Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick responds to a delegate's question at the B.C. Liberal Party convention in Vancouver Saturday.

Premier Christy Clark, cabinet quizzed on BC Liberal platform

Delegates call for peace with aboriginals, hunter rights, faster speed limits, more private power and use of empty schools

Premier Christy Clark and her cabinet opened up the floor to delegates at the B.C. Liberal Party convention in Vancouver Saturday, asking for suggestions for the election platform to take into the election set for May 9, 2017. Some highlights:

• A Richmond delegate asked Clark what the party can do to work with “disengaged” aboriginal communities, to prevent the fate of B.C. economic development projects from being determined by the courts.

Clark said conflicts can be reduced by getting more aboriginal people directly involved in government. She cited the party’s recruitment of former Haisla Nation chief councillor Ellis Ross and Dallas Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council and a negotiator of the Great Bear Rainforest agreement on B.C.’s Central Coast, as candidates for Skeena and North Island.

• A member of Ducks Unlimited asked what the party will do to help “disenfranchised resident hunters,” a reference to Forests Minister Steve Thomson’s controversial 2014 decision to increase big-game allocation to guide outfitters.

After protests around the province, Thomson adjusted the allocation decrease the guide-outfitter share, representing about 60 additional animals per year taken by guided hunters from out of province, down from 168. B.C. hunters were concerned that B.C. has the highest share for guide-outfitters in North America, 20 per cent for elk, 20 to 25 per cent for moose, 35 per cent for mountain goat and 40 per cent for grizzly bears.

Clark didn’t call on Thomson to reply Saturday. Environment Minister Mary Polak said the province’s latest climate change plan includes a “no net loss” policy for wetlands.

• Ian Tootill, a Vancouver advocate for driver rights and B.C. Conservative candidate in 2013, praised the government’s decision to increase speed limits to 120 km/h on the Coquihalla Highway and other remote stretches of divided highway, and asked when the province would review speed limits in urban areas.

Clark said there was no plan currently for urban speed limits. Tootill also questioned the province’s policy of impounding cars for excessive speeding, suggesting some police are over-zealous in taking away vehicles.

• A Kamloops delegate asked Transportation Minister Todd Stone to improve the province’s response to spreading invasive weed species that threatens grazing land for ranchers.

Stone acknowledged that it’s a growing problem in the Cariboo, Kamloops and Okanagan regions, and the province needs better co-ordination. Currently weed spraying along highways is not carried on into adjacent Crown land, so it and weed treatment on private land are overcome as invasive weeds spread back in.

Stone said that problem has to be solved before increasing spending. Kootenay East rancher Faye Street said regional districts used to be in charge but aren’t any longer, and that should be fixed.

• A Vancouver delegate asked Health Minister Terry Lake about the government’s strategy for opioid drug overdoses that have seen an alarming increase in the past two years.

Lake said the roots of the problem go back to the 1980s when doctors sought better treatment for chronic pain, and drug companies “pushed and pushed” opioid drugs such as oxycodone. People became addicted and then sought opioid drugs on the street, with an increase in fatal overdoses once fentanyl and other potent synthetic drugs began showing up in street drugs in B.C.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons is reviewing its prescription practices and health ministers are meeting in Ottawa this month to discuss solutions to the new threat, Lake said. Chronic pain sufferers, addicts self-medicating due to early trauma and recreational drug users are all at risk of overdose, with 80 per cent of fatalities being men, he said.

• A West Vancouver delegate said the B.C. government’s focus on the Site C dam on the Peace River has undermined the province’s push for more private renewable energy.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett said the province hasn’t “lost interest” in private development of wind, solar and run-of-river power, but those intermittent sources have to have firm backup. Site C will allow more private power development in the long run, he said.

Bennett added that the market has changed since the B.C. Liberal government ramped up private power from four per cent to 25 per cent of BC Hydro’s total, with an economic downturn in 2009 and the struggles of pulp and paper and other major industrial power users reducing demand.

• A Vancouver delegate asked Education Minister Mike Bernier if he can make it easier to use empty schools for community purposes.

Bernier replied that “the quick answer is yes,” and defended his recent move to fire the Vancouver school board over its practice of keeping low-occupancy schools open. He also defended the province’s move to do the reverse in rural communities at risk of losing their only school, providing extra funding in targeted communities to keep them open despite falling enrolment.

• A Kelowna delegate and Okanagan College instructor spoke out against a cut to the college’s budget. Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson said the budget has not been cut.

More than $50 million has been saved through group purchasing of natural gas and other supplies among post-secondary institutions, and Okanagan College has just received approval for a $35 million trades training building, Wilkinson said.

 

Just Posted

Smoke from wildfires delivers jolt to Greater Victoria air quality

Online map collects air quality from home monitors

National championship tees off Tuesday at Oak Bay’s Victoria Golf Club

Oldest 18-hole course in Canada in its original location hosts Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship

New Victoria bus routes bound for airport, Camosun College

Bus routes and schedules are about to change this fall, and two… Continue reading

Michael Silberbauer named first coach of Pacific FC

The Island’s James Merriman named assistant coach

Police seek vehicle after early morning carjacking in Oak Bay

Stolen car is a 1999 Oldsmobile Alero, license plate FL307T

Oak Bay brothers scoop 10 kg of poop from park paths in 30 mins

Family picks up dog poo to give back, inspire others to be more responsible

Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha as pilgrims conduct hajj rites

More than 2 million pilgrims carry out the final rites of the hajj in Saudi Arabia

White Spot records B.C. Pirate Pak record day

Popular B.C.-Alberta event raises more than $116,000 to send kids and adults to Zajac Ranch

Suspect in Spiderman suit steals camera on Vancouver Island

Suspect in red and blue “onesie” caught on surveillance footage breaking into truck in Nanaimo

B.C. team stays alive in Little League World Series after another nail-biter

Surrey-based squad scored a 6-4 win over Mexico reps in Williamsport on Monday

Zeballos wildfire not getting any closer to town – BC Wildfire Service

Authorities optimistic about Zeballos; choppers grounded due to heavy smoke

Kids, seniors at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says children’s lungs don’t fully develop until about age 10

B.C. mother charged in 7-year-old daughter’s death appears in court

The 36-year-old mother, of Langley’s Aaliyah Rosa, has been charged with second-degree murder

UPDATE: Saanich Police seek to identify suspect in sexual assault

Assault occurred in broad daylight in tent near Ravine Way

Most Read