Part two of an interview with Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart. You can read part one at http://bit.ly/2OOPlG6.
The NDP-Green opposition to the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is, says Tegart, incredibly frustrating, given that it has a significant impact in this region, particularly in Merritt and Hope. “The whole move of the provincial givernment to oppose, and force the hand of the federal government, has been unbelievable. It’s affected our relationships with Alberta and Saskatchewan, with Canada as a whole.
“We have a 60-year-old pipeline in the ground. Common sense tells me that we should be talking replacement. We look at the number of oil cars on railways. They’re going to get the oil to port somehow. Communities all the way down the Fraser Canyon have one or both railways going through them. This is a significant concern as they ship more oil alongside our rivers.”
Tegart says it will be an interesting fall in the legislature. “We’ve gone through a summer of people trying to understand what the new tax structure will mean to small business, employers, non-profits. The move to replace the medical service premiums with an employer health tax: in the beginning there was very little clear direction as to whether non-profits would have to pay it, or school districts, or health boards.
“I find it rather astonishing that we can now name a number of organizations that will not have to pay it, but the revenue numbers stay the same. I’ll be very interested to see the update on the balanced budget that was presented in February 2018, because I don’t know how you can set a number in the budget, change the rules significantly, and still expect to get the same income.”
An issue that Tegart feels will be critically important this fall is the vote on Proportional Representation (PR). “Whether you’re in favour or against it, the system, the process, is so incredibly flawed that I don’t know how you could give credibility to the outcome. It’s ‘Trust me, we’ll develop it as we go.’
“We’re talking about democracy, about accountability, about people knowing who their MLA is. They won’t put out the maps showing how big your new riding will be, which had a significant impact in the last referendum [on PR]. People realized ‘Oh my God, look at how huge the riding would be.’ You might have two MLAs actually elected in the riding, and then two MLAs who are appointed by a party. From where? Accountable to whom? Who do I phone? Where will their office be?”
Tegart says that a slogan of the pro-PR campaign is “Make every vote count”, noting that she’d suggest every vote counts right now. “People need to really become informed about what is being proposed. In the past two referendums it was a citizen’s group that put the proposal together, after consulting and reviewing and being very knowledgeable about what the models are. In the past it was a threshold: a certain amount of voters had to participate.
“In this one there is no threshold. It’s at the bare minimum of 50 per cent plus one of whoever votes. If 10 per cent of the province participates, there’s a possibility that less than six per cent of the province could make the decision. And this is way too important. We deserve better when we’re talking about such a significant change.”
Asked about the advent of legal retail cannabis sales, Tegart says “I think those at the municipal level will have a more interesting view, because it really has come to ‘It’s in your hands.’ I’d like to hear from municipal councils how supported they feel as they move forward in this new realm.
“I don’t know that people have had time to really think about what this means for their community. There are so many questions, and I know that municipal governments are grappling with it.”
When asked how her summer has gone, Tegart says it’s been a great one. “We’ve been out attending all kinds of events. Fraser-Nicola has an incredible array of things to take part in. And it’s a great opportunity to get out to communities to meet the people. We’ve been to Hope and Merritt, been out to Loon Lake, been dealing with some of the mudslides and effects of the spring run-off.
“I love the summer because you’re in the constituency. It’s a great opportunity to connect with people. And I’ve tried very hard to meet with as many councils as I can over the summer, to get a sense of what the highlights are and if there are any areas we can help with.”