MLA Report: July 2012

The spring session of the legislature closed off at the end of May with yet another example of the lack of respect this government has for democracy. The provincial government pushed through 13 bills in the last two days using time allocation, or closure. Several crucial bills got barely 30 minutes of debate, and many clauses within bills received no in-depth examination or questions. It wasn’t necessary to do this.

As Opposition, we approached the government with two solutions. We proposed continuing to sit into June to allow time for debate, but the government refused. We suggested letting some of the bills carry forward to a fall session in October, but again, they refused, despite the fixed legislative calendar the government brought in when they were first elected which has a fall sitting scheduled.

The Opposition worked hard and respectfully to bring positive change forward while holding the government to account. For example, we pushed for improvements in post-secondary education and skills training, we successfully drove changes to legislation, and we challenged the government’s direction on a number of important issues.

One of those issues that you have raised with me as MLA is the area of cosmetic pesticides.

Over the last year, more than 8,700 British Columbians made their views known to the Special Committee on Cosmetic Pesticides – an unprecedented level of public interest and participation for a legislative committee. But the government-dominated committee turned its back on most of them, and failed to address the environmental and human health concerns with its recommendations.

Instead of making good on the premier’s promise to ban cosmetic pesticides, the government majority on the committee instead recommended minimal regulatory changes. It’s clear there is widespread consensus among the public and scientific community that the cosmetic use of pesticides pose an unnecessary health risk to children, pets and our water supply.

There are viable non-synthetic alternatives that are already available. The health risks presented by cosmetic pesticides demand government action to reduce everyday exposure to toxins that are easily misused and potentially harmful to all of us, and most especially to children.

Such regulations are already in place in six provinces, protecting more than 22 million Canadians. But not here in B.C., where only a patchwork of local government bylaws currently exists. In total, 2.6 million British Columbians are living in cosmetic pesticide-free municipalities.

A ban on cosmetic pesticides has been urged by the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Toxic Free Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Union of B.C. Municipalities. But the committee rejected their advice.

When government failed to do its job, the Opposition introduced our own Cosmetic Use of Pesticides Control Act. It’s the fourth time we have tabled legislation calling for a ban on the unnecessary use of toxic pesticides on lawns and in other places where children play. We will continue the push for action on this issue.

On the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, the government has failed to take a stand or submit evidence to the joint review panel. But as Opposition, we did just that, and our formal submission reflects the concerns British Columbians have about the risks to the environment and economy. The proposal just presents too many risks, and we told the panel that.

Our submission is available online at http://bit.ly/ILv1Ng.

The Opposition also proposed joint action with the government to send a strong, united message to Ottawa that British Columbia won’t stand for the reduction of coast guard services. We also stood up for the protection of highly skilled jobs in the aviation industry.

With the legislature’s spring session complete, my work continues in our community and I hope to see many of you throughout the summer. I will be holding open houses in our neighbourhoods, and enjoying the hopefully sunny summer days around Victoria.