The Legislative Assembly is being reconvened on Feb. 14, likely for five weeks. It will finally give the Official Opposition an opportunity to ask questions about the housing crisis, the frayed social safety nets, the weak response to the drug overdose crisis, getting big money out of politics, underfunding public education, giving tax breaks to the wealthiest, and privatizing seniors’ care – among other pressing topics. The Session will include tabling, debating and voting on legislation, private members’ statements, debates on Motions, and of course Question Period.
Question Period is 30 minutes a day during legislative sessions where the Opposition attempts to hold government to account. From the Opposition perspective it is during that 30 minutes that scandals are exposed, failures are highlighted, and improvements are urged. That is why our current government, and past governments sometimes try to avoid them by failing to call a Session. But rarely to this extent: by the time this short Session ends on March 16, the BC Legislature will have sat for a grand total of six weeks between May 19, 2016 and Election Day, May 9, 2017.
Overwhelming support for public and non-profit Long-Term Care was on full display recently when approximately 275 people attended the Sechelt Nation Hall for a forum on health care, where they heard the truth about the impacts of privatization on our communities. Dr. Margaret McGregor of UBC and the Hospital Employees’ Union’s Jennifer Whiteside described how workers in the for-profit system lose pay and benefits, how staff turnover increases, seniors’ continuity of care is disrupted, their isolation mounts, hours of direct care are reduced, and mini-luxuries become costly. They reminded the crowd that if government proceeds with their privatization plan, every employee in Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge will lose their jobs with no assurance that they will be re-hired by the Trellis Corporation.
The argument that the costs of caring for people in long-term care can be reduced by paying workers less, offering them fewer benefits, and reducing staffing, does not coincide with the prevailing values of Sunshine Coast residents.
Public support for non-profit care, and for keeping long-term care spaces open in Sechelt is further evidenced by a petition with close to 10,000 signatures opposing the closure of Shorncliffe Care Centre and Totem Lodge in favour of a private facility. I will be presenting the petition in the House during the upcoming Session when many Sunshine Coast residents are in attendance.
Congratulation to the Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary on the 50th Anniversary of the Thrift Store –such significant contributions the Auxiliary has made to health care in our community. With close to 500 members up and down the Coast they raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for our public health care facilities for essential equipment and services.
Very recently the government announced they would amend the Foreign Home-buyers’ Tax by exempting non-Canadian residents who are paying taxes here. While too late for some, this was proposed by the Opposition in July when the tax was first introduced. Recognizing that announcements from now on may relate to the upcoming election, I nonetheless applaud the government for this amendment.