'Walk back' of provincial government legislation

Changing course

As the legislative session draws to a close, I wanted to draw attention to some of the legislative changes that will impact us, and reflect on the works done by the Opposition.

Representing Kelowna-Mission as a member of the BC United, I have had the opportunity to advocate for the needs and concerns of our community and to hold the government accountable for its actions. One of the key accomplishments during this session was the “walk-back” of two controversial government bills and partial "walk back" of a third.

Those bills, which would have had far-reaching negative impacts on our communities, were halted thanks to the persistent efforts of the opposition and concerned British Columbians. This demonstrated the power of a strong, engaged opposition in ensuring legislation truly serves the best interests of British Columbians.

The first bill was the Land Amendment Act. That bill would have made substantive changes to the Land Act and eroded our democratic interests over our public lands. This bill saw so much push back, the government eventually “paused” the bill. While it did not come forward at this time, it may be brought back if the NDP win another term in government.

The second bill was deemed for social media company accountability, but was not as it was named. The proposed legislation put huge liability on all companies that would have done business in, or for, B.C., with only a minister’s certificate needed as proof. That would have essentially ended the business community in B.C. The bill was introduced, but was pushed back by the opposition during second reading.

Another significant development was the “walk-back” of (part of) the decriminalization of illicit drugs. Public pressure and the Opposition’s questions brought changes that were necessary. While the step (to decriminalize illicit drug use in public places) partially addressed open drug use, the government did not bring solutions for the issue. We need comprehensive policies that include robust prevention programs, accessible treatment options and effective recovery services. This multi-faceted approach is essential to truly tackling the complex issue of substance abuse and ensuring those who need it receive the support they deserve.

Despite these achievements on these three issues, there are still major issues facing British Columbians that have not been adequately addressed.

The affordability crisis continues to place immense pressure on families and individuals. The cost of housing, everyday expenses and the overall cost of living are making it increasingly difficult for people to make ends meet. Unfortunately, the bills introduced in this session do not effectively tackle these pressing concerns. We need policies that will significantly increase housing supply, streamline approval processes, and make homeownership more attainable for young families and first-time buyers.

The recent provincial budget claimed to offer relief, but in reality, it gave mere pennies while taking dollars from people and businesses. The approach places an additional burden on those who are already struggling, stifles economic growth, and discourages investment. Small businesses, the backbone of our economy, are particularly hard hit. They need a budget that supports innovation, reduces regulatory burdens, and provides meaningful tax relief. Instead, we see policies that hinder their growth and sustainability.

Despite all of the new taxes (32 in the last four years), the budget posed an $8 billion deficit. The government is now spending $4 billion of tax money a year on the interest on the debt it has accumulated.

While the legislative session saw some important achievements, it also highlighted the ongoing challenges and shortcomings in addressing the needs of British Columbians.

As a member of the opposition BC United, I am committed to continuing the fight for policies that genuinely benefit our province and to holding the government accountable for its actions.

My question to you is this:

What outstanding provincial issues would you like to see action on from government?

I love hearing from you and read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Kelowna. She has announced she will not seek re-election in the next provincial election, scheduled for October.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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