Fall Session Full Of B.C. Liberals’ Broken Promises, Sham Investigations, Says NDP Leader Horgan

By John Horgan

Leader, B.C. New Democrats

Thursday marked the end of a rare occasion – the Clark government’s agreement to hold a fall sitting of the B.C. legislature. Your Official Opposition worked hard and exposed the B.C. Liberals’ sham investigations and broken promises. Today, it’s harder than ever to take Christy Clark and her Liberals at their word.

Throughout the session, Premier Clark and her colleagues were faced with questions about the unacceptable conduct of some of the premier’s closest friends. Clearly, the premier knew what people wanted to hear and sounded sincere saying it – she promised that her government would get to the bottom of these issues.

But then the premier did what she wanted and what was best for her and her friends. Instead of action, she delivered only toothless internal investigations. Other times, the premier tried to simply walk away from the messes her government had made.

In the case of Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk, she did both.

When New Democrats first raised questions about Minister Virk’s involvement in a scheme to break executive compensation rules while on the board at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the minister denied any wrong-doing had occurred.

We soon learned that wasn’t true. The government’s internal investigation found that the board had indeed broken the rules. But still, Minister Virk insisted the matter had nothing to do with him.

Soon we learned that this wasn’t true, either. This week, emails to and from minister Virk – in KPU’s own files, but somehow not included in the government’s narrow internal investigation – showed that the minister directly approved a plan to pay an excessive amount to a university VP and then conceal that fact from the government’s compensation watchdog.

While Minister Virk should have stepped aside long ago when this disgraceful mess first came to light, today he is still clinging to his post, and the premier has offered him her full support and backing. What she should have done is fire him.

We also pressed the B.C. Liberals for answers about their campaign to embarrass and humiliate eight dedicated health researchers. But here again, while the premier said she “knew in her heart” that her government had been “heavy handed” and that she would get to the bottom of it all in a review, she let her most senior staff write a review terms of reference to protect her and her staff – no one will be held to account for what they did.

In this shameful episode, eight lives were ruined, all because of direct actions by the B.C. Liberals, some within the premier’s office. One fired health researcher took his own life. But the response from the government has been a quiet apology and a rushed three-week investigation.

The B.C. Liberals also promised the people of Likely that they would get to the bottom of the Mount Polley disaster. But since August, they have refused to release documents related to the spill, leaving people who rely on local waterways to wonder what the future holds.

Time and again, when the B.C. Liberals say they are going to investigate matters involving their government, they fail to keep their promises, or they waste the public’s time with yet another internal investigation with a political agenda.

Throughout the session, the New Democrats held the government to account for these and other promises the government has broken.

Like the promise that the liquefied natural gas industry would erase the province’s debt and generate $1 trillion in economic activity – a promise that was notably absent from the premier’s throne speech this session.

I pressed the B.C. Liberals to keep their promises and set up the right legislation around building a liquefied natural gas industry – legislation that would ensure that British Columbians get the best deal possible from this opportunity.

But while they promised the world’s cleanest industry, their legislation fails to protect our air, land and water. And while they promised that the industry would create 100,000 jobs in the province, their legislation does nothing to ensure jobs or training for B.C. workers.

As the Official Opposition, it is our job to hold the government to account. I take that work seriously, because I know it creates positive change in our province.

Although the premier was absent for 16 of our short 24 days in the legislature this fall, New Democrats showed up to work and pressed the government to do better for the people of British Columbia. I am proud of what we accomplished.

We forced the government to rescind cruel policies that kept seniors in care facilities from hosting their families for Christmas dinner, and which canceled flu clinics at seniors’ community centres across the Lower Mainland with no notice. We raised the concerns of passengers in wheelchairs who rely on northern ferry routes and have been forced to pay more for cabins, and those policies, too, were dropped by the government.

New Democrats have been hard at work pressing for positive change, and we won’t stop. Meanwhile, the B.C. Liberals prove again and again that they know what to say – and know how to sound sincere when they say it – but then turn around and do whatever they want.

People in our province deserve better.

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