Helping others navigate provincial services when they come through the door of his constituency office was a highlight of 2019 for first-term Kamloops North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar.
“Overall, I’m feeling quite happy with where I’m at two years in learning a new role,” the B.C. Liberal MLA said.
Milobar said it has been gratifying to continue helping people with issues, be it access to health care, WCB problems or various government programs. He also feels he’s been able to speak regularly and pointedly on a variety of topics in the legislature in Victoria.
“The overall breadth of what we’re able to do within an office on a constituency level is definitely rewarding,” Milobar said.
The opposition member of the legislative assembly said when it comes to individual constituent issues, he has a good working relationship with the current NDP government, regardless of the differences of opinion between political parties on broader topics.
“That’s been good to know that you’re able to go full tilt at them in question period or during debate, but be able to cut through that broader policy debate to get to helping the individual person when they’re actually feeling the impacts of a government policy or direction that’s been misinterpreted,” he said.
When it comes to those broader policy issues, Milobar sees many challenges when looking back on 2019.
“I think we saw a lot of challenges in ’19 that are, unfortunately, going to continue on into 2020,” he said.
Milobar said it was difficult for the Official Opposition to “get the ear” of the provincial NDP government to take serious action on the declining forestry industry in 2019.
“As a result, now we’re really seeing communities really starting to feel the pinch,” Milobar said.
He described B.C.’s forestry crisis — in which multiple sawmills have curtailed production or shut down entirely, citing stumpage prices and log supply — as the number-one issue of the year for the B.C. Interior. In 2020, he said he wants to see some more tangible help for the industry and displaced forestry workers.
Milobar, the B.C. Liberal environment critic, said he plans to continue pressing the government to reveal what will make up the final 25 per cent of emission reductions in its Clean BC plan.
“It’s been over a year now and we still have not heard anything on those,” he said.
Having sat on the all-party committee on ride-hailing, Milobar said he also wants to know when that type of service will launch, noting many prominent ride-hailing services have yet to be approved to begin operating.
Applications first began being accepted last September.
“It should not be taking as long as it has been,” Milobar said.
Asked about the highlights from 2019, Milobar noted Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone’s effort getting the government to implement more regulations on vaping when he brought forward a private member’s bill with respect to the use of the product by teenagers.
One major development of 2019 was the unanimous passing of Bill 41, which is designed to ensure all B.C. laws are in step with the 46 articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The legislation calls for Indigenous peoples to be included in decision-making that impacts their rights and requires the government annually report on how the objectives of the declaration are being met.
Milobar said how the government handles the law in the new year will be more telling than the law itself.
“We all supported it in the house. We were trying to make sure we thoughtfully and respectfully were questioning what does it actually mean,” he said.
Milobar described understanding what will change as a result of the bill is a benefit to all affected parties, but his assessment upon hearing from government is that “nothing is going to change over what was already happening in practice.”
He said the law sends a signal that Indigenous nations need to be connected and consulted with respect to projects and all else that impacts their traditional lands, but noted that has already been established by the courts and the federal Constitution already covers and supersedes the UNDRIP law.
“We already have federal law and guidance from the courts into a lot of this, so it’s a case of trying to move forward in a constructive way to make sure that Indigenous nations are fully at the table,” Milobar said.