It has been a couple of months since my last column. It was not for lack of issues to write about, but a need to create some space to rest, strengthen connections with my family and focus on the needs of my constituents. As it turns out, the space was immediately filled with the intersecting crises facing British Columbia.
Climate change, healthcare (pandemic, mental health & addictions), housing affordability and old growth have proven extraordinarily difficult to navigate. These coinciding crises must be addressed by working together – individuals, political parties, and governments, in collaboration and as a collective.
For decades, we have known that climate change was coming. We were warned that if we do not take corrective action, we will face an emergency. This summer that reality was on full display.
In June, a heat dome descended on British Columbia. We experienced the hottest temperatures in Canadian history while dozens of evacuation orders came as hundreds of wildfires threatened communities across the province.
BC Chief Coroner, Lisa Lapointe, announced that 570 of 815 sudden deaths during this time were “heat related.” At all levels, we were not prepared.
At the same time, we heard stories from around the world of severe rainstorms causing flash floods in Europe and Asia. Hurricane Ida devastated the Eastern United States, causing more flash floods. This summer proved to be eye-opening for many concerning the climate emergency.
When I was first elected, access to a family doctor was the priority healthcare issue in Saanich North and the Islands. While that remains a primary concern, now healthcare workers are battling the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Exhaustion is causing many to retire or leave the profession.
In August, Lapointe announced that more than 1000 British Columbian’s perished to toxic illicit drug poisoning in the first six months of 2021. This mental health and addictions crisis is yet another burden on our strained health care system.
As these stories captured headlines, the lack of affordability in the housing market has grown into yet another major concern. The average home price in Greater Victoria sits around one million dollars. Both renters and buyers are struggling to find affordable housing. While Victoria is an extreme, housing affordability is an issue in communities across Canada.
British Columbians are passionate about protecting the last remaining old growth. This summer blockades at Fairy Creek have been the latest flashpoint for the issue. As tension grew, videos flooded social media showing the RCMP enforcing an injunction, becoming progressively violent. They deployed questionable tactics such as removing their identification. This conflict is the most recent example that forestry policy in British Columbia must change.
Since getting their majority government last fall the BC NDP has become far more insular. They are reluctant to include the opposition parties in their decision-making or processes. As my colleague Sonia Furstenau said recently, “what we’ve seen in the last year has not only been physical distancing but political distancing in the B.C. Legislature.”
We will not be able to address these provincial crises as individuals. We need to work together harnessing the power of the collective. Premier John Horgan, and his BC NDP colleagues, have a real opportunity to facilitate this cooperative, collaborative approach. Let us hope they do.