“The Opposition is clearly wrong. We are eliminating the MSP for families and individuals in the province, saving them as much as $1,800 every year. This is the biggest tax cut for BC families in a very long time.”
What major introductions/developments can residents expect from the NDP government in the coming months?
In the coming months, you should expect to see your local NDP MLAs out at community events, listening to the people they serve, and bringing that feedback back to the legislature for the fall session which starts in October. The biggest change in the province to come in the next few months won’t come from a provincial decision, but will be the result of the Federal government’s legalization of recreational cannabis. While this was a decision made in Ottawa, it must be implemented by our provincial government. We will be working hard to get organized crime out of this industry, keep cannabis out of the hands of kids, and ensure British Columbians get the health information they need to make informed decisions.
What are some of the biggest challenges you are facing in your role?
It’s hard to balance between serving the local community as MLA and also fulfill the demands of the provincial role of Attorney General. For example, we have quite an open office which worked well when I was in opposition. However, now that every person and company who is suing or being sued by the province sees my name on the court documents, we get a lot more visits than we used to. Our town hall meetings, which used to be only locals, now attract people from across the province. My hard working staff and I are figuring it out, trying to get that balance of open accessibility to the people I serve, while also taking on this high profile role provincially.
With the Federal government’s decision to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline and proceed with the expansion, what would be the BC government’s next move?
Our concerns about the impact of a catastrophic oil spill on BC’s economy, especially the thousands of jobs in fisheries and tourism, haven’t changed based on the change of ownership of this project. We still believe that the owner of the pipeline, or the operator of any railway increasing their shipments of heavy oil, should prove that they have enough clean up equipment in place, and the necessary technology is there, to ensure we can clean up when the worst happens and we face another spill.
What is the government doing to increase more housing spaces in BC?
Our government has a budget that has the largest capital investment in affordable housing in BC’s history. We’ve also dedicated funding at BC Housing through the new “Housing Hub” to help groups with land that are interested in affordable housing to partner with BC Housing as a developer and use that expertise to help. For example, the United Church just partnered with BC Housing to build hundreds of units of new affordable rental housing.
Members of your riding have strongly opposed the new school tax imposed on homes valued over $3 million. They say that though the tax increases, their income or ability to pay doesn’t. Are you considering revising this decision or proposing an alternative to this tax?
The tax is .2% on each dollar above $3,000,000, and .4% on each dollar of assessed value above $4,000,000. I am listening to my constituents and passing on concerns they have to the Finance Minister. I’m particularly working with people in unique circumstances – on leased land, or in a co-op that provides affordable housing – to address their concerns. For those that may be house rich, but income poor, my office is providing support so that people can defer their taxes, meaning that they don’t have to pay until they sell their home.
Many BC residents are of the opinion that due to the government’s focus on Site C dam and Kinder Morgan project, other campaign promises have been sidelined. What developments can public expect with regards to the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project or the four-lane Pattullo Bridge?
I do understand that people are impatient for significant transportation reforms. This was a file that was neglected for too long under the previous government. From light rail in Surrey to new busses across Metro Vancouver, we’ve got the biggest investment in transit in the province’s history rolling out in partnership with the Federal government. Similarly, the Minister of Transportation is working with Mayors across the region on a regional transportation plan to get traffic moving on our roads, including addressing longstanding issues like the Massey Tunnnel and the Pattullo Bridge.
What is the latest update on the public engagement about the proportional representation referendum?
More than 90,000 British Columbians participated in our engagement on the proportional representation referendum to provide their opinions on how this important vote should be conducted. This was the biggest engagement on any issue in the province’s history. In addition, more than 40 community organizations and individuals provided lengthier written submissions.
These submissions were all compiled into a report available online at engage.gov.bc/howwevote, and were the basis of recommendations to Cabinet, which were accepted, about how the vote should be held, and what the ballot questions should be.
Opposition has been stating that the NDP government has been massively increasing taxes to fulfil campaign promises. What is your comment on it?
The Opposition is clearly wrong. We are eliminating the MSP for families and individuals in the province, saving them as much as $1,800 every year. This is the biggest tax cut for BC families in a very long time. Similarly, our government eliminated tolls that were costing families that had to commute to work thousands of dollars, and diverting traffic on to secondary roads to avoid tolls. We’re making huge reforms to get costs under control at ICBC to make car insurance more affordable. And this is all in the first year!
With your ability to handle various crucial issues, there are rumours that you will be the party’s next-generation leader. Do you see yourself as Premier or NDP party leader in a few years?
I’m very happy that the Premier has given me so many challenging files – I like to keep busy and do work that matters. I’m also happy that John is out there doing the critically important and difficult work across the province of being our Premier. I think he’s doing a great job, and many, many British Columbians agree with me, which makes it all the better that I have no interest in trading him jobs.
As you complete a year as Attorney General, do you regret any decision you made so far?
I wish I’d planned my time a bit better to ensure a good break with friends and family – the schedule of this job is so busy, it’s easy to get caught up and forget those closest to you who will be there when the work moves on to someone else. I think I’m doing a better job of time management now, but that first year was a blur.