COLUMN: A day in BC legislature life, part one

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Frequently, Kootenay residents ask what my days in BC’s legislature look like. A lot goes on in a legislature day, so I’ll take the next two monthly columns to answer that question.

The daily transcript, Hansard, records everything I say and my votes. It also offers an audio and video record for you to see in real time or whenever you like. I post nearly every video transcript of me speaking as your representative to my Facebook page and YouTube channel. You can also visit my website, michellemungall.ca, to sign up for my e-newsletter with monthly highlights from the video reel and other updates.

As you would expect, talking in the legislature is not the whole day. A typical day starts waking up to news, Twitter and Facebook feeds to hear and read about what’s happening in the province and what people care about. While government may move slow, politicians have to remain responsive to the general public, and the daily news and social media play important roles.

After checking email, I arrive at the legislature at 8 a.m. for my first meeting with colleagues. As official opposition deputy house leader, I work with our house leader, MLA Mike Farnworth, to co-ordinate New Democrats and other opposition members’ daily activities in the house.

We decide what will be debated, topics we will address in question period, and private members’ bills we put forward. We’re also updated on any special events happening at the legislature, such as celebrations and groups, like BC’s credit unions, having information meetings.

From here, I catch up on phone calls and paperwork until the house begins its deliberations at 10 a.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, question period starts at this time, so all MLAs are in the house.

The opposition’s job is to offer critical analysis, ideas and hold government accountable. We do this in a variety of ways, but BC’s question period is powerful because it is devoted to the opposition asking government questions relevant to current events.

For example, we learned last week that 82 per cent of seniors’ long-term care facilities operate below government standards. The No. 1 reason driving such an abysmal rate: low government funding that leaves staff and resource shortages. Every day last week, we addressed this in the legislature so that the issue couldn’t be ignored.

We can also introduce bills just before question period starts. This week, I again introduced my bill for a poverty reduction plan. Last week, John Horgan, leader of the BC New Democrats, introduced legislation to take big money out of politics by banning corporate and union donations and setting limits on individual contributions. We voted to debate this bill while the Christy Clark Liberals voted no maybe because 60 per cent of their donations come from big corporations. It’s sad but not shocking that they refuse to join with the rest of Canada for a poverty reduction plan, and that they refuse to take big money out of politics.

While eating lunch, I meet with my colleagues again to discuss our plan for the afternoon. Sometimes, we’ll attend a rally instead. On Wednesday, my colleagues and I joined people with disabilities rallying for an end to the BC Liberals’ bus pass clawback that charges an extra $624 per year bus pass fee to be clawed back from their disability checks. While Christy Clark gave tax breaks to millionaires, she charged people living in poverty more for bus passes, so the movement for equity and inclusion is growing.

Stay tuned for next month’s column where I’ll share with you what I do in the afternoons and evening as your voice in Victoria.