COLUMN: A day in BC legislature life, part two

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Frequently, Kootenay residents ask what my days in BC’s legislature look like. A lot happens, and this is the second instalment of a two-part series that looks at a typical day. Last month, I wrote about the morning and this month focuses on the afternoon and evening.

After lunch meetings or special events, we have our daily caucus meeting where all 35 NDP MLAs discuss legislation, issues and our activities. We also hear from our leader John Horgan and the caucus executive. From here, we head into question period on Mondays and Wednesdays and into meetings on Tuesdays and Thursday.

As I mentioned last month, BC’s question period is powerful because it is devoted to the opposition asking government questions relevant to current events. A very hot topic these days is the influence big money seems to be playing in government decisions.

My New Democrat colleagues and I have been asking the hard questions about how Christy Clark and her cabinet are making decisions. When the public shows its distaste at clawing back bus passes from people with disabilities living in poverty while big BC Liberal donors benefit from BC Liberal ministers vetoing local government by-laws following their large donations, I used question period to call on government to end the clawback and ban big money from BC politics.

You can watch question period live on the BC Legislature TV channel or online at leg.bc.ca. I also post what I do as your representative on my Facebook page, Twitter feed, YouTube channel and share monthly highlights in my e-newsletter so you can see what I do anytime.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have another meeting following my caucus meetings. A few colleagues and I are on a committee that discusses plans for the afternoon, week and important issues. Not surprisingly, we’ve been talking about Christy Clark’s wage-top from her party.

There are serious concerns that such a top-up poses a conflict of interest for a provincial premier, and that is why other provinces have banned it or don’t practice it at all. Because she receives a significant wage, $50,000 a year, funded by her party’s big money donors while also having the responsibilities of leading government, making laws and enforcing them, we’ve asked the conflict of interest commissioner to look into it. We’ve also directly asked Ms. Clark to do the right thing and stop taking this top-up, but she declined.

Meanwhile, new parents with disabilities see their maternity and parental leave benefits clawed back from their disability checks, ensuring that their children start life in poverty. These and other stories about British Columbians’ realities are what I hear over phone calls and reviewing correspondence in the afternoons. In between calls, I can be found studying legislation, reports or the budget, or speaking in the house during a debate on legislation. This spring, I took the lead on Bill 3, so not only did I study and speak to the bill, but I also co-ordinated my colleagues’ participation in the debate.

Our legislative days adjourn at 6:30 p.m., but it’s rare that the workday ends there. If you’re guessing more meetings in the evening, you are right! Whether it’s a caucus meeting to discuss a particular issue, a celebration, reception or information event, we often work until 9 p.m. or later. Two annual evening events I never miss are the BC Professional Firefighters and the BC Police Association receptions because I get to visit with Kootenay people there.

The days are long, the work is non-stop and I love it. I am so grateful that I get to represent our amazing region, bringing Kootenay values and voices to Victoria.