New Democrats call for legislation to protect franchisees

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VANCOUVER – The B.C. Liberal government should be taking more action to ensure that British Columbia franchisees are operating on a level playing field with the corporations they are partnering with, say the New Democrats.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in this province, yet the lack of support from their provincial government means that they are often at the mercy of large franchisors,” says New Democrat finance spokesperson Carole James. “British Columbia needs legislation like they have in other provinces to ensure that these large corporations deal fairly with small businesses.

“If the Liberals aren’t prepared to introduce this type of legislation this spring, New Democrats will.”

James said the regulatory void means franchisees often have obligations to the parent company but fewer rights. Franchisors exert significant control over the small businesses, she said.

“When people buy real estate, the seller is required to disclose everything pertinent about the property, yet that level of transparency does not exist for franchisees,” said James. “This puts all the risk at the feet of the franchisees, who may not have the means for the kind of investigation needed to determine whether their investment is a good one.”

Former Blenz franchisee Wayne Taylor calls the current situation like “the wild west.”

“Small business owners like myself have little protection against large corporations,” said Taylor, who risked more than $150,000 in an arrangement with Blenz in 2008. “We are the job creators, we assume the risk, but the big companies have all the power.”

Five provinces currently have franchise legislation: Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba. Alberta’s is oldest, dating back to 1971.

“Franchise legislation supports B.C.-owned small businesses as they create jobs in our communities and ensures a fair and level playing field,” said New Democrat MLA Adrian Dix. “Four years after Manitoba and more than a decade after other provinces, it is time to act in this session of the legislature.”

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B.C. Liberals ignored own expert panel’s advice on Site C decision

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VANCOUVER – The B.C. Liberal government ignored the advice of its own panel of experts in exempting B.C. Hydro from a B.C. Utilities Commission review of the Site C dam project, says New Democrat spokesperson on BC Hydro Adrian Dix.

“The government’s own report reaffirms the necessary and legal role of the B.C. Utilities Commission,” said Dix. “Yet Premier Clark and Energy Minister Bill Bennett ignored even their own experts in exempting the Site C project. Instead, they played with numbers to try to reduce the project’s cost estimates without scrutiny.”

The panel, chaired by former Deputy Minister Peter Ostergaard, with members Michael Costello and Brian Wallace, concluded in its interim report on Oct. 1 that “The existence of an independent expert Commission is more important than ever today. By regulating monopolies the BCUC provides an essential public service.” The panel made seven recommendations to strengthen the Commission’s role.

“This is disastrous Liberal policy repeating itself. The government has exempted its actions from review when it is unable to answer basic questions, as in the case of Site C. In recent years, the Liberals have refused to allow their IPP program, the Smart Meter program and B.C. Hydro rates to go before the commission. The result every time has been catastrophic for ratepayers, leading to the 28 per cent hydro rate increase British Columbians are dealing with today.

“As B.C. New Democrat Leader John Horgan has clearly stated, Site C needs BCUC review and this report from the government’s own expert panel powerfully supports BCUC’s continuing role,” said Dix.

A copy of the interim report can be found here:
British Columbia Utilities Commission – Interim Report

New Democrats call for full release of report into health researcher firings

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VANCOUVER – New Democrat MLA Adrian Dix has formally requested that Deputy Attorney General Richard Fyfe step in and release a full, un-redacted copy of the report into the wrongful dismissals of seven health researchers.

Despite promises from Premier Christy Clark and Health Minister Terry Lake that the report would be released to the public, the government has hidden significant portions of the report and failed to make it available to the public online.

Dix’s letter to Mr. Fyfe can be found here.