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Justice

Calling out cynicism embodied in BC Liberal attempts to trigger new election

Today in the Legislature I took the opportunity to question the Premier about the letter that the Minister of Finance sent to the Speaker today. The BC Liberals were very feisty in their heckling during my questioning.

As is evident from the exchange below, it is pretty clear to me that the Premier’s commitment to working across party lines is predicated on her government being in power. The BC Greens and the BC NDP signed a “supply and confidence agreement” on May 29th. Seven weeks later the BC Liberals continue to delay the inevitable confidence motion.

Below I reproduce the text and video of the exchange today.


Video of Exchange


Question


A. Weaver: The NDP and the B.C. Greens have already demonstrated their willingness to work across party lines. The Premier has stated….

Interjections.

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

A. Weaver: It’s good to see the government acting like an opposition party right now.

The Premier has stated she’s willing to do the same. Last week, the Liberals even adopted 30 B.C. Green and B.C. NDP policies, most of which we now have all-party agreement on. If the B.C. Liberals are being honest with British Columbians when they say they want to avoid an election and make this Legislature work, then the issues that the Minister of Finance raised today in his letter to you, hon. Speaker, will be the exception, not the norm, since we should all be able to cooperate to advance good public policy in the best interests of British Columbia. So….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.

A. Weaver: My question is to the Premier: will she reiterate to this House and to British Columbians her party’s commitment to work constructively across party lines to ensure stability regardless….

Interjections.

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

A. Weaver: Again, will she reiterate for this House and to British Columbians her party’s commitment to work constructively across party lines to ensure stability regardless of where she and her party sit in this chamber?


Answer


Hon. C. Clark: Thanks to the member for the question. Yesterday, our government introduced legislation which all three parties campaigned on supporting — on campaign finance reform. And the members of this House….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members. Members. The Chair heard the question. The Chair will also hear the answer.

Hon. C. Clark: In an effort to put forward legislation, again, that demonstrated that this House could work and work across party lines — campaign finance legislation — which all parties and British Columbians agree it’s time for…. Members of this House voted against it, including that member, before he’d ever even seen it.

In addition to that, yesterday in this House, this government introduced another piece of legislation which all parties, I understood, agreed on — a one-page piece of legislation that would have changed something like two words. Legislation that would have given him official party status. That member also voted against it. So he should be careful about talking about working across party lines. He doesn’t want to be a party. I guess we’ll only be able to work with one of them in this House.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: Well, the B.C. Liberals continue to act like that belligerent child going into a hissy fit, kicking and screaming as they’re put in a time-out that they don’t want to go into.

I didn’t hear the B.C. Liberals campaigning on the election campaign to give the B.C. Green party, party status. I certainly did not hear them campaigning to ban big money on the election campaign. This is revisionist history.

You know, if the B.C. Liberals are truly sincere about their desire to collaborate across party lines and work to implement legislation on the priorities outlined in their throne speech, the question raised in the Minister of Finance’s letters would be of limited relevance. After all, with all the policy agreements that we have in the last few days, there shouldn’t be many tied votes. The Liberals support both of our platforms.

Yet, the government….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: This is remarkable. They truly are getting ready to sit in opposition. It’s remarkable.

Yet the government appears to unnecessarily be delaying the confidence vote, creating uncertainty and using every opportunity to raise the spectre of a possible election, which only the governing party seems to want.

Did you know that the idea of another election has a lower approval rating than Donald Trump?

My question is this. Assuming you are sincere, assuming….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members. We’ll hear the question.

A. Weaver: Assuming that the government is sincere about their intention to work constructively across party lines, why are they so focused on the games that they are playing to create uncertainty in British Columbia today?


Answer


Hon. C. Clark: So, what I understand from the member from Oak Bay is he thinks that the way to demonstrate that we are working across party lines is for him to vote against the things he campaigned on, because it didn’t come from his preferred party in the Legislature.

He campaigned on campaign finance reform. And then he voted against it. He campaigned in favour of his party and asked very clearly for his party to have third party status. And then he voted against it — in both cases, without even wanting to see the bill before it was introduced.

That is not demonstrating that you can work across party lines. That’s shown that the member opposite has put himself in an ideological box he can’t find his way out of. He isn’t willing to work across party lines.

If he does change his mind about that, though, I would be delighted, if he’d be willing to give leave for it, to offer those two bills to the House again so we can conduct the vote again and demonstrate that we can all work across party lines on issues where we all agree…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. C. Clark: …because there’s no reason that the leader of the Greens should be working so hard to defeat legislation that he campaigned on.

Liberals continue to play games in BC; UK gets back to business

It’s been well over a month since the May 9th British Columbia election and the BC legislature has still not reconvened. There has been absolutely no need for the delay. The legislature could and should have been recalled in early June (as the premier stated she would) in order for the BC Liberals to test the confidence in the house. Instead, the BC Liberals continue their political calculation of delay and distraction, all the while sowing the seeds of fear within the electorate.

What’s become increasingly apparent is that to the BC Liberals, a “stable government” means one in which they can ram through any piece of legislation they want without having to engage the opposition or listen to the ideas being brought forward by others. But to most, a “stable government” is one that actually has the confidence of the house. We have an incredible opportunity before us to engage in bipartisan decision making. We have an incredible opportunity to do what we were elected to do: govern, work together, put the interests of people first. Instead, the BC Liberal games continue.

The day after the election the Premier stated “British Columbians sent a very strong message to all sides of the legislature: They want us to work together collaboratively and across partisan lines“. I agree. So let’s get on with it.

It’s time for the Premier to give British Columbians the certainty they deserve. It’s time for us to start addressing the many issues facing British Columbians on a daily basis. It’s time for all of us to treat the electorate with respect.

I thought it would be instructive to provide a timeline comparison with the recent election in the UK that also led to a minority government. I think you’ll find it very telling as to what is going on in BC. The UK have had an election, recalled parliament, elected a speaker, come together with a minority government agreement, and will read the speech from the throne as we sit on the sidelines watching the BC Liberals attempt instill fear and uncertainty in the electorate. If ever there was  an example as to why after 16 years of governing it is time for the BC Liberals to be put in a time out, it is what is playing out right now in British Columbia.

BC dates and events are in Green; UK dates and events are in Blue.​


The Timeline


April 11, 2017: Premier Christy Clark drops the writ and a BC Election is called for May 9, 2017.

April 18, 2017: Theresa May calls a snap election in the UK for June 8, 2017 subject to the passing of a motion to move away from their fixed election date system.

April 19, 2017: UK parliament votes 522 to 13  in support of the early election.

May 9, 2017: British Columbia general election.

May 10, 2017: Premier states British Columbians sent a very strong message to all sides of the legislature: They want us to work together collaboratively and across partisan lines

May 29, 2017: BC Greens sign a “supply and confidence agreement with BC NDP.

May 30, 2017: Premier states that she will: “bring the house back in early June and made the decision to test the will of the legislature after consulting constitutional experts.

May 31, 2017: Election writ returned to the Chief Electoral Officer.

June 8, 2017: UK general election

June 10, 2017: Theresa May signs a “supply and confidence agreement” with the Democratic Unionist Party to support a Conservative minority government.

June 13, 2017: The UK House of Commons returns and a Speaker is elected.

June 19, 2017: The Queen’s speech is to be read in the UK House of Commons (assuming that the ink dries on the goat skin in time!).

June 22, 2017: British Columbia reconvenes the legislature, elects a speaker and delivers speech from the throne.

June 26, 2017: Earliest possible day that a confidence motion could pass.


At the end of the day, the BC Liberals are in the drivers seat in determining the date on which confidence is tested. I look forward to more clarity being given in this regard.

Question Period: The influence of lobbying and corporate donations

Today in the Legislature I was up in Question Period. I questioned the Minister of Justice, Suzanne Anton, about the lobbying and donation practices of the fossil fuel industry and the effect on government decision-making. I also asked about reforms needed to regulate the lobbying industry in BC and bring it in line with federal standards.

My question follows reports in the media over this week that lobbyists are engaging in illegal donation practices on behalf of their clients, as well as a recent analysis that maps the influence of the fossil fuel industry in BC politics, highlighting extensive lobbying practices and vast amounts of political donations. Both reports can be found at the end of this article.

Below are the text and video of the exchange. I was disappointed with the Minister’s answers. She merely restated that we have a registry of lobbyists in BC. We do have a registry, but its usefulness as a tool of transparency is severely limited, since lobbyists are not required to report the meetings they hold with public office holders. Moreover, we have no code of conduct for lobbyists to regulate practices such as gift-giving to public office holders. The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists recommended both of these measures, back in 2013, as important ways to make lobbying practices more transparent in BC. Yet the government has ignored these recommendations and the Minister of Justice was unwilling to engage on this serious issue.


Question


A. Weaver: Vast amounts of money are flowing from fossil fuel companies to both the B.C. Liberals and — to a much lesser extent, mind you — the B.C. NDP.

Between 2008 and 2015, 48 fossil fuel companies and industry groups donated $5.2 million to the government and official opposition and reported more than 22,000 lobbying contacts with public officials between 2010-2016. With seven of the top donors also ranking among the most active lobbyists, there is a substantial overlap between those who give money and those who get meetings.

To further that, 28 percent of lobbying by the top-ten most active lobbyists has been directly with cabinet ministers — an unrivaled level of access — and the Minister of Natural Gas Development is the most targeted member in the entire Legislature.

In light of this, my question to the Minister of Justice is this. How does the government expect the public to trust that their interests are being protected and that these practices are not buying lobbyists and their clients special treatment?


Answer


Hon. S. Anton: It may be that the member was not here yesterday to know that we actually established the first-ever lobbyist registry in 2002 to establish transparency so British Columbians could see who is doing the lobbying. There never was a registry before that. After some years of experience with that registry, we updated it in 2009, creating one of the strongest regimes for lobbyist registration in Canada.

The updates increased the registrar’s powers and duties so the lobbyist registrar now has the power to conduct investigations, to compel testimony and to compel documents. In other words, the lobbyist registrar has the tools that he or she needs in order to make sure that the registry is conducted properly and that the lobbyists are conducting themselves in accordance with the rules, which is what I expect, which is what we expect as a government.


Supplemental Question


A. Weaver: I’m glad the minister talked about the lobbying registry, because frankly, we are one of the weaker in the country of Canada. B.C. lacks rules to regulate lobbying practices and ensure transparency.

We know that extensive lobbying is ongoing in B.C., but we have no code of conduct for lobbyists. Moreover, we have no requirement in B.C. for lobbyists to register actual meetings with public office holders. All they have to do is register who they plan to lobby. Other jurisdictions in Canada have much stricter standards.

It’s clear to me that with our rampant cash-for-access system and allegations that lobbyists are engaging in illegal donation practices on behalf of their clients — largely to the B.C. Liberals but also to the B.C. NDP — that we need much more stringent rules. We need standards against which the public can hold lobbyists and their contacts in the government to account.

My question to the Minister of Justice is: will the minister commit to transparency on lobbying practices, including requiring lobbyists to report on actual meetings held with government officials and creating a code of conduct for lobbyists?


Answer


Hon. S. Anton: The matter that the member referred to about contributions is very clearly, if that were to happen, a breach not of the lobbyists act but of the Election Act. The Election Act in section 186(2)(b) says that “an individual may make a political contribution with the money of another individual, but must disclose to the individual required to record the contribution under section 190….”

In other words, you can make a payment on behalf of a third party, but the third party must be disclosed. It must be very clear that it is that third party’s money which has gone to the payment. That is a breach of the Election Act. It is very clearly a breach if that is conducted. I think that that’s the conduct the member is referring to.

In fact, to the lobbying act itself, the 2009 updates to the act put very strict and significant penalties into that act for breaches of the act.


Video from Question Period


 

Sources

Mapping Political Influence: Political donations and lobbying by the fossil fuel industry in BC, Corporate Mapping Project, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Available at: http://www.corporatemapping.ca/bc-influence/.

Lobbying in British Columbia: The Way Forward: Report on Province-Wide Consultations and Recommendations for Reform, Elizabeth Denham, Registrar of Lobbyists. Available at: https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/handlers/DocumentHandler.ashx?ID=447.

‘Fairly limited’ transparency rules for lobbyists in B.C., deputy registrar says,  Liam Britten, CBC News. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/lobbying-lobbyists-b-c-1.4014551.

British Columbia: The ‘wild west’ of fundraising, Kathy Tomlinson, CBC News. Available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/wild-west-bc-lobbyists-breaking-one-of-provinces-few-political-donationrules/article34207677/.

Introducing two bills to protect dogs and encourage responsible pet ownership

Today in the Legislature I introduced two bills aimed at ensuring the humane treatment of dogs who end up being seized, while upholding public protection from dangerous dogs. The first bill is entitled Bill M239 — Animal Liability Act, 2017 and is based on similar legislation in Manitoba. It ensures that owners of animals are held liable for the actions of their animals. I introduced a very similar version of the Animal Liability Act last year. My office and I subsequently undertook extensive discussions with numerous stakeholders. Earlier, we summarized some of these discussions, including the relationship of my bill with Section 49 of the Community Charter.

Our extensive consultations led us to tweak the Animal Liability Act, 2017 and to also propose amendments to Section 49 of the Community Charter. These changes had been recommended by the SPCA and are found in Bill M238, Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my introduction of the two Bills. I append our media release at the end.


1) Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled Community Charter 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 introduce a bill intituled the Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017. This bill makes a number of changes to section 49 of the Community Charter, which regulates special powers in relation to dangerous dogs. It adds legal clarity for proceedings and appeals in accordance with the Offence Act. It restricts the definition of a “dangerous dog” to a dog that kills or seriously injures a person or animal without provocation. It also creates standards of care for dogs held in long-term impounds, requiring that they have access to outdoor space and daily exercise. For seriously ill dogs in need of veterinary care, a compassionate-release clause is included.

These are the changes that the BC SPCA has been calling for after seeing too many situations in which vague legislation has led to unjust suffering of impounded dogs. With this act, we seek to ensure the humane treatment of dogs who end up in the system, while upholding public protection from dangerous dogs.

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 M238, Community Charter 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



2) Animal Liability Act, 2017


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Animal Liability 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 Animal Liability Act. According to the Canada Safety Council, more than 460,000 dog bites occur each year in Canada. Over the years, British Columbians have called on B.C. legislators to act. Here in B.C., we do not have adequate laws to ensure that owners are liable for the actions of their pets or animals. Indeed, we only have liability being imposed on the basis of scienter doctrine, negligence or, in some cases, the Occupiers Liability Act.

This bill would ensure that owners are liable for any damages resulting from harm that the animals cause to a person or property. This bill, based on similar legislation that exists in Manitoba, is designed to ensure that owners of animals take ownership seriously and are held responsible for the actions of their pets.

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 M239, Animal Liability 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



Media Release


Weaver tables bills to ensure responsible pet ownership and the protection of dogs
For immediate release
March 9, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – In 2015, Buttons the Therapy Dog – who worked at hospitals comforting and cheering up patients – was so aggressively attacked by another dog that he had to be immediately put down.

The owners of the violent dog had been instructed to keep their pet secured and muzzled because of an incident with a different dog just a few months prior. When Buttons walked by with his owners Yvonne and John McDonald, however, it had been left unrestrained. Because of existing B.C. laws, irresponsible pet owners seldom face any consequences for the actions of their dogs. Since losing Buttons, Yvonne and John have been advocating for the need for animal liability laws in B.C.

Today in the legislature, Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party, introduced the Animal Liability Act, 2017 and the Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017. The Animal Liability Act is modeled on Manitoba’s legislation and makes owners directly liable for any damages caused by their pets. The Community Charter Amendment Act would add legal clarity and humane treatment standards to Section 49, which regulates special powers in relation to dangerous dogs. Consideration for the circumstances around a dog attack are introduced, as are standards of care for dogs held in long term impounds. For seriously ill dogs in need of veterinary care a compassionate release clause is included.

“The evidence clearly points towards irresponsible pet owners being the problem, but right now our legislation only penalizes the dogs themselves,” said Weaver.

Currently, if a dog severely bites someone, under Section 49 of the Community Charter that dog could be seized and destroyed, but the owner would not necessarily face any charges, be responsible for any damages, or be restricted from future pet-ownership.

“We need clear liability legislation so that owners are required to ensure their pets responsibly trained, well taken care of, behave safely – and that they are held to account if their pet does behave in a dangerous manner,” said Weaver.

“Ultimately I brought this issue forward because there is a gap in our legislative framework in B.C. regarding pets and pet ownership liability. Other provinces have addressed it, and while I don’t think it is wise to follow Ontario’s lead in banning certain breeds, we do need something to ensure that pet owners are responsible for the behaviour of their pets and that there are stiff penalties for not being a responsible pet owner.”

The Animal Liability Act does not, nor is it intended to, put full liability on pet owners if their dog acts out of self defence or in response to aggression. The context that led to a bite is as important as the fact that a bite took place.

– 30 –

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

 

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