Saturday, September 16, 2017

North Coast MLA points to progress, optimism from NDP budget in Legislature speech

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice provided
her overview of the NDP budget as
part of Thursday's afternoon session
at the Legislature
With Finance Minister Carole James having delivered the NDP government's Financial update on Monday, the week has been turned over to the members of the legislature to provide their responses to the document.

Not surprisingly, the Liberals have found much to comment on when it comes to Ms. James financial planning, using the opportunity to take note both on the elements from her speech, as well as to provide for a larger overview on the economics of the province, with a particular focus on LNG issues.

The members on the government side also have taken to the Legislature floor, though they have a much more optimistic view of the financial plan and the path ahead, among those speaking to the budget this week was North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, who speaking late Thursday afternoon reviewed many of the themes from Ms. Jame's presentation of Monday.

After a few thank you's to the residents of the North Coast and Haida Gwaii and a shout out for her new staff members who keep the mood light back in the constituency office in Prince Rupert, Ms. Rice offered up her snapshot of the Budget document.

Highlighting her pride in serving as part of the new NDP government she, like Ms. James on Monday noted that with but two months to prepare the financial update, the September presentation is just part of the process towards the more comprehensive budget to come in February.

"While I'm honoured and excited to be part of a government that's been in the position of governing for two months, it is really hard to put everything together and forth and deliverable in that period. So again, this is a budget update.  And Nonetheless, it is remarkable what we are accomplishing and what we have accomplished in a short period of time"

She also followed the NDP cabinet lead by making note of the talking points of the week for the update as a budget for the people, that puts them at the forefront and one which will invest in the people of the province.

Though while it was a speech quite supportive of the NDP ambitions ahead, a significant portion of her budget review took viewers back in time to when the BC Liberals were in government and how the NDP is working to address some of their policies and the damage to the province that the NDP says was done.

From there she touched on a few of the highlights of the Monday update, noting the assistance the province has provided to support people affected by wildfires.

From her role as Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness she reviewed some of the action that the government has taken through the summer on that issue. As well, she called attention to a number of recent world events and stressed how it's important for British Columbians to be prepared for when disaster strikes.

On other issues she had much praise for the NDP plan ahead, ranging from the removal of financial roadblocks for adult education and language training, something she noted will be welcome on the North Coast as Syrian refugees settle into their new community.

On health she explored some of the moves ahead for mental health and addictions treatment, an issue that she notes is of importance to the North Coast.

"Going forward, we will implement a policy of ask once, get help fast. This is so important to me, personally, from the experiences that I've had living in Prince Rupert, with so many people with mental health and addictions problems that have repeatedly and repeatedly sought help and been denied, or put on wait lists"

The theme of child care also was given some mention, with Ms. Rice noting that the government is taking steps towards affordable and quality child care, offering up that more on that file is to come in the future.

Housing made some focus for her Budget response, where she tagged the LNG promises of the past government as contributing to the affordability issues and poverty statistics found in Prince Rupert.

"In the North Coast, in my riding, we have even more staggering numbers. Housing prices in Prince Rupert have gone up more than 50 per cent since 2012, shortly before the grandiose LNG promises were made and 100,000 jobs were promised that never came to fruition. The child poverty rate is 29.7 percent in Prince Rupert, ]and has the highest overall poverty rate of any municipality in British Columbia"

As well, Ms. Rice observed that previous government commitments for affordable housing in Lax Kw'alaams, Metlakatla and Prince Rupert would move forward.

On education she had but a short mention to the theme, mostly pointing towards the past and how "the previous government made it that much more difficult with their heartless cuts".

Recent industrial decisions on the North Coast also received some overview from the MLA, who offered up a few thoughts on LNG and other development.

"Now with the decisions made by Petronas, and,  just today, Aurora LNG to not go ahead with proposed developments in and around Prince Rupert, the reactions to these decisions are as diverse as my constituents. 

People want thriving communities with meaningful, well-paying and  family supporting jobs. From fisheries to forestry, the people on the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii have seen boom and bust economies make millions and billions of dollars, while the people who lived adjacent and amongst these resources received pennies"

While noting some of the environmental concerns from past industry, including the Namu cannery site, Banks Island mine and the former pulp mill site of Watson Island, Ms. Rice also took note of some the positive employment development over the summer and the hope and optimism that the are brining to the region.

Among those job creating industries, the MLA reviewed the recent expansion of the Fairview Container Terminal, as well as other initiatives with the Port of Prince Rupert, included on that list the Ray-Mont Grain terminal, Alta-Gas terminal at Ridley Island and Pinnacle Pellet and the increase of arrivals in the local cruise industry.

For Haida Gwaii there was a shout out for the solar panel project recently installed at Skidegate and for Prince Rupert City Council, the MLA  has some welcome news, offering up her support for their plans for Watson Island development.

"The City of Prince Rupert is working on getting Watson Island, where the former pulp mill stood, back on the tax roll, and this government will support them."

The full text of her Budget review can be found from the Legislature archive from Thursday Afternoon, starting just before the 16:20 PM mark

The video presentation can be reviewed from this link to the Chamber video from Thursday afternoon.

For more notes related to Ms. Rice's work in the Legislature see our archive page here.

Futher items of interest on Politics in British Columbia can be found from our political portal D'Arcy McGee.

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