Tessa Hawkins.

Guest column: A day at the B.C. legislature disappoints

Cellphones, iPads and note-passing leaves Tessa Hawkins disillusioned about the state of provincial politics

March 26 marked Purple Day, the day we take time to throw on a purple shirt and to show some support for people with epilepsy. To mark the occasion this year, the Victoria Epilepsy Society arranged a photograph with Health Minister Terry Lake, and received an invitation to sit in the gallery to watch the proceedings of the House.

During the opening statements, Minister Lake was nice enough to recognize Headway and the visitors from the society by name – including my seizure response dog Kash, who, due to eating too many milkbones, he said, will be retiring in October.

A health bill regarding epilepsy was later introduced, as well as a bill addressing animal cruelty – you may like animals more than humans, but I believe one or both of these bills would generate concern or compassion for most people.

After our quick recognition from the floor I felt like the government had put on a lovely show.

I had hoped we would get to speak to the minister, at least for a few minutes to ask some questions, but of course this was all a grand gesture rather than an opportunity to actually put anything new into motion.

So I sat quietly and I watched the House at work. And even though I didn’t go in with much faith in our political representatives, I left in tears.

It felt like I was watching petulant teenagers suffer through math class. I was extremely disappointed to see about half wearing purple, or the bracelets Headway sent over ? the Speaker wasn’t even setting an example in her nice red blouse. The iPads and iPhones outnumbered the people listening, by far. Of course that shouldn’t have surprised me in this era, but I never expected the overwhelming lack of attention in the proceedings from our MLAs. What truly caught me off guard was the blatant chatting and note-passing that took place. As bills were introduced the ministers were passing notes like I used to pass in sixth grade. The longer the House sat, the more inattentive they became. My blood was boiling as I left, before the speaker even made a motion to bring the health bill back for a second reading (I’m sure it was passed, since the chorus of “aye” rung loudly at the Speaker’s cue, or was completely ignored by those less interested in the pomp and circumstance of participating).

So what was the point of all this? To make me feel like they care? For the sake of propriety, I won’t name names, but is it necessary for Lower Mainland representatives to be text messaging? Or for Northern BC MLAs to be typing emails or scrolling through BC Public Service website on an iPad? I’ll admit that I’m biased. Epilepsy is a life-threatening disability that affects 65 million people every single day, including myself. The moment I get out of bed, I’m worried about falling and injuring myself. An MLA is supposed to be “concerned about matters that effect their constituents.” Sixty-five million people isn’t a small number. I’m certain that each MLA has constituents that this bill will effect.

I don’t have the money to be an influential donor and get someone to pay attention using my wallet. I must be old-fashioned since I believe that each citizen in this province has the right to an MLA that sits quietly and pays attention for the months that the House is in session. I don’t expect much from my government: I lost faith a long time ago. But I do expect politicians to at least try to make a difference. And today they didn’t even give me the respect to pretend to care.

Tessa HawkinsSaanich

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