This summer saw B.C.’s MLAs return to the legislature for a rare and short six-day session over two weeks. Premier Christy Clark was calling us back for Bill 30, legislation that cements her agreement with Malaysian government-owned Petronas to develop liquefied natural gas (LNG). She called it historic, and she was right. Never in all my studies or experience have I seen a Canadian federal, provincial or local government so desperately quick to sell out its people and their future for a photo op.
Big promises were made last election. Namely, Christy promised five LNG plants up and running by 2015. There are none. She promised the results would be a debt-free B.C. and a prosperity fund to pay for health and education. There is no fund and she’s racked up debt faster and higher than any other premier. She also promised a doctor for everyone by 2015, but with 200,000 people still without a doctor, she has failed there too. Whether or not you like her promises, one thing is certain: she has not delivered and is desperate.
So there we were in Victoria debating a bill that had no protection for local hires and local purchases, reimburses large corporations for any tax increases, forces you to pay for any new technologies that reduces the industry’s environmental footprint, and requires no support for conserving our land, water, air and the wildlife who live there. In contrast, Australia negotiated for all of these when at the table with the LNG sector. So why not B.C.?
I’ve heard from many of you that environmental protection is of utmost concern, so I spoke to that during the debate. Normally, governments give themselves the right to mandate new technologies and practice onto industry for the public good. Abolishing beehive burners, requiring fuel efficiencies and removing lead from gasoline are just a three examples of government lawmaking that have benefited health and environmental protection.
The B.C. Liberal government, however, has legislated that they will reimburse the LNG industry for any cost associated with changes imposed on the industry to reduce environmental impacts. This effectively acts as a disincentive to do the right thing — not to mention is a major form of corporate welfare that just isn’t palatable for the Kootenays or anywhere in B.C.
Sadly, not only did we see a historic sellout of our assets and a bad deal for B.C., but we saw a new low in how this government doesn’t care about people. Along with the debate on Bill 30, we saw the Liberal government sidestep its responsibility for firing health researchers and costing a man his life; we saw it ignore Johnsons Landing’s need for drinking water while they continued to fund the fake town of Jumbo, and we saw it justify increases to child poverty with maternity leave clawbacks from new mothers receiving income assistance. But most notably, I didn’t think it possible to see any government stand by their actions that resulted in children being sexually abused. Yet, that happened too this summer.
In reflecting on those six days, it’s hard to believe that we saw our province take an even further down turn. I wish I had better news from this summer session.
Thankfully, connecting with so many of you here in the Kootenays shows there is a better way forward. We are caring communities and we have great ideas on how to make the world a better place for everyone. Working with you to make that happen is a real honour and I know we can do it.
Michelle Mungall is the member of the legislative assembly for the Nelson-Creston provincial riding, and is the Opposition critic for social development.