Public Affairs Update Header
March 9, 2015
In This Issue
The Public Affairs Update is your weekly insight, perspective and analysis on politics in British Columbia and Canada.  This newsletter is brought to you by the largest and most broadly-based business organization in the province, the BC Chamber of Commerce – the Voice of Business in B.C.

Coroner’s inquest into fatal Lakeland Mills sawmill explosion begins

The coroner’s inquest into the fatal April 2012 Lakeland Mills sawmill explosion is under way in
Prince George.

The inquest – being led by B.C.’s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe, is reviewing the causes of the blast that claimed the lives of two workers: Alan Little and Glenn Roche. The inquest is looking at how and why the explosion happened, the roles and responsibilities of those involved in mill safety and their policies and practices, and what steps should be taken to prevent this type of event from happening again.

The inquest began by hearing from the two workers’ widows about the impact on the families. The inquest also heard from coworkers who spoke about their fears related to the mill’s handling of sawdust, and who described the chaos and confusion that ensued after the explosion.

The inquest addressed the actions that have been taken since the blast that have significantly reduced the amount of sawdust in the facility.

A jury of seven people will hear from 47 witnesses over two and a half weeks, including officials and inspectors with WorkSafeBC, which oversees workplace health and safety in B.C.


B.C. government commits to raising minimum wage

Premier Christy Clark says that while the B.C. Federation of Labour’s request for a $15 minimum wage isn’t in the cards, she is open to exploring more modest, planned and predictable minimum wage increases.

Premier Clark denied the BC Federation of Labour’s request citing the fragile economy, and the need to support small businesses, which have asked for a systemic, predictable increase so that they can plan for it.

Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Hon. Shirley Bond has been tasked with determining a formula for the minimum wage increase.

Premier Clark has raised the minimum wage three times since coming to power in 2011, most recently in 2012 to the current rate of $10.25 an hour.

The BC Chamber has been consulting with Ministers Bond and Yamamoto on this matter in recent months, encouraging them to allow the province to manage this increase in a manner consistent with all other provinces.


Federal party leaders vie for support in B.C.

With the next federal election scheduled for October 2015, party leaders are spending more time in B.C. where all three major parties are in contention and vying for political support.

This week, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau both visited B.C. Mulcair spent time on Vancouver Island touting his party’s commitment to reduce taxes for small business owners. Trudeau spoke to various audiences, including a large number of students and supporters at the University of British Columbia, where he made the case for replacing Stephen Harper as prime minister and spoke to striking a balance between growing the economy and protecting the environment, C-51, and drug policy, among other issues. The visits from Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau follow Prime Minister Harper’s recent visit to announce federal support for LNG.

Recent polls suggest B.C. will be a three-way race. The Conservatives and Liberals are running neck and neck, followed by the NDP, and the Green Party showing potential for growth on Vancouver Island, where their leader Elizabeth May resides.


Legislative Watch

Legislative Watch is published while the BC Legislature is in session, as a report on events that are shaping B.C. politics.

4th Session, 40th Parliament: Week of March 2-6, 2015

Previous Legislative Watch reports can by viewed here.