Nanaimo’s new MLA, in her first speech in the legislature, endorsed the direction in which the province and the region are moving.
NDP MLA Sheila Malcolmson stood Monday in the B.C. legislature in Victoria as part of discussion on the recently introduced provincial budget.
Malcolmson began by recalling the funeral of former Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Viola Wyse, riding an RDN transit bus with other government officials that day, and the mood of cooperation and reconciliation that existed then. She said now, in 2019, there is similar opportunity.
“We’ve got so much to do: coastal protection, climate change, affordable housing, working for people, working together and we are on the same bus and we are moving together,” Malcolmson said.
She spotlighted numerous budget items that she liked, including new childcare support, healthcare investment, affordable housing, and Clean B.C. initiatives. She talked about wanting to protect the coast against increased oil tanker traffic and said of the B.C. government, “this is the place to fight this.”
But she did suggest that in the recent Nanaimo byelection, environment and climate issues such as oil spill risks and forest fires weren’t always foremost in voters’ minds.
“The real emergencies that lie ahead of us were very hard for anybody to articulate, I’ve got to be honest, when they are still living paycheque to paycheque, when they are still on the verge of homelessness…” Malcolmson said. “I get that. Every election campaign I am reminded there is no protection of the environment without social justice and it’s only New Democrats that are doing that work.”
Immediately before Malcolmson’s speech, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell delivered a 20-minute criticism of the budget and indicated she would not be supporting it. Stilwell, B.C. Liberal MLA, said the budget is “riddled with increased spending and no plans on how to pay for things.” She added that while she supports items such as rate increases for foster parents, investment in child and youth mental health and childcare spaces and elimination of student loan interest, there needs to be consideration of how to generate the revenue to provide those supports and services.
“I believe that British Columbians will be concerned with the budget’s overall emphasis on big taxes and even bigger spending with no regard for how this will impact the growth of the economy or help to create private-sector jobs…” Stilwell said. “This government’s actions have raised the cost of living, they’ve jeopardized economic growth on which the NDP has pinned all hopes of paying for their spending spree going forward.”