I’ve got to hand it to the BC Liberals.
I really thought they had already reached the height of insincerity and mock concern during their time in power, but alas, they have bested even themselves! Yes, a new pinnacle of hypocrisy has been attained, coming in with the new budget and all their talk about fiscal restraint – announced within days of the end of the most expensive, over budget party this province has ever, or will ever see.
If there is another thing that each of them excels at, it is deflecting the questions of the opposition during debate in the Legislature, and their complete and undying loyalty in supporting the budget that was just brought in.
I spent some of my morning reading Hansard Transcripts, and I have yet to find an instance where a Liberal MLA directly answers the question of the opposition. I’ve read a lot of ” Well, the NDP didn’t do so good in the 90’s…” and a ton of ” We know the opposition would rather we spend our children’s future…” , but not once is there a direct answer or response.
Circle talk, bafflegab and evasion seems to be the rule of the day in this weeks debates, and Rich Coleman wins the Raspberry of the day for most disingenuous speaker in the house. Mary Polak gets another raspberry just for being Mary Polak. Besides her complete inability to do her job, anyone who gazes so admiringly at the back of the Premier for so long ( watch the leg tv to see what I mean) needs to have their head checked. Hero worship much, Mary? But, I digress so let’s get back to how good the Liberals are at not answering questions directly.
Here’s what I am talking about, straight from the horse’s mouth. Here is an exchange between Carol James and Rich Coleman:
C. James: At a time when the government is bringing in more gaming money than ever before, the B.C. Liberals are taking away from community grants to groups and organizations across this province, a $36 million cut from 2008 levels — $36 million. So 800 fewer groups are receiving grants now than they have before. Yesterday we heard the minister say this was about priorities. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
So my question is to the minister. When did taking money away from kids’ playgrounds become a priority for this government? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. R. Coleman: It’s fairly instructive, coming from that Leader of the Opposition, who in the 1990s never funded playgrounds and never funded PACs. As a matter of fact…. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. R. Coleman: You know, we made the choice to restore the funding of $20 per student to the parent advisory councils across this province. That is $12 million to PACs across B.C. and $2,500 to DPACs. They can use that money discretionarily, whether for playgrounds or other uses, within the schools across British Columbia next year. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Opposition has a further supplemental. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
C. James: This is money from the proceeds of gaming. This is money that the government promised to give to community organizations. Well, it’s pretty clear that they’ve broken that promise, full stop, when it comes to giving money back. They’re taking money away from kids and playgrounds and putting it into government revenue. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
So my question, again, is to the minister. Why should B.C. children be made to pay for this government’s deception? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Hon. R. Coleman: Before question period I thought I’d go back and look at the program that the NDP had in place for PACs and DPACs across the province of British Columbia during their tenure. There wasn’t one. There was no program whatsoever. When it came time to look at….
Yes, Coleman is very good at not answering questions, and is also well schooled in using many of those now infamous Liberal catch-phrases created by some PAB employee in charge of such things. Read on for more gems from the mouth of Coleman:
” I know what you don’t get, hon. Member — that when we protect children and families’ futures by having the grants targeted to the kids, you don’t like the fact that we’re doing it because we face a $1.7 billion deficit, that we don’t want to shortchange our children while we’re trying to save the economic future of our province”
“That’s what fiscal responsibility is. When you face tough times, you make tough decisions, and you make the right decisions. That’s what we’re doing.”
“We are facing unprecedented economic times. I know you don’t like that. I know you don’t like to admit that being prudent and fiscally responsible is good for the future of our children and our grandchildren, because you would just as soon pay down and get rid of their whole future by the way you’d do business. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I also know that you don’t want to recognize that in spite of tough economic times, we’ve invested $2 billion additional in education over the next three years. We’ve increased the Education budget. We’ve increased the Children and Families budget. We’ve held firm on the budget for Housing and Social Development so that we can do things for people who are homeless with mental health and addictions. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY] ”
Geesh. Come on you Liberals – admit it. You trademarked the ” tough economic times” phrase each of you uses so often, didn’t you? Where was all this fiscal restraint and concern for the future of our children when the vastly over budget trade and convention centre was being built?
Where was all the fiscal restraint when you were buying VIP olympic tickets and packaged by the bushel to schmooze business execs and politicians from out of the country? Where was your concern then? How about the flights all over the country to celebrate the torch run, or the completely insane number of PR photo ops the premier had done all over BC in the last month or two? Where was the restraint when we had to watch him wave his gumby like mittens at the cameras, or spin his flag pole around like a madman? How much of our childrens future did that cost us all?
Here’s the problem with what the Liberals are trying to spin the people of BC right now. I know firsthand what kind of impacts these cuts will have on children in BC, and how deficient the funding has been for so long for children in need.
My youngest son has a condition called metopic synastosis- a premature fusion of the sutures in an infants skull. While primarily a cosmetic issue, if the seams fuse early enough, the condition can prevent the brain from growing, causing a loss of mental capacity. He’s been through a battery of tests,scans and hospital visits to determine if he needed to have neurosurgery to correct the condition, but grace smiled on him because despite the premature fusion, his skull is accommodating in other ways that is allowing his brain to develop normally. However, children with this condition are also prone to more learning disabilities, so several months ago when his language skills did not seem to be developing properly, his specialist made a referral to a speech pathologist. She warned us the wait might be a long time, but I was shocked when I received the documents in the mail from the clinic.
The wait for a child to see a speech pathologist in the Fraser Health authority is no less than one year.
One year. My heart sank. A year is a long time in a child life who is not even two yet!! The good news is that he has since started talking profusely, so the consult is no longer needed, but what about the hundreds, perhaps thousands of other parents out there who are still waiting? Development of language skills at a young age is crucial to a successful start in school.
There are equally lengthy waits for other crucial assessments, like trying to get a diagnosis for autism, or an autism spectrum disorder, which can be up and over a year as well. For a child going though the school system it can be a self-defeating wait for a parent, it means doling out the hundreds of dollars for a private assessment, or tearing your hair out and a lot of heartbreak in the interim. It simply is not acceptable in light of the financial excess demonstrated by the Liberals during their time in authority.
Clearly, Budget debates with the Liberals are useless. Truly. Nothing is accomplished in these debates that actually betters the lives of those affected. Their voices are not heard through the opposition, because the Liberals simply tune them out. The truth will only be heard through repeated and loud protest from the people directly affected by the cuts, and from those around them that love and support them. For those who have no voice, we must band together and speak out for them. Our children, our elderly, our abused – and yes, they are all our responsibility.
I did find a gem, a true, sparkling gem among all the discourse in the budget debates thus far, that evoked a wave of emotion in my heart for the truth spoken and the manner it was delivered. It was delivered by Dawn Black, MLA for New Westminster, someone who shares the same dreams I have for the future of British Columbia, and everyone in it. I worked for a non-profit in New Westminster that eventually closed due to lack of government funding, and know firsthand the challenges the city faces. The people of New West should be proud to have someone like Dawn fighting on their behalf.
Because I doubt many will see, hear or read it on their own, I bring you Dawn’s speech here to you in its entirety. It is lengthy, but I could not do justice to her words to excerpt or edit, so I will not. I couldn’t have said it better, and clearly, we need more people like Dawn in the leg if we are to achieve the best for our province.
Notice Dawn starts with a bit about grandchildren, in reference to Shirley Bonds pimping of her new grandchild and what it means to her for our province, as a symbol of whats important. I think Dawn does well in reflecting the true importance of the future of our children and the province we leave behind for them. From Hansard:
D. Black: We seem to be having a little theme here today around family and grandchildren. I just want to get it on the record that I also have grandchildren. I have seven, the oldest of whom is an eight-year-old granddaughter, and the youngest of whom are one-year-old identical twin girls. I’m incredibly proud of all of them. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I would also like to give my congratulations to the Minister of Transportation, who indicated today that in her family they’ve just had the birth recently of their first grandchild. I can only hope that she gets the same kind of joy and satisfaction from her grandchildren that I have had from mine. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
You know, much of what happens in a democracy, when we’re all talking about our children and our grandchildren here today, is that we come to this place with different political philosophies. The hopes and aspirations that I have for my grandchildren include a society, a British Columbia, that does not have the shame of homelessness. I dream for my grandchildren of a society in British Columbia that does not have the shame of having the highest child poverty rate in the country. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I dream of a society for my grandchildren where the shame of violence against women is truly dealt with and the fear that too many women face when out and about in our communities is gone. Those are the kinds of aspirations I have. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I dream of a society in British Columbia where a child who’s born in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver has the same kinds of opportunities for a rich and fulfilling life that a child born in Kerrisdale would have or a child who’s born in a resource-dependent community in British Columbia, a devastated resource community in British Columbia, would have — the same kinds of opportunities for a post-secondary education and to fulfil their dreams that children from a more affluent society would have. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I’m also honoured to represent the concerns of the people in my riding of New Westminster. I hardly know where to begin on the kinds of cuts we’ve seen. I see loss upon loss and the safety net that we’ve always had such pride in growing thinner and thinner with far too many holes in it. Our beautiful province of British Columbia, which hosted the world just days ago, surely can do better to care for, to educate and to respect its own citizens’ needs. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I want to begin by addressing the cuts to the Fraser Health Authority, cuts that have had a huge impact on the people in my riding, particularly seniors. I’ll try to keep each item brief, because the list is a very long list. Queen’s Park Care Centre convalescent unit was closed on December 31 — a loss in New Westminster of 25 beds for patients in transition from hospital to home or on to community facilities. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Eight beds were closed at Queen’s Park Care hospice centre, meaning palliative care patients will now have to leave our community and go to other communities for care, which means that some elderly husbands and wives and other relatives will find it difficult to visit and spend time with their dying loved ones. The compassionate and specially trained nurses are now working in other communities, and that’s surely another additional loss to New Westminster. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
This is when people in New Westminster still lament the closure that this government fostered on St. Mary’s Hospital — shut down St. Mary’s Hospital. When the government shut down that hospital, they promised that the hospice beds that had been in St. Mary’s would continue in New Westminster at Queen’s Park, and now they’re gone too. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Seniors were also hit with an increase in user fees for residential care, with fees increased from 70 to 80 percent of a person’s after-tax income. This translates to higher fees for 75 percent of the people. What this means to seniors is less money for what this government calls luxuries but are really the small things that add enjoyment to a life in a residential care facility: long-distance phone calls, cablevision, hairstyling, modest outings or the occasional meal out. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Funding was also eliminated in September for the greater Vancouver family services’ Vital Connections program, which provided professional counselling and mental health assistance to seniors. Many other problems faced by seniors such as grief, loneliness, financial strain and the move from independent living to a care facility had been addressed by the senior peer counselling program at Century House. A bargain at only $10,000 a year, the program is now gone. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
What I see in these cuts is a false economy. Seniors who can’t get help from their peers and through family services will now be showing up in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms with stress-related and other illnesses. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
While we’re on the topic of a false economy, let’s consider the Chimo Achievement Centre, a rehabilitation program that’s operated successfully for 25 years to support adults with serious physical disabilities. One Chimo participant said that before she joined the program, she’d been in hospital several times a year. Since becoming involved in Chimo’s life-affirming activities and support, she hadn’t been hospitalized once — not once. The entire Chimo budget was $165,000 per year, far less expensive than one — one — long hospital stay. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
As well, there is no way to measure the value of a program like Chimo that provides fellowship and support for men and women faced with some of life’s most difficult challenges. When the program ended on January 31, the participants had nothing to replace it. Now they’re stuck at home day after day with no place to go for the kind of support they got at the Chimo Centre. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
At a rally in Surrey which I was privileged to attend, as was the member for Coquitlam-Maillardville, I could only marvel at the Chimo participants’ determination and sympathize with their sadness and also their anger at losing such an integral part of their lives. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
From our oldest residents to our youngest, there seems to be no stopping this government. Tragically, the dismantling has already begun of one of the most successful neonatal units in Canada. Twelve of the Royal Columbian’s level 3 neonatal beds are being transferred to Surrey, thus breaking up a unit that has treated premature and sick newborns for 15 years. The closure of these highest-level neonatal beds is going ahead even though high-risk obstetrics will remain at Royal Columbian Hospital. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
It doesn’t take much to know that having the high-risk pregnancies at Royal Columbian Hospital and losing the highest level of neonatal beds is a very troubling thing to have happen in terms of fragile newborn babies. It’s very worrisome, and the community is very worried about it, as are the doctors. The survival rate at RCH has been amazing, and the RCH unit is consistently ranked as one of the best in the country. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Fraser Health president Nigel Murray calls the moving of 12 beds an enhancement — kind of a doublespeak — but he fails to explain how this is an enhancement. Sixteen lower-level neonatal beds will remain at RCH, but we really have to wonder now how long they’ll be there. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
In a letter to the editor printed in the Royal City Record, Dr. Richard Merchant, an anaesthesiologist, says: [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
“None of the experienced obstetricians and only one of the neonatal pediatricians are intending to move from the Royal Columbian…to Surrey. None of the senior nurses who provide the backbone of care have accepted transfer to Surrey. Even the obstetricians and pediatricians in Surrey have not supported the move of these cases….
“One really has to wonder why the Fraser Health Authority…is so firmly fixed on this move against all logic, advice and common sense.”
That’s the end of the quote. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Unfortunately, the list of cuts to health care goes on. Let’s not forget the number of public health dietitians. They were cut in half. Apparently, this government doesn’t see the value of educating the public about chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity, and good heart health. Again, I have to say it’s a false economy because it’s always less expensive to prevent an illness than it is to treat it. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
The lack of respect for professionals in health care continues with the social work budget in hospitals cut by $1.15 million, resulting in the loss of 14 social workers and clinician jobs. Also gone are the 12 hospital chaplains, who provided non-denominational spiritual care and worked with other staff to identify patient needs. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
We need to look at what’s happening in the mental health field as well. A six-bed regional adolescent psychiatric unit at Abbotsford Regional Hospital was closed in November. The mental health after-hours program was also cut, as of October. People in crisis can only receive phone calls — no in-person visits. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
As well, the Simon Fraser branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has suffered severe funding cuts. I’ve met with the agency’s executive director to learn how these cuts will affect the people he serves in New Westminster, and I’ve learned just how devastating these cuts are to vulnerable people. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
We’ve also suffered a reduction in funding and closing of addiction counselling and treatment and sexual abuse support services throughout the Fraser Health Authority. We’re told these services will be provided by existing Fraser Health resources rather than community organizations, but quite frankly, that’s unlikely when we’re seeing social workers and other professionals lose their jobs, and we’re also seeing big cuts to community organizations that deliver these services. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
As an example of a slashed community program, Purpose Society’s Stride with Purpose is one, a program that targeted the health needs of people with HIV, AIDS and hepatitis. It had its funding cut by 60 percent from $168,000 to $68,000. And I can tell you, I’m certainly not seeing a decline by 60 percent in the number of people in my community and surrounding areas who are living with HIV/AIDS or hep C. Many of these people are at risk of homelessness and also struggle with mental illness. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Once again, our most vulnerable are becoming even more marginalized with fewer services and fewer supports. Is this really the best we can do in what we call the “Best place on earth”? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Because of tremendous support from my constituents and public pressure, the New Westminster domestic violence response team did have its funding restored, but only till the end of this month and only with the responsibility being transferred to the Solicitor General’s ministry. We continue to fight to protect this innovative and valuable program that provides a counsellor to work alongside New Westminster police officers in the most high-risk domestic violence situations. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Not so fortunate in getting their funding reinstated was the after-hours taxi service for women experiencing violence, which had its funding cut. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
My constituents are also experiencing other Fraser Health cuts, including a reduction to MRI availability times. We’ll see 3,000 fewer tests performed this year — that’s 3,000 people — even though in 2008, B.C. residents had to wait twice as long as those in Ontario to get an MRI. Now Fraser Health has also laid off 110 surgical staff, so far fewer surgeries will be performed. Oh yes, and outpatient and ambulatory care clinics have now been closed for six months. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Just last week the government quietly announced it will cut supports for such things as contraceptives, medication delivery devices, funeral services and shelter allowances for low-income individuals, children and families. It only takes a moment to realize that many of these cuts are in areas of preventative health and will end up costing the province and all of us more in the long run. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
As well as health cuts, I’m concerned about my critic area of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development. A recent poll found that four out of five British Columbians want the government to invest in post-secondary education programs to help adults of all ages learn new skills and find new careers. But the wishes of British Columbia residents are once again ignored, and instead, we have a provincial budget that continues to freeze post-secondary education funding. I see nothing in this budget that shows me that this is an area of priority for this government. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
In fact, there are no commitments for new spending at a time when universities and colleges are dealing with funding shortfalls. I worry that funding will not even be maintained at a time when many people are returning to school to upgrade their qualifications and to try and achieve more stable employment. Surely this is the best way for British Columbians to recover from the economic collapse we have seen around the world — with education and with advanced training. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
But where’s the support? It was there during the election. It was there when the Liberal government campaigned on the promise to protect funding for advanced education, but now, when it really counts, they’ve backtracked and are making deep cuts to student aid. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
This budget slashes $31 million from student support program funding. That’s one heck of a lot of money. It isn’t fair to students, and it certainly isn’t investing in this province’s human capital at a time when projections are that 75 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
If we invested wisely now, it would strengthen our competitive position in the global markets and, at the same time, strengthen our own provincial economy. We need to provide students with incentives to stay in B.C. and to help fill the jobs of tomorrow. By taking away student aid programs, the B.C. Liberals are making it that much harder for a young person to receive an education. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Along with the need for new initiatives to support post-secondary students, I ask: where’s the subsidized housing for students and the innovative plans to support families while one parent retrains? Let’s not forget that more than 100,000 full-time jobs have been lost, and that translates into many thousands of struggling young families and working families. Instead of helping, this government has cut the total budget for housing by over $66 million, or 16 percent. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
In New Westminster our students go to UBC, Simon Fraser University, BCIT, Douglas College and other schools that are quickly becoming out of reach for many of them financially. Although B.C. already ranks dead last among the provinces in grants and other aid disbursements, student support programs suffer further in the 2010 budget. Despite an election promise to maintain student aid funding, the student aid budget has shrunk from $116 million to $84 million since the election. This is a cut of 28 percent in student aid. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Let’s take a moment and consider what people in the post-secondary education field have had to say about this budget. “Instead of building a legacy, this budget fails to address a growing problem in post-secondary education in B.C.,” said Cindy Oliver who is the president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators. She adds that the funding problems in post-secondary are most glaring when you consider how the numbers add up on a per-student basis. Between 2009 and 2011, operating grants to public post-secondary institutions will fall by 0.6 percent per student, and that doesn’t include the cost of inflation. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
“Freezing funds for universities over the next three years and for the foreseeable future is not protecting post-secondary education,” said Dr. Paul Bowles, president of the Confederation of the University Faculty Associations of B.C. “Costs are increasing each year, and these costs rise more quickly for universities than they do for the province in general.” [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Shamus Reid, the B.C. chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, is quoted as saying that cuts to student aid are misguided and that the government now collects more money from tuition fees than it does from corporate taxes. I think British Columbians are shocked to find that out — more money collected by the government in tuition fees than in corporate taxes. “That illustrates how completely out of whack the priorities are for this government,” he said, and I couldn’t agree more. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Recently I heard from one young person who’s doing his best in what are difficult circumstances. This young man is the son of immigrants to Canada who, as so often happens, find themselves underemployed for their education and their skills. They aren’t complaining, he says, because they came to Canada for a better life for their family, and they’ll work hard to achieve that. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Meanwhile, my young friend is working at two part-time jobs and going to college with hopes of going on to university and then to graduate school in his chosen field. It isn’t easy, and he sometimes wonders if it will all be worth it. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
[L. Reid in the chair.]
He has two younger sisters who are also good students and who hope to go on to university. But, as he says, they won’t have the option of taking a night job at $8 an hour in a convenience store or a gas station the way he does. It just isn’t safe. Instead, they will work in retail, scrambling to get as many hours as they can. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
A little help with tuition would make all the difference, he says, for him and for his sisters in the next three years. “We want to be good Canadians,” he said. “We will study hard, and then we will work hard. We will work hard at our jobs, and we’ll pay taxes, and we’ll help our parents. But first we have to get an education, and that isn’t easy in this economy.” [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
As we’ve learned with the HST, what this government says it will do or not do during an election campaign has really no bearing on the future actions. They say they have expanded university, college and apprenticeship opportunities in the last eight years. They claim thousands of new spaces have been created for graduating students. But where are the matching funds and adequate support for these spaces that are really students? Empty seats might qualify as spaces, but please tell me how that helps the students themselves, their school or our province as a whole. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Speaking of students who struggle to afford their education, their platform called for limiting tuition increases to inflation, but I don’t see that anywhere in the budget. Nor is there any increase in student aid funding. Students and their families are being forced to carry the burden of increased tuition fees by going deeper into debt. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Also facing cuts is the Industry Training Authority, if you can find it. It keeps being moved to different ministries. I know it’s embarrassing for the government when we keep bringing up the government’s election platform, but where is the new medical school at UBC Okanagan, the wood design and innovation centre at UNBC in Prince George, the new earth science system at UBC, the expansion of the Sauder School of Business at UBC and the new Pacific institute for climate solutions that would involve UBC, UVic, SFU and UNBC? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
All were promised, and now there’s just an ominous silence. The government says billions have been invested in new research skills development and expanded trades and apprenticeship money. But what is it they’re referring to? If it’s the advanced education funding since 2001, then the amount may have increased in constant dollars, but investment in advanced education has remained stagnant. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
We hear a lot of lip service about how the future belongs to those who prepare for it, that learning never stops. Of course, it’s getting harder for that learning to continue. Just consider that funding for public libraries has been cut by 22 percent this year and frozen for the next three years, which will certainly have an effect on low-income families who use the public library and its resources. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
The Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development said in response to the throne speech: “Natural ability and natural resources only go so far without a good education.” Well, I agree with her words, but what we really need is action. This lack of action is taking place at a time when B.C. is facing job losses, longer lineups at food banks, higher housing costs and the worst child poverty rate in the entire country. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Instead of taking action to recognize and deal with these problems, this government has come up — get ready for it — with the HST. Despite the opposition of more than 80 percent of British Columbians, despite putting in writing that they would not implement this cash grab, this government is determined to implement this tax that will hurt the poor, seniors, students and struggling families. It will hurt small business and kill jobs, and isn’t that exactly what the government keeps promising to protect — jobs and small business? [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
I’m proud that my party continues to fight to stop the HST, taking that fight to every community in British Columbia and calling on Liberal MLAs to join us in opposing this legislation. This is a massive tax shift onto the backs of consumers at exactly the wrong time. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Before I close, Madam Speaker, I want to tell you about three of my constituents. They’re ordinary British Columbians facing extraordinary challenges. First, we have a single-parent father who is on the Fraser Health wait-list for an autism assessment for his five-year-old son. It will take a year to get the boy assessed, and meanwhile, his school can’t provide the resources he needs until after the assessment. Who knows how much this child will lose, waiting for an assessment? A year is 20 percent of a five-year-old’s life. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
Then we have the mother and son, both with disabilities, who’ve been on the B.C. Housing wait-list since 2002. Right now they’re underhoused in a small one-bedroom apartment, which they’ll lose this fall when they’re subjected to the annual rent increase. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
We also have a senior on disability who has received a bus pass for many years and has now been told he’s ineligible. His Canada Pension disability benefits are $38 more than the bus pass income limit. A one-zone bus pass costs $72 a month. You can just do the math and see how it’s impossible. Real people with real problems but no real solutions. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
There’s an old saying that if you aren’t sure where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else. That’s what I believe is happening with this government. Its members are lost, making muddled choices. I, along with many, many British Columbians, don’t like where we’re going. Programs that work are closed. The needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens are not met, and we are chipping away at the things that make us proud as British Columbians: health care, education, protection for the environment, and our own standard of living. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
The much-despised HST is just part of a larger whole that encompasses a government that has lost its way and is floundering. It’s not too late to return to the values of kindness, empathy, sustainability and looking out for one another. All it takes is political will and commitment. We can make it happen, or we can do nothing and later say: “What happened? How did we lose so much? How did we in British Columbia lose so much that holds us together as a society?” [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]
It’s time for this government to listen to the people in New Westminster and communities all across British Columbia. Let’s make a real commitment to address their issues and to get this province back on track. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]