The Legislature resumed on February 12 with the traditional Throne Speech. As has already been reported by various media, it was probably the shortest in history and had none of the usual vision for the future we have come to expect. It was a total of 8 pages repeating the vague promises made by this government over the last 18 months that are still waiting for action. As Opposition, we respond to the speech with speakers of our own, matching the Government speakers one to one. This Government chose not to speak to its own Throne Speech, so the debate lasted only a couple of hours- again the shortest debate in recent history.
How the House operates and how long a debate is on any Bill is dictated by the number of people who wish to speak to it, and the house leader’s management of time while the House is sitting. As Opposition, we have pushed the length of debate on issues that we feel are critical to the people we represent, like the Speculation Tax and the Proportional Representation Bills.
The majority of the Bills that the NDP Government has introduced have not been spoken to by their members- they have merely voted in favour of them.
When the BC Liberals were in government, as every Bill was introduced as many of us that time would permit spoke in the House to support our Bills. We matched and exceeded Opposition participation with speakers to our Legislation.
Everyone is welcome to access Hansard (Debates) and see the difference in NDP member participation in the Legislature now as compared to when they were in Opposition.
The Budget was introduced on February 19th. Each Minister will spend many hours in estimates as our critics for each Ministry question the spending one line item at a time. I will be sitting in on the Agriculture Estimates and also Health Estimates where I will ask the Health Minister once again what he is doing to settle the Doctor’s pay dispute with the Oliver Emergency Doctors.
On another topic, it is extremely disappointing that meetings with Parks Canada continue to be cancelled or delayed. Many of you have participated in online surveys or joined others in organized groups asking for your opinion to be respectfully listened to by Parks Canada. There appears to be a loss of appetite on Parks Canada’s part to meet face to face with those who have unanswered questions about the impact from this Reserve on their current lifestyle or the possible consequences to their livelihood. Most of the areas under the new Park Boundaries are already covered by protections either from the Province or organizations like Natures Trust and others. No one who lives in the beautiful South Okanagan Similkameen would tolerate damage being done to this unique grasslands ecosystem. We have all been educated about the species, animal and plant, that are on endangered lists, by the amazing work of the Osoyoos Desert Centre and the work of the Osoyoos Indian Band with the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre.
I fully support a call by the majority of residents who live here for a proper referendum to end the neighbour against neighbour conflicts that have disrupted all our lives for almost 15 years. With a Federal Election coming this fall, we should all be asking those candidates where they stand on this issue and what they would do to solve it. This is still a democracy- let the majority decide.
It is still winter and while our snowpack is near normal the tipping point for flood issues is always the amount of rain that could fall in March and April. We need a spring without flooding to continue the clean-up from last year’s disaster and create proper flood management plans for the years ahead. Please be careful in the back country as slides begin to happen more often as we warm up.
We are all looking forward to a spring without any more natural disasters.
Linda Larson was elected to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in the 2013 provincial election. She represents the electoral district of Boundary-Similkameen as a member of the BC Liberal Party.