Thursday, February 27, 2020

In Budget speech response MLA Rice reflects on damage caused by Liberals in the past, advances from NDP in governance

MLA Rice offered her thoughts on the BC Budget on Wednesday evening

As we outlined earlier this morning, this week at the BC Legislature has for the most part provided for a forum for MLA's to share their thoughts on last week's BC Budget, with speaker after speaker rising to either praise Finance Minister Carole James document, or find any number of shortcomings from it.

As noted earlier today, Skeena MLA Ellis Ross spoke at length to the topic as part of the Tuesday evening session at the Legislature in Victoria.

Wednesday evening, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice spoke of the achievements of the NDP government, while also sharing her thanks for the many people who have helped her in her travels in politics.

The MLA also used her allotted speaking time on the theme of the BC Budget of last week to recount some of her notes on the past days of the BC Liberals in government.

We've made a lot of progress in 2½ years of being in government, and Budget 2020 is our plan to keep B.C. moving forward. We're putting people first and making different choices than the former government. 

We're repairing the damage their choices created and fixing the problems facing families today. 

Things can't be fixed overnight, but by continuously building upon the work we do, we're making positive changes. 

 Budget 2020 is about making life more affordable, improving the services people count on and creating good jobs and opportunities in every corner of British Columbia. 

And We can't afford to turn back. There is much more to do, but by focusing on people, life in B.C. is getting better every day. 

With Ms. Rice currently serving as the Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, she also outlined some of the work of that department as part of her review.

I'd like to talk about the work we're doing at emergency management B.C. People know the difference when a government puts them first, and this work has only just begun. I can tell you that it has not always been easy, especially in the worlds of emergency preparedness, response and recovery. 

I've been privileged, as Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, to have a front row seat to the growth of emergency management in this province. 

Because the first day our government took office, we were in the middle of the largest evacuation in B.C.'s history. More than 65,000 people were forced from their homes, and 1.2 million hectares of land burned. 

2018's fire season saw fewer evacuees — around 6,000 people — but also broke the record for area burned — over 1.3 million hectares. 

And then there were the many floods, the devastation in Grand Forks top of mind among them. 

While the growth of emergency management B.C. has been a constant over the years, reflecting the influence of climate change, we've really moved the needle since 2017. 

And this year's budget includes an additional $32.7 million for emergency management, including amounts for regional capacity emergency events and minor response actions. 

Among the many ways this is reflected is a $2.7 million increase to address resourcing needs at EMBC. This will help ensure we can meet the increasing demand from communities across the province for support in preparing for, responding to and recovering from emergencies. 

But the truth is that it's going to take all of us, all of society working together to build the resilience we need to protect British Columbia. The truth is that this government is building something that is truly special, and we have a lot to lose.

Education also made for a few talking points for the North Coast MLA, who also made note of the new focus for SD52 towards replacement of the long past its lifespan Prince Rupert Middle School.

After years of underfunding, our government is making record investments in education, with more support and safer learning environments for students. We have funded more than 80 school capital projects, including seismic upgrades, school replacements and land purchases for future and safer schools. 

I'm happy to say that work is underway right now in replacing the Prince Rupert Middle School in my riding. This is a school that has had so many devastating impacts, from a leaking roof, broken boiler, asbestos in the walls, lead in the drinking water, and, of course, it's not seismically safe. 

I'm really happy that a new school will be built in the coming days and months and weeks ahead.

As a long time advocate on environmental issues, Ms. Rice also made note of the BC NDP's work through their Clean BC climate plan and the recent adoption of the UN Sendai framework.

This budget outlined government's commitment to continuing to protect B.C.'s air, land and water. 

Our provincial government is actively engaged in identifying the impacts of climate change on our people and our economy. This increased awareness will be built into all our planning, particularly in the area of community and public safety, and disaster risk management and emergency management. B.C. will continue to fight pollution, reduce emissions and build a prosperous economy for everyone. 

We know that new legislation is needed to address these modern realities. That's why we're modernizing B.C.'s Emergency Program Act, our emergency management legislation that hasn't been updated in several decades. We want to improve outcomes for people in disaster-impacted communities. 

We're doing this by ensuring that this legislation and our practices reflect the UN Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction, the province's interim disaster recovery framework and lessons learned during the unprecedented 2017-2018 wildfire and flood seasons. 

Legislation is currently targeted for introduction in the Legislative Assembly this fall, with phased implementation potentially beginning in spring of 2021. 

Our government is also proud to have adopted the Sendai disaster risk reduction framework in 2017. Sendai is a comprehensive approach to disaster reduction and mitigation which aims to reduce the socioeconomic impacts of natural disasters and human-caused hazards.

Issues of Reconciliation also made for some of her commentary on the night, with Ms. Rice who was a strong proponent towards adoption of the principles of UNDRIP, speaking to the state of Indigenous relations.

I also want to take a moment to touch on something that is near and dear to a lot of us in this House. For 2½ years, this government has worked in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to make progress on reconciliation. 

Last fall we made history when we enshrined the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act into law. 

 Our government has also taken important steps to develop a new relationship in regard to emergency preparedness response and recovery with First Nations Indigenous Peoples. 

It is often their communities that bear the greatest impact from disasters, such as wildfires and flooding. Indigenous leaders and emergency management practitioners have told us that First Nations must have a strong, self-determined role in emergency management. 

We must forge new and stronger relationships that are collaborative and that better respect the unique perspectives and needs of Indigenous Peoples.

The full transcript of the North Coast MLA's remarks can be found here (5:30PM) ,

While a video presentation is available through the Legislatures Video Archive, starting at the 5:30 PM mark.

For more notes on the work of Ms. Rice in Victoria see our archive page here.

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