George Heyman is the MLA for Vancouver-Fairview. This means that he is the Member of the Legislative Assembly and that he meets with the Provincial Government at the Legislature in Victoria. There are MLAs from all different parties from around the Province and they talk about Bills and whether they should become laws.
Mr. Heyman talked to us about timelines regarding bills and laws, his own personal experience working and in elections, and the timeline of an election.
We discussed whether people should vote, and what some of the reasons are. We talked about percentages of people who vote in different elections (Provincial, Municipal and of course, Federal). Some of the reasons people vote are they want to get their voice out, another is that they don’t want specific people in the Legislature or Parliament or City Council. Another reason why people vote is that they are glad they have the chance to vote, because some people in this world don’t have the chance to vote.
There are many examples of laws that would be passed by government including drinking driving laws, drinking age, voting rights, property rights and laws against violence. When a party or an MLA brings a Bill, it’s because they think it should be a law. There are public bills and private bills. Once that happens, all of the MLAs talk about it. This is called a “reading”. At the readings, what generally happens is the Bill is discussed in a democratic way and then if most people vote yes, it goes on to a second reading. During the second reading, there is a debate, and the debate often takes a long time because the Bills can be very complex. In general, MLAs have 30 minutes to talk about their opinions on the matter, and one person can have up to 2 hours. We think that sitting there watching everyone in the legislature talk for a long time about their opinion can be hard but it’s important for democracy. It can change your opinion, and at the end you may feel different than you did at the beginning.
After the Second Reading, the MLAs vote about the third reading, which is when the committee assesses the contents and adds specific changes. These are called amendments. After that, the final vote is taken which can result in the Bill becoming an Act, which means a law.
George also talked to us about his journey to becoming an MLA. At first his friends told him to go out for the chance of being elected and for a few years he refused. Then one year he decided to take the chance and got elected. Then there was an election for Premier and in an election like this for a Premier to be elected a party has to win in a provincial election, then the party’s leader becomes Premier. George’s party’s leader resigned and he had the chance to run for the position of party leader but he chose not to run.
After he explained all these things he had a question and answer period. We asked him questions and he responded to them. One of the questions he was asked was… “Do you agree that the people with more money should pay less taxes and the people with less money should pay as much as they do now?” He answered … “No I do not.” then he gave a list of reasons why. George had made an interesting time line and we all look up to democratic politicians in Vancouver and across Canada.