A proud history of firsts

February 26, 2016

Mark is the first First-Nations woman elected to the legislature.Mark is the first First-Nations woman elected to the legislature.

Our neighbouring constituency, Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant, is finally represented in the legislature by a sitting MLA. Melanie Mark was sworn in as the first-ever First Nations woman to become a B.C. MLA. Jodie Wickens was sworn in as MLA for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, and became the youngest member of the legislature. Both women won seats in two recent by-elections February 2 and were sworn in at the legislature February 17. Congratulations to both Jodie and Melanie. I am looking forward to working with both of you.

Frank Calder
, elected in 1949, the first elected person of aboriginal descent
Rosemary Brown, first Black woman
Emery Barnes, first Black man
Moe Sihota, first Indo-Canadian
Jenny Kwan, first Chinese person
Tim Stevenson, first openly gay man
Carole James, first Aboriginal-Metis woman
Mable Elmore, the first Filipino
Jane Shin, first Korean woman
Melanie Mark, first First Nations woman.

New bus pass fee eats up disability increase

The recent provincial budget included a long-awaited increase for people receiving provincial disability benefits, but the $77 a month increase came with a $52 a month claw-back in the form of an increase to provincial bus pass program.

The BC Bus Pass program currently charges $45 a year for an annual pass. In September, Provincial disability benefit recipients will have to pay the annual $45 per year administration fee in addition to a monthly $52 fee. (The monthly $52 increase does not apply to seniors receiving the federal Guaranteed Income Supplement).

Disability advocacy groups have started petitions and letter writing campaigns. I encourage you to sign these.

My Opposition caucus colleagues and I will continue to speak out on this issue in the legislature. This spring, we will introduce a poverty reduction plan again – for the fifth time.

Watch our spokesperson for Social Development confront Minister Stilwell about the bus pass claw back: http://bit.ly/1KL1QzI.

Sign the petition: http://chn.ge/1oDrT1k


Real estate fraud investigation launched

Disturbing allegations of realtor misconduct in our overheated property market deserve a full, formal investigation. The scope and scale of the unethical property flipping practices alleged is not known, but it is certainly happening and could be costing the provincial government millions of dollars in tax revenue. Worse than the lost tax revenue is the potential that a significant number of bad apple realtors are assisting in international money laundering, and defrauding their clients.

Descriptions of the practices come from media reports, realtor sources, and court transcripts. The allegations include realtors allegedly avoiding the property transfer tax and capital gains tax while insider trading in a so-called “grey market,” and allegedly assisting clients in laundering money or concealing the origin of money used in real estate transactions.

In January, our Opposition housing spokesperson, MLA David Eby, wrote two letters to the B.C. Real Estate Council requesting they investigate tax avoidance and money laundering control avoidance tactics allegedly engaged in by some realtors following information provided to him by a whistleblower. The Real Estate Council declined to investigate.

Since then, two significant media investigations have uncovered multiple examples of realtors concealing the origin of funds, counselling clients to avoid FINTRAC responsibilities, or flipping properties without paying the property transfer tax.

An advisory group has now been formed to investigate these allegations, but Eby questions how effective the group will be, noting an April or May deadline for their report gives the group only a few short weeks in which to complete its investigation. Eby and my caucus colleagues will be demanding that the province step up and get to the bottom of this issue.

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