Thursday, June 5, 2014

How our MLA should spend her summer vacation.

They shut down business at the British Columbia Legislature last week, the afternoon session of May 29th the last public gathering (barring emergency sessions) until the fall.

Leaving the province's MLA's to head for their home constituency's and make the rounds of the communities that elected them to office.

For North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, the next few months should offer up the chance to do some research on what issues are important to the region. As judging by her talking points at the Legislature this past session, she's left more than a few important issues of the do list unattended.

To her credit, Ms.Rice has been a very strong advocate for the Highway of Tears shuttle bus and cutbacks to BC Ferries on the North Coast, with a particular attention to the impact on Haida Gwaii,  both issues that she has been very passionate about and are deserving of her (and our) attention.

On those themes her commentary has been fairly ambitious, as you can review here from our archive of her contributions to the recently finished session of the Legislature.

However, when it comes to some other key items of concern for Prince Rupert and the surrounding area, she's let more than a few opportunities to be engaged and advocate for her home riding slip by.

On Education, Ms. Rice has been fairly quiet on the nature of the ongoing labour dispute between the BCTF and the Government, offering up few comments other than her contributions on her twitter feed or facebook page.

When it comes to Advanced Education in the Northwest, she has apparently let Skeena MLA Robin Austin carry the conversation.

During the recent session, Mr. Austin made frequent mention of Northwest Community College, providing much in the way of commentary about some of the past events at the college, as well as seeking more opportunities for increased programs and investment for his home campus in Terrace.

Ms. Rice, has made occasional mention of the Prince Rupert campus, mainly to make mention of her past time as a student there. However when it comes to seeking access for more programs and more funding for the western branch of the NWCC organization, she's had few notes to offer to the discussion.

Being a former City Councillor, she must be familiar with the many issues facing the City of Prince Rupert.

Taking on a larger role in bringing concerns of Prince Rupert to Victoria was a theme we explored on the blog back in March.

Yet in the most recent session, she has not been a particularly strong advocate for many of those files, a large volume of items that continue to be of concern to her former council mates around the Council chamber.

The environment is probably what she is best known for around the North Coast. Her strong opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project perhaps the strongest indication of her passion for environmental issues.

So it's worth noting that when it comes to the pipeline and Oil Terminal proposals from Eagle Spirit Energyshe has offered few comments on that topic as of yet.

As for the other major industrial issues for the region, most voters probably still don't have a very clear idea as to where she stands on such things as increased coal shipments out of Ridley Terminals, remediation issues for Watson Island, or the region's ambitions regarding LNG terminal development.

Glimpses of her concerns on the latter can be found in her recent work in the Legislature, among them comments on items related to protection of land along pipeline routes and items on health concerns of those living in the Northeast part of the province where the gas is to be extracted.

The main contributions to the theme have been on themes of the environment, as well as some views regarding systemic issues from the oil and gas industry.

For the most part Ms. Rice has walked a fairly careful line on the topic, but she has yet to offer any kind  of overview as to how many (if any) LNG terminals she would like to see located in the region, or where they should be located.

In the two years since she won the riding for the NDP, we still don't really know much more about her thoughts on the issue than we did when she was a City Councillor.

Considering the fact that there are now at least six potential LNG proposals being considered for Prince Rupert, Port Edward or Lax Kw'alaams, it should be a file to which she offers more comment on.

Much as it is on the topic of education, when it comes to the LNG file for the Northwest, Skeena MLA Robin Austin it seems has been carrying much of the discussion on the topic.

In particular his extensive review on  how communities may be affected by increased development may be of interest to those of the North Coast.

One of the most vocal engagements for the North Coast MLA in the Spring session of the Legislature, came as part of the ongoing debate around Bill 24 and its proposed changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve.

A controversial period of the last month of the Legislature, which saw Ms. Rice providing for much in the way of comment on its themes over the last two weeks.

Starting with her commentary that she believed those moves by the Liberal Government were all about clearing the way for LNG development in the North.

She followed those early points up with another lengthy review for the Legislature in its last week of work. In the course of that commentary, Ms. Rice provided some thoughts on the nature of democracy and consultation with the public and the failure of Government to listen to constituents.

So, since she's introduced that theme.  Perhaps as the MLA spends time back on the North Coast this summer, she might want to start to engage in some of that consultation.

Perhaps starting with attending a session of City Council, providing an update on her work on the City's behalf at the Legislature and then to seek out a list of concerns to take back to Victoria in the fall.

Following that, as we get closer to her return to Victoria in the fall, our MLA may wish to hold a public  forum in the community. Asking residents of the North Coast to offer up their thoughts on what her priorities should be when she returns to her seat.

Such conversations could offer her some guidance when it comes to her work in Victoria, particularly when it comes to the concerns of her constituents, issues that have yet to be delivered to the Legislature as best they could.

You can review all of our items on developments at the Legislature from our Archive page.

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