Our legislative Session, which began back in February but was interrupted in March and became the “Summer Session” when we reconvened in July, just ended.
It was a precedent-setting Session; the first hybrid Legislative Session in the Commonwealth. The majority of the 87 Members participated from their home or constituency office, tuning-in on-line for debates, statements and votes, while others attended in person. I had the opportunity to do both, and got a very good idea of how the system worked. I also saw how much skill and dedication our Legislative Assembly personnel gave to make it possible. A
We accomplished a lot in our Legislative Session; we passed legislation changing the way ICBC does business, and reducing insurance rates by amending the Motor Vehicle Act; we improved how workers are treated with amendments to the Workers Compensation Act; and we made changes to the Mines Act, which separate the permitting and enforcement roles.
The Province has put the health and safety of workers as their top priority as we embark on our economic recovery. As the Premier said, “When we talk about the economy, we are talking about people – people who are owed the best possible protection at work.”
The ferry system is critical to our communities, and that’s why I fought against fare increases and service cuts when I was in Opposition, and why, since we were elected to the other side three years ago, we’ve seen a 15% reduction in fares and the restoration of ferry sailings when we were elected to Government three years ago. This year, the pandemic resulted in BC Ferries being unable to add additional sailings when demand increased. This has resulted in the need to prioritize those traveling for medical reasons. When the State of Emergency ends the system will revert to the Company’s Medical Assured Loading program.
These trying times have identified challenges to public transportation network as well as to our ferry system. Call have already begun for the company to accelerate their planned changes to the reservation system; to establish a better medical travel program; and a system that gives commuters and frequent users some peace of mind. One reason the previous government privatized the coastal ferry service was purportedly that it would result in better customer service. And we need another vessel.
Gas prices have frustrated Sunshine Coast residents for a long time. Due in large part to our community raising the concern, and thanks to a responsive government, legislation was passed –and regulations were put in effect this month- which will lead to greater transparency in gas pricing, and I hope, consistently fair gas prices.
While the previous government decided against progressing on the “Gibsons bypass”, we have announced the first step on planning for the next Phase, where the public is provided with an opportunity to consider options and contemplate impacts. While the pandemic makes it difficult to picture these consultations, I’m hoping by then we have more options than just on-line.
The Province heard many concerns about forestry, and the sustainability of the industry. Renewed calls to protect ancient and old-growth forests for cultural and environmental reasons prompted government to conduct a review of British Columbia’s “Old-Growth” strategy. It is likely to be released soon, and I hope that it contains principles we can all agree to.