As we near the end of 2013 and prepare for the traditional cultural and religious celebrations that mark this time of year, I want to extend my personal best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season to you and your family.
We are fortunate to live in a vibrant community, enlivened and strengthened by the wonderful diversity of the people who make their homes in Vancouver-Fairview.
Over the last few months I’ve met with health advocates, seniors, young people, people with disabilities, working families, the film community and business people. They tell their stories with energy, determination and hope for the future – even though the issues they are dealing with are difficult and, on occasion, heartbreaking.
A common thread joins these discussions. People want the government to listen.
It is truly an honour for me to carry their message to Victoria by speaking out in the Legislature and the media, as well as in private discussions to address specific concerns that people have raised with me.
It is clear that there is much work to do to make our community an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
The government has made some troubling and surprising decisions – things that were not even hinted at during this year’s election campaign, as well as things that suggest Premier Clark has quickly forgotten the promises she made to voters.
I vividly remember the “core review” launched by her predecessor, Gordon Campbell. It was a secretive, closed-door process. Mr. Campbell’s cabinet ministers competed with each other to see who could make the deepest cuts in services to ordinary people. Premier Clark has now launched her own “core review.” While we await the outcome of that process, we have already seen the government impose many decisions that are killing jobs, and making B.C. a less civil, less caring, less equal society.
The last few weeks have featured a series of announcements of cuts in services and increases in rates that hit all of us hard, but hit the hardest at those who are least able to pay:
- After an election where Ms. Clark promised to keep B.C. Hydro rate increases in check, she has announced a cumulative increase of 28 percent over five years – effectively making Hydro users pay for the ‘dividends’ her government continues to take from the debt-laden corporation so she can maintain the fiction of a balanced budget. It reminds me of the less-than-honest way that Mr. Campbell brought in the HST.
- MSP premiums will increase another 4.1 percent. B.C. is one of only two provinces that charge this inequitable fee for health care. Families trying to get by on $30,000 a year pay the same amount as billionaires.
- HandyDART service for seniors and people with disabilities has not kept up with demand, while users with special needs or disabilities are offered taxi rides with rushed and inadequately trained drivers. I have highlighted in public forums and the media how the resulting seven-fold increase in denials for requested trips has undermined the ability of seniors to live with dignity in their own homes.
Ms. Clark’s decisions are also taking us backwards on the environment and the economy.
- The independence of the Agricultural Land Commission is under attack, threatening precious food-growing capacity when climate change makes our scarce farmland ever more critical to food security.
- The government continues to duck its responsibility to work with Metro Vancouver mayors to provide secure long-term funding to improve transit and relieve congestion, particularly in the jammed Broadway corridor (see my response to the government’s Translink referendum here). I have spent much of my time meeting local government officials, transit users and workers – and calling for government to take action. This year’s budget provided extensive tax credits for the oil and gas industry. There was nothing new to grow the technology sector – including the medical, life sciences and clean energy technologies that are a vital part of Fairview’s local economy. As the critic for green jobs, I’ve met with entrepreneurs who say there are tremendous opportunities for growth in this sector, which provides more jobs than mining, forestry and oil and gas combined.
- This year’s provincial budget also did nothing to keep B.C. competitive in film and TV production. This industry employs hundreds of Fairview residents. As a result of many discussions with industry representatives and workers, I’ve called on the government to listen to their suggestions. I’ve advocated for steps that would support the industry, strengthen our economy, and create many more family supporting jobs. Unfortunately, the government continues to sit on its hands. Our province lost 3,500 production and spin-off jobs in 2012, as well as significant related tax revenue.
My caucus colleagues and I will continue to speak out on these issues.
We will keep pushing the government to support and invest in value-added resource development, clean energy, clean technology and the creative economy to create good jobs for B.C. families.
We will hold the government accountable for the steady stream of actions that deepen inequality in our province.
At its best, government is people working together for the common good, without favouritism, without special deals for a privileged few. I will continue to press the current government to live up to that ideal.
My warmest personal regards and best wishes for a Happy New Year.
George Heyman, MLA
PS – Our new community office is now open at 642 W. Broadway. Please feel free to drop in and visit.