Wednesday, March 1, 2017

MLA Rice examines many themes in busy Tuesday session at Legislature

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice had a number of themes to explore
as she provided her Budget Speech response Tuesday at the Legislature

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice was in an expansive mood when came to some key political issues for the Tuesday afternoon at the Legislature, tackling a range of topics through the course of her day in the Chamber.

At the start of the afternoon session, Ms. Rice had questions for the Health Minister, calling attention to recent news from the Fraser Valley, expressing the concerns of the NDP when it comes to some disturbing developments and revelations on hospital and patient care in that community.

For the remainder of the afternoon session, the MLA used her allotted time of close to a half hour for discussions to explore a number of themes in response to last weeks Budget Speech.

Among her notes, were concerns over Ferry service to the Central and North Coast, as well as some thoughts on infrastructure issues for Prince Rupert.

Her presentation delivered with many of her comments framed with the concept of a provincial financial plan described as the "Forget everything budget"

"The Premier wants the municipality of Prince Rupert to forget - while they're facing over $300 million in infrastructure deficits, including threats to our water supply - that they are not included in any of these LNG funding agreements. Nothing to buffer any increase in pressure from the industry that would bring to our community. Is it because they actually don't think that the industry will come to fruition."

Education infrastructure in British Columbia, and health care concerns at the city's Acropolis Manor also provided some of her approach in the budget rebuttal.

On the Acropolis theme, she provided a list of concerns that she has been made aware of owing to staff burnout and shortages at the seniors care facility.

"In Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert, staff are burned out. Residents are waiting hours to be toileted. The seniors that built this province are being woken up early in the morning, sitting there waiting for hours before breakfast because there's not enough time for the care aides to help them with their activities of daily living."

Ms. Rice merged the issues at Acropolis into the larger concern over medical care for Seniors in British Columbia. Calling attention to such areas of note as wait lists for knee surgeries, hip replacements and cataract surgeries to name a few, as examples as to where the medical system is coming up short for Seniors.

Education also made for a segment of her talking points for the Legislature, with the MLA returning to her notes from last week and the need for seismic upgrades or replacement for many schools, including notes on Prince Rupert Middle School.

"The government says they plan to invest $2 billion over the next three years to maintain, replace, renovate or expand K to 12 facilities. This figure includes seismic upgrading and replacing of schools. The budget fails to mention that 35 percent of B.C. schools are still waiting for seismic upgrades, including schools like the Prince Rupert Middle School, which is sinking because it sits on a former garbage dump site, a landfill."

Ms. Rice also targeted many of the Provincial governments recent work on the LNG files, noting that it had barely been mentioned in this years budget speech, also calling attention to the lack of an update on the province's prosperity fund, two areas where she suggests there is not much revenue begin generated.

Her reproach to the government on LNG might make for some conversation topics around the North Coast, considering her many contributions to that debate during the heated discussions during the summer of 2015.

That was a period of Legislature time when she expressed many concerns over the nature of LNG development, made notable however by her absence from the Chamber when the final vote on the Petronas proposal was held.

Housing issues in the Northwest were also part of her Budget rebuttal notes for the Legislature, with the MLA acknowledging some of the recent housing announcements in the region, but suggesting that they don't come close to addressing the need in the region.

I will acknowledge that - recently, as part of some LNG agreements - we're going to see some housing in the Northwest. There's new seniors housing in Port Edward, and two local First Nations will see provincial funding for housing. But I remind this government that this is only the tip of the iceberg in addressing the Northwest's housing needs.

You can review the full presentation to the Legislature from the minutes to the Tuesday afternoon session available here starting at the 14:55 point.

The Video of the Legislature proceedings is also available from the Legislature website, select the Tuesday Chamber session to sit in on the MLA's commentary, her presentation starts at the 1:24:30 minute mark.

For more items related to Ms. Rice at the Legislature see our archive page here.

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