Everyone’s a critic: Victoria and Esquimalt MLAs play watchdog roles

Carole James, Rob Fleming and Maurine Karagianis each have specific roles in opposition

The day begins early with a review of the top news stories and plenty of coffee around a boardroom table in the opposition wing of the B.C. legislature.

In this room, a six-person team pours over personal notes, transcripts and government reports to decide which ministers will face a bombardment of pointed inquiries later on during question period.

Sitting on the B.C. NDP’s house management committee is just one of many hats worn by local opposition MLAs Carole James and Maurine Karagianis. In their critic roles, they are charged with keeping tabs on the impact of government policy while doing their best to advance their own agendas.

“Community engagement is probably the most effective tool we have; making sure we are representing the voices of people out there and amplifying the things that we hear,” said Karagianis, Esquimalt-Royal Roads MLA.

She serves as critic for shipbuilding, women’s issues and child care and early learning in the newly formed official opposition and has been surprised at how readily the three roles intersect.

“Shipbuilding is such a critical part of my constituency, and women are really underrepresented in that industry,” Karagianis said. “And for most families, the biggest challenge for women getting back into the workforce is affordable, accessible child care.”

The B.C. Liberals’ shocking fourth straight election win in May means NDP MLAs, who dominate Vancouver Island, will spend another four years highlighting the shortfalls of government service while having little legislative power to enact the changes they desire.

Being in opposition does have its advantages, said James, Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA and critic for children and family development.

“You have the opportunity to get in-depth on an issue and meet with all of the stakeholders to raise awareness,” she said. “I see my role as critic as willing to work with anyone to improve services for children and youth in B.C. And I will work with anyone to do that, including this government. But I also see my role as being a strong voice for those vulnerable people who often aren’t heard in our system.”

James has already begun work with Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s representative for children and youth, to address gaps in youth mental health care. She also wants to provide greater support to youth transitioning out of foster care as they reach adulthood.

“Kids are aging out of care and then all of a sudden, their supports are cut,” said James, a foster parent for 20 years. “I believe this area is core to government responsibility. What could be more core than looking after the most vulnerable who need support?”

Another tool used by opposition MLAs are private member statements, brought forward on Monday mornings when the legislature is in session, Karagianis said.

The statements provide an opportunity to address an issue that might otherwise take a back seat to more pertinent provincewide issues during question period.

“It’s sometimes very frustrating when you sit in opposition – (especially) your inability to be convincing enough to get (the government) to change their mind,” she said. “But when you have done effective work and you do change policies for the people in your community for the most vulnerable, it’s incredibly satisfying.”

dpalmer@vicnews.com

NDP critic roles

Local NDP MLAs serve various roles as critics of government ministries or specific areas of interest:

• Carole James (Victoria-Beacon Hill) – Children and Family Development

• Rob Fleming (Victoria-Swan Lake) – Education

• Maurine Karagianis (Esquimalt-Royal Roads) – Shipbuilding, women’s issues, child care and early learning

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police are looking for the driver of this truck after it nearly hit a group of kids in Esquimalt on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Police)
Victoria police looking for driver of truck that nearly missed kids before crashing in Esquimalt

The truck’s driver, a man, fled the scene after the truck crashed into a house’s fence

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Driver stopped on Pat Bay Highway after road rage reports fails breathalyzer test: police

Several witnesses reported driver to Saanich police, school officer intercepted

Police escorts for Victoria bylaw workers entering encampments in parks will continue for this month, after council approved a $25,000 budget request from VicPD. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria bylaw staff encampment work to include police escort through April

Taxpayers to see modest increase in property taxes for 2021

Victoria’s bylaw restricting businesses from providing most plastic checkout bags came into effect on April 15. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Victoria’s bylaw banning plastic bags back in effect

The bylaw restricts businesses from providing most plastic checkout bags, charges for alternatives

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The District of Sooke will continue to flower with Communities in Bloom. (Pixabay)
Sooke will bud but not bloom in provincial competition

Council scales back participation in Communities in Bloom

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

Bulldogs forward Stephen Castagna flips the puck into the Clippers zone during a game on Oct. 24. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Island BCHL game postponed due to ‘potential positive’ COVID-19 test

Nanaimo Clippers team suspends activities, players isolating pending further test results

Most Read