No fall session, MLAs busy at home
Doug Bing won the election in May, but the new MLA still has no place to call his own, five months after the vote.
Renovations are still on going for Bing’s MLA’ office at 20130 Lougheed Hwy., so voters who want to see him have to go to fellow Liberal Marc Dalton’s office on Dewdney Trunk Road and 230th Street. Bing is sharing space with Dalton until the new office is ready.
“It’ll probably be a little while yet,” Bing said Tuesday. “It just seems to be taking longer than you expect. You’re sort of at the whim of other people.”
Bing defeated NDP candidate Elizabeth Rosenau last spring, taking the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows riding from the New Democrats, during the Liberals’ surprise victory and the NDP’s crushing defeat.
Bing will still have to wait a while to practise his debating skills in the B.C. legislature.
The house sat five or six weeks in the summer, but won’t again until February.
That has the NDP calling foul, pointing out the House sat for only 36 days this year and that it’s the second time in a row the fall sitting was scratched.
B.C. Hydro rate hikes and B.C. Ferries spending are two of the issues that should be debated this fall, the NDP said in a release.
Bing said the only formal time for the sitting of the house is from February to May, saying the fall session is optional.
“We already had a summer sitting,” to pass the provincial budget.
“That’s the main purpose of the house, is to look after money matters.”
The move from May’s election victory to the summer sitting has kept MLAs and cabinet ministers from getting organized, saying others are still working on getting their offices open.
Meanwhile, Bing says, “There’s lots to do.”
Community groups and organizations and voters want to talk to MLAs, who are also trying to get up to speed on issues.
Bing was in Dawson Creek recently to learn about the oil and gas industry. He’s also on the cabinet committee on strong economy, as well as the aboriginal affairs and the health committee.
He’s also hosting Agricultural Minister Pat Pimm in a tour of the area this month.
As well, Bing wants to work to help deliver funding for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Agricultural Association, which organizes Country Fest every year.
And, the City of Pitt Meadows needs money to have a drainage pump replaced.
Bing is still a councillor with Pitt Meadows and says the absence of a fall sitting allows him to get to city council meetings. He no longer takes a salary as a Pitt Meadows councillor, following his election in May, and steps down for good from the municipality in January.
“It hasn’t been a conflict at all,” Bing said.
“There’s only one taxpayer.”
Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton hosted a meeting Tuesday with Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District on Experience the Fraser, a Metro Vancouver project aimed at connecting more than 550 kilometres of trails and tourist facilities along both sides of the Fraser River from Vancouver to Hope.
More than 40 per cent of those trails are already in place. Dalton called the meeting to ensure the project keeps moving forward.
Dalton, a former school teacher, is parliamentary secretary for independent schools and also sits on the public accounts committee and the cabinet committee on secure tomorrow.
“There’s no shortage of things,” he said.
He claimed the Liberals have a better record than the NDP when it comes to having fall sittings of the legislature.
During the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference last month, Dalton talked with Transportation Minister Todd Stone about widening of the last few kilometres of Lougheed Highway in east Maple Ridge, as well as Mission.
Engineering and cost studies are underway for that last three-kilometre section, but there’s no money yet to do the project.
“That doesn’t mean it will be any time immediate.”
It’s seen as an important corridor, however.
Before UBCM, Dalton also raised the issue of expanding West Coast Express service, pointing out the current agreement with CP Rail for track time expires in 2015.