Jennifer Rice is miffed.
The North Coast MLA expressed her frustration after her private member’s bill over lead levels in school water collected dust only to have much of it implemented by the B.C. Liberal government as the spring session came to a grinding halt.
Rice’s frustration is understandable but far from surprising.
This is what inevitably happens when you are a backbencher in an opposition party to a majority government.
Rice said the B.C. government blames complacency and forgetfulness for inaction on the issue, something she finds ironic.
“I asked the Minister of Health questions in regards to this and he was quite dismissive. He was very flippant and he passed it over to the Minister of Education and basically in his dialogue to me, he talked about the fact that we knew about this issue years and years ago, but people got complacent and forgot,” she said.
“The irony of it is that [my] bill addressed those two things and that’s why I think having the legislation is so important, so that it doesn’t go on and that we don’t forget.”
Rice mentioned that the government told Lower Mainland schools to implement mitigation measures, such as flushing, but “that information didn’t gravitate toward the north.”
“I’ve spent a ton of time on this,” she continued.
“Being dismissed and having the issue downplayed I found very frustrating, to not have the issue taken seriously when I know it is a serious issue and even the ministry’s own scientists are publishing papers saying this should be treated as a public health priority. But I’m happy we’re moving in the right direction now.”
Rice’s bill is formally in limbo, and would have to be re-introduced and brought up for discussion each year. The critic plans on doing just that until the crux of the bill is enshrined in legislation.
Rice, who announced her intention to run for the upcoming 2017 provincial election at a recent Women in Business luncheon as the North Coast incumbent, will have to live with the fact that all, if not most of her private member’s bills won’t see the light of day as long as she serves in opposition.
It may be frustrating, but it’s reality.