“It’s not about the yoga”

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Harry Bains, NDP MLA

By Harry Bains, MLA for Surrey-Newton

Harry Bains, NDP MLA
Harry Bains, NDP MLA

I’ve always admired the grace, discipline and tremendous health benefits of yoga.

So I’m very pleased that British Columbians will be marking International Yoga Day on June 21. But many people have asked me over the past few days how I feel about Premier Christy Clark’s plan to close Burrard Street bridge in Vancouver for seven hours that day and hold a large yoga practice there. One journalist called it “one of the dumbest government decisions ever.”

Premier Clark has made quite a few decisions that can compete for that title, but there is clearly a lot of anger over this bizarre idea.

While it’s quite common for cities to close bridges temporarily for marathons and bike races and other large-scale sporting events, I am puzzled why anyone would want to lay their mat on a hard asphalt roadway in the summer sun.

But I do understand why people are so skeptical of her motives in announcing this event. We all know that when Christy Clark does something, she only has one person’s interests in mind – and that’s Christy Clark.

First off, there’s the timing of the premier’s announcement – the same day as New Democrats released documents proving the Clark government deliberately misled the public with a fake story about a made-up police investigation for nearly three years. The premier, I’m guessing, needed a distraction for the media.

Secondly, there are already several large yoga practices and events already planned to honour International Yoga Day. These include an established event supported by the Indian consulate at the Plaza of Nations, and one at the Vedic Hindu Cultural Society in Surrey, both of which are clearly far more appropriate venues. But the premier wouldn’t simply pledge her support to one of these events because the focus wouldn’t be on her.

Instead, she gathered the media cameras around her to announce she was closing a bridge, all with some help from Lululemon and AltaGas. Both these companies will get a tremendous piece of publicity courtesy of the premier, and both this companies are also generous donors to Clark’s B.C. Liberals. It’s another “quick win” for the Clark government and her wealthy friends.

You, however, as the B.C. taxpayer, are stuck with $150,000 in costs for closing the bridge and redirecting traffic. You are picking up the tab for yet another extravagant, unnecessary Christy Clark photo shoot.

It’s a lot of money. I’ve met so many families with two working parents who are struggling to make ends meet. Since Christy Clark became premier, their bills just keep getting bigger – Hydro, ICBC and MSP, bridge tolls and ferry fares. The premier loves to tell other people to watch their pennies. But she sees no problem with squandering $150,000 of your money to close a major street on Father’s Day for a seven-hour yoga class. This shows exactly how little Christy Clark cares about working and middle class families.

She’s throwing away this $150,000 just as many school districts are laying off staff and closing schools. She’s treating herself to a day in front of the cameras while more than 200,000 British Columbians have no access to a family doctor.

Many families, including my own, have been deeply affected by gang violence in Surrey and Delta. In April, the premier pledged $250,000 for an underfunded Surrey Schools program that helps keep kids out of gangs. That money will clear only half of the program’s waitlist. How many young people in Surrey could be steered away from a gang life with that $150,000? How many families could be spared?

I’ve spoken with a lot of people in Surrey and Delta who are frustrated that B.C. Liberals will show up for pictures at cultural events but are nowhere to be found when it’s time to talk about tough issues like these.

Cultural and sporting events are an important part of our lives. But British Columbians deserve a government that spends money wisely and with the honest intention of promoting healthy values. Premier Clark has done the opposite, and frivolously spent precious public money on cynical self-promotion.