B.C. MLAs returned to Victoria on Monday for a new session of the legislature and Kamloops’ representatives are focused on a number of issues.
Following a mid-September shuffling of the B.C. Liberal shadow cabinet, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone is now critic for housing and municipal affairs.
In his new role, Stone said, he wants to hold the provincial government to account on its commitment to create 114,000 new units of affordable housing in 10 years.
The province has said there are more than 22,000 government-funded residences either completed or in process, but Stone claims the housing ministry’s numbers indicate only about 2,300 have actually been opened since the NDP formed government in July 2017. He added that some projects are re-announcements of projects started under the B.C. Liberal government.
Stone said his party has also heard claims that supportive housing projects are lacking in the level of wraparound supports.
“If we don’t ensure the supports are there when these folks need the supports, then we’re simply warehousing people, we’re not helping people to get better,” he said.
Stone said a focus of his role will be travelling around the province to meet with locals governments and housing partners to understand what level of support people were told they would have and what is actually being provided.
Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar remains the B.C. Liberal environment critic and said he intends to continue pressing the government to reveal what will make up the final 25 per cent of emission reductions in its Clean BC plan.
The B.C. Liberal caucus kicked off the first day of the session with questions regarding the ongoing RCMP investigation into former Minister of Citizen Services Jinny Sims, who resigned on Friday after the probe was made public.
“We’re going to continue to hold [Premier] John Horgan, in particular, accountable for defending the former minister for months and months and months whenever we brought forward questions about allegations that were coming to our attention,” Stone said.
Sims’ former constituency assistant, Kate Gillie, emailed senior officials in Horgan’s office in March, alleging, among other things, that Sims wrote visa application endorsements for some Pakistani citizens in exchange for promised campaign donations, and that some of those people were on a U.S. security watch list.
The allegations prompted an investigation by Horgan’s chief of staff Geoff Meggs, which Horgan has said concluded there was no wrongdoing.
Milobar said the government is refusing to provide the party with Meggs’ report.
“We’re saying show us the report so we can see what work was actually done or not,” Milobar said.
Prosecution spokesperson Dan McLaughlin would not comment or confirm on Monday whether the police investigation is related to Gillie’s allegations.
Meanwhile, Stone said the Liberals will also continue to demand that the government reinstate the Rural Dividend Fund, which was used to support the government’s $69-million aid package for communities impacted by mill closures and curtailments.
Stone also expects ICBC will figure prominently in the session as MLAs have heard from constituents facing higher insurance premiums given recent changes to how the Crown corporation sets premiums.
He also expects vaping to be a key issue, noting he has called for Health Minister Adrian Dix to ban flavoured vape juice and make money available for educational awareness in high schools.
Stone said the timing of B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver’s announcement on Monday that he will not run for re-election in 2021 and will resign as leader is “curious,” given the Sims investigation.
“It’s a well-established political strategy to throw a shiny object in the middle of the table when there’s a bad news day facing a government,” Stone said.
— with files from the Vancouver Sun