Old age doesn’t come by itself
In 2003, the BC Liberals privatised BC Hydro’s back-office operations, handing them over to outsourcing juggernaut, Accenture.
They cut the deal on purely ideological grounds even though they knew that Ontario, New York, Nebraska and Virginia had also suffered from Accenture’s ‘boosted billing.’.
And New Brunswick cancelled their $60 million welfare system contract with Accenture when it ballooned to $144 million, and latest news (Tuesday April, 4) is that BC Hydro has pulled their contract with Accenture after 14 years, no reason given. We can only wonder why.
In 2004 the BC Liberals cut a similar ideological deal with Maximus BC Health Inc. to deliver MSP and Pharmacare services – and we are still suffering from their blitzkreig of privatisation.
When the MSP/Pharma services were provided by B.C.’s public servants under the NDP, the cost to the B.C. taxpayer was $25 million. Privatised, the 2005 cost went to $40 million overnight, to $42 million by 2008, to $51.2 million by 2009, and to $68 million by 2016.
This $324 million ‘fixed value’ contract now costs British Columbians $489 million.
However, the BC Liberals discovered that one way of recouping these self-inflicted deficits was to attack, among other things, the quality of life of British Columbia’s senior citizens.
In 2001, the provincial government, made a clear promise of 5,000 intermediate and long-care beds by 2005, but produced only 800 in those four years.
In 2001 there were 103 long-term care beds per 1,000 British Columbians who were 75 and over. Not enough, said the BC Liberals – yet by 2016, they had reduced the number of beds to 82 per 1,000.
But as an over-75, why should I complain? I appreciate the sacrifices made by my fellow seniors over the last 16 years.
After all, they have helped our premier to feed her $1,500 a week air travel habit and, by giving up their beds, to subsidise her well-heeled allies in West Vancouver.
A need for transparency
I read with interest the recent article ‘What does a snowy winter mean for the Elk River?’ dated April 2, 2017 but I have one concern. I noticed that there was no author for this article; it was just tagged ‘Submitted’. This has happened a few times lately, such as the ‘West Fernie Servicing and Restructure Project – Update’ article dated March 18.
The author should be named for the sake of transparency. In the case of the most recent article, one could wonder where the article originates from: from the City of Fernie, some B.C. flood relief agency, a non-profit group or some contractor selling water pumps?
Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana
There was not a room in Kootenay-Columbia big enough to accommodate the 3000+ people that took part in the Town Hall I hosted on Marijuana Legalization in Canada. Conveniently most of the participants were sitting comfortably in their own living rooms taking part over the phone!
Since being elected in 2015, I have received hundreds of questions and comments about Justin Trudeau’s election commitment to legalize marijuana. Since the Prime Minister’s cynical retreat from his promise of democratic reform, it is difficult to know how many more promises the Liberal government might break. With that being said, we know that the issue of marijuana legalization is a complex one; it will undoubtedly have effects on our health, our local economies, and our law enforcement. The current state of limbo has created chaos for municipalities, police forces, businesses and recreational cannabis users. In November 2016, a government taskforce released A Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada, but until we see legislation a very problematic grey area remains.
On March 14 I hosted a telephone town hall; the intent of the town hall was to bring people together from all corners of Kootenay-Columbia to share their questions, concerns, knowledge and opinions about the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. I also wanted to prepare myself to represent the diverse views of the riding when the government brings forward legislation, which could happen as early as this spring. I assembled a panel consisting of the Mayor of Nelson, a drug and alcohol addictions expert, and a Kimberley marijuana retailer. I also invited the RCMP to take part, but they respectfully declined. A total of 3,378 people from across Kootenay-Columbia joined us on the call to listen, ask questions and share their opinions.
We heard concerns about the effects of secondhand smoke and impaired driving. There were questions about possible effects on life insurance and the age limit for legal use. There were a number of comments and ideas about how the tax revenue could and should be used.
Questions and comments also touched on about how people who have gotten criminal records for simple possession would be pardoned and whether or not cannabis is a gateway drug. Another of the themes focused on who could and should grow and sell recreational cannabis. The panellists were able to respond to most of the concerns, and referencing the task force report provided insight on some of the other questions.
Since the town hall I have heard from many constituents who were grateful for the opportunity to hear from their neighbours and other communities across the riding; many have spoken on the value of having broad community conversations. I really appreciated the thoughtfulness of the participants. Even though this is an issue that can be divisive, all participants engaged in the conversation in a respectful and productive matter. Many folks who were not comfortable with or able to share their thoughts on the phone have since emailed them to me, so I can take them forward to Ottawa.
If you were not able to take part in the town hall, it was recorded and can be found on my website and YouTube channel for your reference. As with all federal issues, please contact me with any feedback.
We will have to wait and see what the federal government’s next steps are when it comes to marijuana legalization. Many questions will remain unanswered until we see legislation come forward. The input I have received will inform my advocacy on behalf of the residents of Kootenay-Columbia when we see that legislation in parliament. Remember that the Liberal Justice Minister continues to say that until the law is changed, it is illegal to be in possession of cannabis and you can end up with a criminal record for using it recreationally.
Wayne Stetski, Member of Parliament,
Kootenay – Columbia.