The spring session of the B.C. Legislature winds to a close today in Victoria. Each and every session I’m thankful to have your support to be your voice in Victoria, to raise your issues, and fight for what’s important for the South Peace.
This year was a little different for me and all my MLA colleagues because sometimes we didn’t have to go down to Victoria. I was able to be part of Legislature debates from my Dawson Creek office a number of times because the session was a blend of virtual and in-person attendance. They were some funny technical glitches at times – forgetting to mute and unmute on Zoom. But it was all operator error, and the Legislature staff invented something totally new and incredible so debates and discussions could take place.
Sadly though, the government failed to take full advantage of this session. They delayed, dithered, and disappointed.
The delays started with the session itself. MLAs normally kick off the session by hearing and then debating the Speech from the Throne at the beginning of February, followed by the budget a week later. Instead, the Legislature only resumed in early March, and the budget came down on April 20 – two months later than normal.
The delays had real impacts – impacts that were doubly damaging in the middle of the largest health and economic crisis in generations. Workers wondered if their employers would be able to survive. People promised financial aid by the Premier waited and waited for cheques to arrive. Mom and Pop operators wondered if promised government support to help keep their business from folding would ever come. Government made the challenges and the stress of the pandemic worse for too many people because of their constant dithering.
In terms of the South Peace, there were two real disappointments for me this spring. The first was the government’s refusal to take your concerns about closures in the backcountry seriously. This is a very urban government, and their politics are focussed on the big city. They simply fail to recognize how important the backcountry is to our communities, our economy, and our ways of life.
There’s another worry. BC’s regular assessment of the size of provincial ridings is due and the government has played jiggery-pokery with the rules. The last time ridings were redrawn – to reflect population change – the previous government put in protections so rural representation would be preserved. It allowed rural ridings to have smaller populations than urban ridings and recognized realities on the ground for a riding like Peace River South. It’s difficult for one elected official to represent an area the size of Belgium, in a riding that is 3,200 times the size of a Vancouver district.
There’s a real risk to people feeling underrepresented by their MLA if rural ridings grow larger. It could take longer to drive across a potential new riding – like the combination of the two Peace River ridings – than it would take to drive from Vancouver to Prince George.
The session may have been disappointing, but things are looking up for life in the Peace and across B.C. Life is slowly getting back to normal, businesses are reopening, and travel is set to restart.
Even without the Legislature sitting, I’ll keep working to pressure the government to get it right and help all of us get back to our regular routines – working, travelling, and enjoying our post pandemic lives.
My Constituency Office in Dawson Creek is ready to virtually help anyone with any problems with provincial government services. If you’ve hit a roadblock, the office can make inquiries. You can also share your thoughts and ideas by email at mike.bernier.MLA@leg.bc.ca or through my Facebook page at MikeBernierBC, or by calling my office at (250) 782-3430, or 1 (855) 582-3430.