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Health

Probing the ability of British Columbians to trust the current BC Government

Today in the legislature I was up during question period. I took the opportunity to ask the government how they could be trusted in light of the fact that they did an about face in the throne speech. During the election campaign, the BC Liberals claimed that our platform was unaffordable. Yet now, the throne speech reads just like our platform!

Below I reproduce the text and video of my question period exchange.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: February’s business-as-usual budget contained little, if anything, for childcare, education, affordability, those in need of social assistance or the fentanyl crisis. During the election campaign, the Minister of Finance told the Vancouver Sun: “We have resisted consistently the temptation to go out and make all these pledges and promises.” He  argued that they would be unaffordable.

The Minister of Finance further argued this. He said: “The decision to forgo all toll revenues, in the way the NDP announced, will guarantee a credit downgrade.” Now we’re told that there’s $1 billion to spend on early childhood education. There’s money to increase social assistance rates, to invest in parks and to address the fentanyl crisis, and so on and so on. This can only be described as a rather dramatic change of heart.

My question to the Minister of Finance is this: how do you explain to British Columbians that you suddenly found over a billion dollars in the last couple of weeks to fund programs and initiatives that have been dismissed and starved of resources for years, and that this has only happened in the last couple of weeks?


Answer


Hon. M. de Jong: Thanks to the leader of the Third Party. Oops, can’t say that, can I? He voted against that, didn’t he?

Actually, I do appreciate the question, because the answer is pretty straightforward. The economy that was already leading the country, the economy that was already producing more jobs than anywhere else — in British Columbia — the economy that was already, in February, providing more opportunities to more families than anywhere else in Canada has actually gotten better.

I know the hon. member has made the decision to link hands with the official opposition, a party that in past opportunities, used to play a little trick called injecting fiscal optimism into their budgets. We didn’t do that. We didn’t have to do that, because the economy in British Columbia continues to lead Canada.


Supplementary Question


Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

A. Weaver: Yes, I understand why the economy is booming in British Columbia now. It’s in anticipation of the great stuff that will be coming forward in the next few weeks. Investment is coming to B.C. like never before.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members, the Chair will hear the question.

A. Weaver: Thank you, hon. Speaker.

Investors are lining up a mile deep to invest in B.C. in anticipation of a kinder, gentler province that will soon be put forward.

Last week, the Vancouver Sun noted that the Premier offered no apologies for dramatically flip-flopping on so many positions from the election. She said she hopes the NDP and the Green MLAs — oops, that’s the third-party MLAs — would feel embarrassed to vote against their own ideas, now embraced by the B.C. Liberals.

My question to the Deputy Premier is this. How can British Columbians trust a government that just wants to embarrass the opposition and holds one set of priorities during the election campaign and another set of priorities immediately following the campaign? And what guarantee do we have that if the B.C. Liberals gain the confidence of this House, those priorities won’t flip-flop and change yet again?


Answer


Hon. M. de Jong: I should provide the hon. member with the technical answer to the question he asked about the dramatic improvement in both economic performance and in the revenues that flow from that. It relates to the reliance that we place on the independent Economic Forecast Council, which for both ’16-’17 and ’17-’18 have adjusted their estimates and their forecasts by over an entire percentage point for the growth in our economy. That is dramatic. It is certainly providing government with more revenues, and the member will see the specifics of that in the days ahead when the results for ’16-’17 are presented.

British Columbia is performing at a remarkable level right now. I know there are members sitting opposite who are salivating at the prospect and — who knows? — may get that opportunity. Were they to get the keys to this car, let there be no doubt that the tank is full, the engine is running on all cylinders and British Columbians are enjoying the benefits of the strongest economy in Canada.

Introducing a bill to prevent sexist high heel dress codes in the workplace

Today in the legislature I introduced a bill in the legislature designed to prevent employers from setting varying footwear and other requirements based on gender, gender expression or gender identity. As a result, for example, this act would prevent employers from requiring select employees to wear high-heeled shoes in the workplace. The Bill is entitled: Bill M237 — Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2017.

Recently the Tyee published an article highlighting a discriminatory practice in the restaurant industry wherein female workers are being forced to wear high heels. This followed another Tyee article written in 2015 focusing on the controversy that erupted when the Cannes film festival banned flat shoes on women attending the event. This footwear can be extremely uncomfortable and unsafe.

Earlier this week the UK parliament debated a petition to end sexist high heel dress codes. Ending this practice will be put to law there shortly.

Below I reproduce the text and video of the bill’s introduction.


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Workers Compensation Amendment Act. This act amends the Workers Compensation Act to prevent employers from setting varying footwear and other requirements based on gender, gender expression or gender identity. As a result, for example, this act would prevent employers from requiring select employees to wear high-heeled shoes.

The Tyee‘s recent series on sexism in B.C.’s restaurant industry shone a spotlight on the harassment and sexist dress code policies faced by servers across British Columbia. Many employers require that female staff wear high heels. This footwear can be extremely uncomfortable and unsafe.

This week, the U.K. Parliament is debating a petition that would ban employers from requiring high heels at work. As Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the UN wrote, highlighting the absurdity of this law: “The next petition should be one requiring men to wear high heels for a nine-hour shift before they insist women do.” We are very far from an inclusive, gender-equal province, and today, International Women’s Day, seems an appropriate time to take this overdue step.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M237, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of Introduction


Bill M227 — Court Order Enforcement Amendment Act

Today in the legislature I introduced a private members Bill M227 —Court Order Enforcement Amendment Act, 2017. The bill adds Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs) and Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) to the list of plans protected under the act.

Registered Retirement Savings Plans (known as RRSPs) were first introduced federally in 1957. Legislation enabling Registered Retirement Income Funds (known as RRIFs) was subsequently brought forward in the late 1970’s.

RRSPs and RRIFs are protected in BC and most other provinces from creditors in the case of personal bankruptcy. Protecting these funds provides a glimmer of hope that individuals undergoing bankruptcy will not be destitute in their old age.

In 2008 Federal legislation was passed to allow for the creation of Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs). The RDSP is a federal, tax-deferred, long-term savings plan for people with disabilities who want to save for the future. Unfortunately, under our outdated Court Order Enforcement Act, 1996, RDSPs are not listed as a registered plan in BC’s legislation and are therefore not exempt from creditor protection. Should an individual with an RDSP go into debt, their savings in the RDSP will not be protected from seizure. The same is true for Registered Education Savings Plans (known as RESPs).  A child should not have their education investment seized due to misfortune that befalls their parents. Alberta has protected RESPs; we should follow suit.

I asked the Minister of Justice about this problem in question period three years ago. At the time, the Minister said that it was an important issue and that she’d be glad to work with me to move it forward. Yet three years have now passed and still nothing has changed. Seeing as I haven’t seen any meaningful progress from the government on this simple legislative change, I decided to offer them a possible solution, yet again.


Text of Bill Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Court Order Enforcement Amendment Act, of which notice has been given, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: Registered retirement savings plans are protected in this province from creditors in the case of personal bankruptcy.

Protecting these funds provides a small safeguard that individuals undergoing bankruptcy will not be completely destitute in their old age. It is a good law that most provinces in Canada have adopted.

However, there is no protection for funds that are part of a registered education savings plan or a registered disability savings plan. These are important funds that need equal protection, recognizing that a child should not have their education investment seized due to a misfortune that befalls their parents.

The Alberta government has passed legislation to protect RESPs. It is with this in mind that I bring this bill forward today. This bill amends the Court Order Enforcement Act to ensure that RESPs and RDSPs are protected by law from predators.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M 227, Court Order Enforcement Amendment Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of Bill Introduction


Expanding Coverage of Insulin Pumps

In 2014 the Ministry of Health made an important decision to fund insulin pumps for British Columbians under the age of 25, with Type 1 diabetes. I recently wrote the Minister of Health, urging him to go farther and eliminate that age requirement in order to cover all British Columbians with the disease.

This is a policy that could greatly increase the quality of treatment for thousands of people. Insulin pumps reduce the likelihood of serious medical complications which can include kidney failure, blindness and amputation. These complications are not only devastating to individuals and their families, they are also incredibly expensive for our health care system. Funding insulin pumps is a cost effective policy that would increase accessibility of treatment and quality of life for thousands of British Columbians. I look forward to the minister’s response.

Below I reproduce the text of my letter and I will share the response when it is forthcoming.


Text of the Letter


January 29, 2017

Honourable Terry Lake
Minister of Health
PO Box 9050 Prov. Govt.
Victoria BC
V8W 9E2

Dear Minister Lake,

I’m writing to ask that you extend BC Pharmacare coverage of insulin pumps to all British Columbians with Type 1 diabetes.

This technology can be life altering for those who deal with diabetes. I’ve heard stories from a number of constituents, all of whom outlined just how significantly their quality of life improved due to the technology. They were not only afforded greater freedom and a peace of mind, they also attribute a number of important health benefits to the devices.

This belief is backed up by a compelling amount of scientific literature. Insulin pumps have a demonstrable correlation with greater metabolic control for people with Type 1 diabetes. This greater metabolic control lowers the chance of serious complication occurring, including blindness, amputation, heart disease and kidney failure. I recognize that the pump is not the appropriate treatment for everyone but it is an important tool to have available for patients and doctors as they work to manage the disease.

Despite the significant benefits which can be derived from the devices, the financial hurdle is simply too high for many. An insulin pump which typically lasts four to five years can cost an average $7000. This is simply too high a price for many to pay. I’ve heard stories of people forced to choose between obtaining the medical treatment they need to manage paying for food or rent.

I recognize the difficult decisions which need to be made in prioritizing drugs for the Pharmacare budget but this therapy has the potential to reduce long term health care costs. As stated earlier, the better insulin management afforded by pumps reduce the chance of associated complications. The loss of sight, of a limb, or of kidney function can have devastating effects on an individual and their family. They are also incredibly costly to our health care system. Studies have indicated that the introduction of an insulin pump program could mean net savings for the health care system, when the decrease in complications is taken into account.

Alberta, Ontario, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories have already made the decision to cover Insulin Pumps for all residents with Type 1 diabetes. In both provinces, government funding supplemented the coverage already provided by private medical insurance, a move which reduced the cost of the program.

Insulin pumps not only an effective tool for patients manage a very dangerous disease, they’re also a preventative and cost effective measure our health care system could implement. This is a forward thinking policy which could lead to better treatment of diabetes for thousands of British Columbians.

In 2014, your ministry made the decision to provide insulin pumps to residents who needed them and were under the age of 25. This was move which gave a great number of people the tools they needed to manage their disease. I urge you to eliminate the age requirement for coverage, and make these benefits accessible for British Columbians of all ages.

Sincerely,

Andrew Weaver
MLA, Oak Bay-Gordon Head

Bill M217 — First Responders Act, 2017

Today in the legislature I introduced a private member’s bill titled First Responders Act, 2017. This Bill amends the Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act to include paramedics and emergency dispatchers.

As it stands now, paramedics are not considered to be an essential service. By including them in the collective bargaining act, we would eliminate labour disputes and the use of strikes or lockouts. Instead, this bill would give them the ability to resolve disputes through binding arbitration.

It would help paramedics and dispatchers – and it would help the public. In fact, BC paramedics have been asking for this change. Elections BC recently approved their petition for the Initiative to Amend the Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act to include ambulance service paramedics and dispatchers.

Below are the video and text of the introduction of my bill together with our accompanying media release.


Video of Introduction



Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled First Responders Act, 2017, of which notice has been given, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the First Responders Act, 2017. This bill amends the existing fire and police services Collective Bargaining Act to also include paramedics and emergency dispatchers, giving them the same collective bargaining rights as other first responders.

As it stands now, paramedics are not considered as an essential service. By including them in the Collective Bargaining Act, we would eliminate labour disputes and the use of strikes or lockouts. Instead, this bill would give them the ability to solve disputes through binding arbitration. It would help paramedics and dispatchers, and it would help the public.

As citizens, we owe the first responders sincere gratitude for helping us in times of crisis. As members of the Legislative Assembly, we are shamefully indebted to them for leaving them to shoulder the weight of a horrific drug overdose epidemic. We allowed them to become overworked while under-supported. I hope that this bill will begin to repair that strain, and it represents a proactive attempt to deal with the initiative that has been brought forward by Elections B.C.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M217, First Responders Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Media Release


VICTORIA B.C. – “Paramedics and emergency dispatchers are an essential service, and should be treated as such,” says Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party.

“As citizens, we owe first responders sincere gratitude for helping us in times of crisis.
We are indebted to them as they’ve had to shoulder the additional weight of a horrific drug overdose epidemic. We allowed them to become overworked while under supported. I hope that this bill will begin to repair that strain.”

Today in the B.C. Legislature MLA Weaver will table a bill intituled the First Responders Act, 2017. The bill amends the existing Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act to also include paramedics and emergency dispatchers, giving them the same collecting bargaining rights as other first responders. It fulfills the changes called for in a petition issue by paramedics through Elections B.C.

“As it stands now, paramedics are not considered as an essential service. By including them in the collective bargaining act, we would eliminate labour disputes and the use of strikes or lockouts. Instead, this bill would give them the ability to resolve disputes through binding arbitration.

“The amendments in this Act would help paramedics and dispatchers – and it would help the public.”

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca