Easing environmental restrictions to make it easier to grow the economy, keeping a strong right-wing coalition political party, and holding firm on negotiations with the B.C. teacher’s union were just some of the major topics that Mission’s MLAs Randy Hawes and Marc Dalton discussed at the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast Friday morning at Cedarbrooke Chateau.
“The challenge that we face is the budget,” said Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton with regards to the demands for a pay raise by B.C. teachers, adding that if the province acquiesces to union demands there are 150 other unions that could also demand increases.
Dalton was referring to the net-zero mandate that applies to all public sector employers whose collective bargaining agreements expired on or after Dec. 31, 2011.
He said the province have provided generous increases in the past, but “we’re just not in that position right now.”
Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes was more blunt in his opinion, saying teachers should be ashamed for refusing to do extracurricular activities as part of their ongoing job action.
“Don’t use kids as a pawn. Don’t make them suffer because the adults can’t agree,” he said, adding most people volunteer their time for various organizations after work, and that teachers should do the same.
Dalton also spoke briefly about his conservative beliefs, saying he joined the BC Liberals in order to maintain a strong right-wing coalition movement against the BC NDP, indirectly referencing the recent defection of Abbotsford MLA John van Dongen’s departure from the party for the BC Conservatives.
Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes said he has no intention of doing the same, nor would he confirm that he will retire from provincial politics at the end of this term.
“John van Dongen is my friend, continues to be my friend, and at the end of the day he has to represent his constituents,” said Hawes.
He also spoke about the federal government’s recent announcements they will make it easier for businesses to go through environmental assessments, referring specifically to projects in Mission that have been held up by lengthy governmental assessments.
He said one logging company was unable to cut down trees because it was believed to be within spotted owl territory.
“Well, I’ll tell you they found a spotted owl in an abandoned car, which I suppose means we should be protecting auto wrecking yards, too,” he joked.
Both politicians spoke to the need to return to a balanced budget in 2013, with Dalton adding he’s pleased the province has managed to keep its triple-A credit rating through the recession.
Hawes said the government is committed to health care and essential services, and that there isn’t room right now for more funding for things like the arts.
Chamber members asked questions after the speeches, including one about the land transfer tax. Though Dalton admitted the threshold for the tax is low at one per cent on the first $200,000 and two per cent thereafter, he said if the province raises that threshold then it’s a question of making up that revenue shortfall with a tax somewhere else.
On the subject of taxes, Hawes reiterated his disappointment the harmonized sales tax was defeated, adding British Columbians have to be patient on the transition because of the many companies who have been scrambling to convert back to the old system.
He said that when the provincial sales tax returns the province should sit down and find another way to modernize the tax system, or else face losing businesses to more competitive tax jurisdictions like Ontario.
Coun. Dave Hensman also brought up the fact that at a recent public hearing a Christian school said it enquired about using one of the closed public schools for its roughly 100 children who are currently situated in portables at Cedar Street and Dewdney Trunk Road. The school said it was denied requests to buy or rent the schools that have been closed, like Ferndale and Fraserview.
“We have said many times schools do not belong to the school boards, the schools belong to the people,” said Hawes, adding municipalities should be able to work around CUPE contracts in situations similar to the Valley Christian school to provide the community what it needs.
Both Dalton and Hawes are in their constituencies during the legislative spring break.