In my last report, I mentioned the opportunity to provide input on the B.C. Liquor Policy Review. During the course of the review, my colleague, Parliamentary Secretary John Yap, met with a substantial number of interested stakeholders, including many from right here in the Okanagan. Overall, the review received more than 3,500 emails and 4,300 comments, an encouraging level of public participation. The recommendations have been forwarded to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Suzanne Anton.
I have previously expressed my desire to see greater public reporting on individual MLA office expenses. The Comptroller of the B.C. Legislature has been working with MLA offices across the province towards a higher standard for public information. I look forward to seeing this long overdue process implemented as soon as possible.
As the Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, our bipartisan committee held seventeen hearings in communities throughout B.C., including in Penticton. In addition to public hearings, we received written comments and online surveys, totalling nearly 700 submissions. The public consultation process culminated in a public report that made 73 recommendations to the Minister of Finance, available on the Legislature’s website. The top recommendation of the committee was that the B.C. Government must maintain a balanced budget and control spending, to keep our province on strong economic footing. We heard from numerous groups and individuals in every corner of the province; the most important priority for our government is to be responsible with taxpayers’ dollars. The report is a good read and is available online at bit.ly/1dVrron.
It was important to me that our bipartisan committee work together and focus on the job that British Columbians elected us to do. In the spirit of cooperation, I was very pleased to see our report supported unanimously by committee members from both the Government and the Opposition. I would like to sincerely thank the other members of the committee, including the Clerks of the Committee and Legislative staff, who spent a great deal of time away from their families. It is also important to recognize the many British Columbians who took the time to submit suggestions, and actively participate in the future of our province.
I am also involved with the B.C. Core Review, led by Minister Bill Bennett. Local residents of Penticton and the surrounding area will be familiar with this process, as Penticton’s Core Services Review has been widely recognized across British Columbia as an important process to find greater efficiencies in local government.
Recently, the first decision made as a result of the Core Review process was announced, determining that the work done by the Pacific Carbon Trust and the B.C. Provincial Capital Commission will be transitioned into government and the bodies themselves will be dissolved, with a combined annual savings of roughly $6.6 million. The purpose of core review is to ensure the best possible use of government resources and respect for the interests of taxpayers, and these actions accomplish that goal. While there has been much speculation that the Agricultural Land Commission will be eliminated under core review, Minister Bennett was clear that the ALC will remain an independent entity, separate from government. Further updates on the Core Review process will be provided as they become available.
November has been a busy but exciting month as your MLA. Please come and visit the constituency office, located in Penticton at #210 – 300 Riverside Drive, or call with any questions or concerns at 250-487-4400.
With the Christmas and holiday season almost upon us, please consider extending a helping hand to those in need. From the Ashton family and the staff at the constituency office, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Happy New Year.
Dan Ashton is the MLA for the riding of Penticton.