with inadequate sprinkler systems, we asked that the government take immediate action on this issue.
New Democrats also held the B.C. Liberal government to account for its failures.
We showed how their secret tax hikes will make life here even less affordable. In stark contrast to the premier’s public claims, the truth is the average British Columbia family will pay at least $900 more over the next three years due to increases in hydro rates and medical premiums.
We stood up for the students and families that were used as pawns in the B.C. Liberal government’s scheme to provoke a full-scale strike at B.C. schools. We called on the government to release documents that informed the decision of the B.C. Supreme Court, which found the government broke the law with its cynical strategy.
We showed how the B.C. Liberals are spending more than a million dollars doling out patronage jobs to their friends, and called on them to end the pork-barrel program that has rewarded failed candidates, former MLAs and Liberal insiders with jobs and appointments. This week the Liberals were forced to back down and rescind the appointment of a former Liberal cabinet minister to a $140,000 job he had no qualifications for.
We stood up to their cuts to ferry services up and down the coast, which were made without a single economic impact study, and which could have a significant impact on B.C.’s $13-billion tourism industry.
And we called repeatedly for the government to finally listen to the Missing Women Inquiry and bring in a shuttle bus along the Highway of Tears. But the Liberals have failed to act.
In the remaining months of this legislative session, New Democrats will continue to bring the voices of people from across the province to Victoria – making sure that people’s voices are heard in the legislature this spring.