As we approach the end of each year, I like to take some time to reflect on everything that has happened over the past 12 months – the good, the bad and the not so much – and think about my goals and priorities for the coming year.
This year was a particularly busy one for me. I dove into my Opposition House Leader role with gusto, travelled across the province as Energy Critic and dealt with many issues of concern right here in our area.
As the year began, I looked forward to challenging the BC Liberal government on a multitude of issues which negatively impact the day to day lives of taxpayers in my riding, and all across the province. But more importantly, I looked forward to a robust legislative session where I could bring focus to these many issues and bring sensible, working solutions to the table.
Alas, this wasn’t to be. The spring session lasted a measly 47 days. The session was marked by a lack of focus and a collection of random legislative changes. No traditional Speech from the Throne – the Premier instead laid out her plan for the Province’s future via the radio airwaves. The session came to an end with dozens of bills and hundreds of pages of legislation being shoved through, most with little or no debate, and many ending with closure. An increasingly common practice for this government.
When the Legislature is dormant it is more difficult to get the ear of Ministers to effect change– more difficult, but not impossible. Significantly, local residents banded together to successfully move two important projects forward. The Minister of Environment recently discontinued an annual core funding grant to the BC Lake Stewardship Society, a non-profit society dependent upon volunteers and dedicated to the preservation and protection of lakes in BC. After much lobbying, the minister agreed to reinstate the Society’s funding.
Residents also campaigned for a new aerator in our own Langford Lake. Each year the Ministry of Environment stocks the lake with thousands of trout, providing for approximately 7,500 angler days of fishing per year. It was evident the 25 year old aerator could no longer effectively keep the fish stocks healthy, but there was no funding to fix the problem. In the end, the funding was found and the project was cost shared between the City of Langford, local businesses and the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.
Other issues that I spent time working on still need our attention. Issues like a federal and provincial plan to manage our fishery. The Bill James Dam on DeMamiel Creek is slated to be decommissioned; the impact on local salmon enhancement is not being taken seriously by federal officials. I have suggested that the provincial government undertake a water use plan of the Sooke region – focusing on fish values and protection of drinking water, but unfortunately that commitment has not yet been realized.
On the school capital front, we have seen significant commitments to funding two new high schools in the West Shore as well as seismic upgrades to protect our kids in aging elementary schools. Similarly, dollars for road improvements have been welcomed on Highway 14 out to Port Renfrew and improved median barriers on the Malahat mean safer travelling around the South Island. Much more work needs to be done, but we need a regional plan and a government committed to meeting the growing needs of our communities.
As I sign off from 2012, I am eager to start the year ahead. I’m steadfast in my determination to find practical solutions to the problems we face in our neighbourhoods and across our province. I am proud to represent people that are passionate and committed to standing up for what they believe is right for their community and for future generations. Every voice can add up to make a big change. Working together produces positive results and creates the relationships needed to move quickly when local problems emerge.
I wish you all the best in the coming year.
John Horgan is the MLA for Juan de Fuca.