ÍY SȻÁĆEL (Good Day),
Season’s Greetings and best wishes in 2023!
In this final edition of the year, I take an extensive look back at my blog posts and highlight a handful of emerging themes.
I am sure there are items missing from this year in review, however, I think you will get a sense of the volume of work ahead in Saanich North and the Islands and British Columbia. Enjoy!
The Saanich North and the Islands Community Office re-opens on January 4, 2023. I look forward to connecting with you in the coming months to continue working on all these important issues.
If you find this newsletter informative, please share it with your friends and neighbours and invite them to sign up to receive my updates.
If you need advocacy from our office, have any questions or concerns, please provide your feedback to Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca or 250-655-5600.
Adam Olsen, MLA
Saanich North and the Islands
At the beginning of 2022, the healthcare system in British Columbia was in critical condition. A new physician master agreement was months away, and a million people were without a family doctor. Confidence in effective public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne viruses had been eroded by mismanaged communications, and emergency responders were stretched beyond capacity. Hospital emergency rooms were closing without notice because of staffing shortages. As 2022 ends, healthcare continues to be a primary concern of British Columbians.
Throughout the year, my BC Green Caucus colleague Sonia Furstenau and I asked Health Minister Adrian Dix many questions, especially about the creeping corporatization of primary healthcare. We were concerned about businesses like Telus’s LifePlus, which are charging membership fees for access to a family doctor. In response, Minister Dix referred the issue to the Medical Services Commission for investigation. Recently, the Commission sought an injunction in the B.C. Supreme Court to seek compliance from the corporate giant.
In Saanich North and the Islands, many constituents still don’t have a family doctor. We have been advocating for the province to support community healthcare like the successful model that Shoreline Medical operates in Sidney and Brentwood. They have dramatically increased the number of doctors in their practice.
On Salt Spring Island, there are no walk-in or urgent care clinics, which puts a lot of strain on the hospital emergency room. The Lady Minto Hospital Foundation has been working hard to expand the Emergency Department, but there are still concerns about staffing. I will be meeting with nurses on Salt Spring in the early New Year to discuss the desperate situation they are faced with. The foundation has also purchased the Seabreeze Inne to turn into housing for hospital staff, although that project has not been without its challenges.
For Galiano, Mayne, Pender, and Saturna, their primary healthcare centers are operated by non-profit societies. In the coming months, I will continue to work with these community volunteers to ensure they receive adequate support from Island Health and the provincial government.
- 2022/01/15: Erosion of universal health concerning trend under BC NDP
- 2022/02/14: There is a family doctor crisis in B.C. Why is universal healthcare eroding under BC NDP?
- 2022/02/16: Is the BC NDP protecting our primary health care from an expansion of a two-tier business model?
- 2022/04/04: MLA Column: Lack of family doctor means diminished quality of life
- 2022/04/27: What is the BC NDP doing about growing corporatization threatening primary health care?
- 2022/10/26: Slow response to primary healthcare crisis leaves constituents desperate
- 2022/10/27: Major changes to health professions and occupations to add oversight
Biodiversity and Environmental Protection
Throughout 2022, Sonia and I continued to push Forests Minister Katrine Conroy on the BC NDP approach to forestry, biodiversity, and landscape management. We built upon our work in the debates in Fall 2021 when the Minister presented reforms of the forest statutes and practices.
Despite verbal commitments to protect biodiversity, and claims that the protections were included in the amendments, it is concerning that the updates actually failed to clearly and legally “declare the conservation of ecosystem health and biodiversity of British Columbia’s forests as an overarching priority and enact legislation that legally establishes this priority for all sectors.” This is a key recommendation of the Old Growth Strategy that the BC NDP government committed to fully implement.
Ultimately, Minister Conroy did not change the underlying landscape management philosophy from one that values only the monetary worth of nature and natural resources, to one that prioritizes ecosystem health. Until this happens British Columbians can expect the outcomes we have been seeing, primarily collapsing ecosystems/biodiversity.
In fact, with respect to biodiversity, in early 2022 Minister Conroy repeatedly defended the use of herbicides (like glyphosate) and brush cutters to destroy indigenous plant species because tree farms are not forests, and the provincial government prioritizes the growth of trees for timber harvest. This is yet another example of the Minister’s preference to protect the interests of industry over ecosystem health.
The good news on this issue is that the new Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship Minister Nathan Cullen, has been given a strong mandate to address biodiversity. While Premier David Eby has not explicitly instructed Minister Cullen to change the culture, he has, among other initiatives, asked him to protect 30% of the land base by 2030, create a conservation financing mechanism, and lead the work across government. Sonia and I will continue to demand core philosophical change in addition to the cosmetics.
One of many environmental issues in Saanich North and the Islands that requires specific attention in 2023 is the growing problem of invasive species, particularly fallow deer on Mayne and Sidney Islands, and various marine species that arrive in the ballast of transport ships. I will be raising this with Minister Cullen, hoping that the provincial government will be far more responsible and responsive on these issues going forward.
- You can see a more detailed overview and assessment of my work on biodiversity and forestry here.
- 2022/02/28: Where is the money in Budget 2022 for Indigenous reconciliation and conservation financing?
- 2022/04/01: BC NDP Forests Minister defends spraying glyphosate and other poisons
- 2022/10/04: Does B.C. Minister of Forests believe burning wood pellets produces clean energy?
- 2022/04/04: Indigenous food security threatened by glyphosate spraying of forest lands
- See Minister Nathan Cullen’s mandate letter.
It is important British Columbians understand the plan of the provincial government to address the housing crisis. The BC NDP have focused on supply, campaigning since 2017 to build more than 110,000 units of housing. However, as Sonia and I pointed out throughout 2022, there are a range of housing needs in our community. Building homes for the so-called “missing middle” does not necessarily equal more housing opportunities for people with other housing needs.
In October 2021, I asked then Housing Minister David Eby if he believes that housing is a human right. He said he does. Since then, we have asked about the public investment in non-market housing to ensure the most vulnerable people in our society have adequate shelter. Currently, the provincial government is investing billions of public money into building more market housing. This increases housing supply, however there is only a limited guarantee it will be affordable. We have demanded that the government invest in non-market options such as non-profit rental, rent-to-own, and housing co-operatives.
In 2022, David Eby fired the board of directors of BC Housing and there has been tremendous turnover in senior management in the organization. Now Premier Eby has created a stand-alone housing ministry. Before the legislative assembly adjourned this Fall, his government passed two bills: one to remove age and rental restrictions in stratas built pre-2010, and the other aimed at the provincial-local government relationship. It is unlikely that his governments work is done on housing. Sonia and I will continue to ask new Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon about the governments approach to ensuring all British Columbians can access safe, affordable, housing.
In Saanich North and the Islands, I will continue working with Minister Kahlon and the provincial housing agency to ensure there is a supply of housing suitable to fill the range of needs in our communities.
The supported housing project on Prosser Road in Central Saanich is almost complete and will be operated by Pacifica Housing. I have requested a tour of the facility with the operator and look forward to learning about the housing program they will soon be delivering there.
The project on Drake Road on Salt Spring Island has been an incredibly troubling situation. The latest issue is the difficult site and lack of drainage and transportation infrastructure outlined here. In addition, BC Housing has faced many challenges managing the temporary supported housing at the Seabreeze Inne.
As was pointed out in the article linked above, the fragmented governance of Salt Spring has added complexity to the project. Without a central coordinating entity on the Island, the project has bogged down and is now affecting three neighborhoods (Bittancourt Road/Drake Road/Kings Lane) as BC Housing has scrambled over the last year to accommodate the short-term needs for supportive housing on the island while they build their project on Drake.
“And to be honest, the site’s proven more complicated than we anticipated.”
Kirsten Baillie, Housing Development Manager, BC Housing
This sums up the whole project. It has consistently proven to be more complicated than BC Housing anticipated. CRD Director Gary Holman warned BC Housing way back in summer 2021 against treating this project like any other project they are administering and in the process underestimating the complicated jurisdictional and physical challenges of building housing on Salt Spring Island. Over the months, we have met with David Eby, former senior staff at BC Housing, community organizations, and all along BC Housing claimed to have the answers. Despite our warning, they remained steadfastly committed to their approach. We have seen the result. Their overconfidence has failed to deliver the project on the timelines, budget, and to community needs and expectations.
I hope going forward Minister Kahlon, and the BC Housing administrators, will be more flexible and creative working with the community.
There are a couple of items we need Minister Kahlon to deliver.
First, there are concerns that that the funding for the emergency shelter on Salt Spring is going away at the end of March. We need Minister Kahlon to secure long-term funding for the emergency shelter as was originally announced.
Then, advocates on the Southern Gulf Islands have been trying to get the provincial government to move more quickly on a suitable building code for tiny homes. In addition, I have requested a tour of this project for tiny homes in Port Alberni because it might have potential on Salt Spring as well.
- 2022/01/21: Supported housing project moving ahead on Salt Spring Island
- 2022/03/07: Where are the investments in non-market housing options?
- 2022/04/28: What is the BC NDP doing to protect renters from real estate investment trusts (REITs)?
Transportation is a perennial issue that we hear about in the Saanich North and the Islands Community Office.
On the Saanich Peninsula, the installation of transit priority lanes and new stops at Mt. Newton X Road & Hwy. 17 brings us one step closer to having a rapid bus route for the Saanich Peninsula. The construction of the Keating fly-over in the next few years will also improve transit connections for Central Saanich. However, the intersections at Haliburton, Beacon, and half of Sayward still need to be upgraded to complete the transit corridor. I urge Minister Rob Fleming to prioritize this project, as it will not only benefit the residents and businesses of the Saanich Peninsula, but also improve connections to the airport and ferry terminal, which will benefit the entire region.
Road maintenance, repairs and upgrades are ongoing as is advocacy for increased budgets.
On the Southern Gulf Islands, road construction projects, such as those on Isabella Point Road on Salt Spring and Canal Road on Pender, often disrupt traffic flow. The difficult geography in these areas limits alternative routes and increases costs, which have been particularly challenging for the Canal Road repairs. We have a good relationship with the regional team in the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure office and do our best to stay informed and updated about the progress of ongoing projects so we can relay that information to constituents. If you have concerns about road or ditch maintenance and minor repairs, please contact the local Emcon contractor and also copy my office (Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca) on your correspondence so we can follow up with the Ministry and contractor as needed.
Road safety on the rural roads is a primary concern for us.
I have recently received a comprehensive response about line painting for all the Southern Gulf Islands. We have received many complaints in the Community Office this year about deteriorating, or non-existent, lines. Clearly marked travel lanes contribute to road safety, but we have heard the Ministry’s line painting program is chronically behind schedule and over-prescribed. In the past, the challenges have been mainly due to insufficient budgets but now supply chain issues and inflation have exacerbated the situation. Higher volume roads in the region receive preferential treatment, which means the issue on lower volume roads on the Southern Gulf Islands will likely persist. I will continue to advocate for increased budgets for line painting and work with the Ministry to increase other aspects of road safety to ensure the roads on the Southern Gulf Islands are safe for all users.
Each summer, ferries become a central focus of my constituency work.
Our office regularly receives complaints about delays, leave-behinds, and a lack of service. However, summer 2022 was in a class of its own. While BC Ferries did their best to accommodate staffing shortages and more travelers as restrictions were lifted, it exposed systemic issues that have needed to be addressed for years. As a result, the provincial government replaced the board, they fired CEO Mark Collins, and the stories from passengers highlighting the problems with the service continued to pour into my office. I hope BC Ferries addresses the staffing issue by investing in recruiting, retaining, and promoting from within to ensure a resilient, more robust, ferry system in the future. It does not appear that this has been the focus in recent years. In November, I met with the new BC Ferries interim CEO, Jill Sharland, and will continue to advocate for smoother sailing in the coming years.
Reforming the Police Act
After 15 months of expert and stakeholder consultation, public engagement, and deliberation, the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act presented its final report in April. I find that working on all-party committees is the most rewarding legislative effort, and this was definitely the case for the committee reviewing the Police Act. The process was collaborative and taken seriously by all members, as we were tasked with reviewing an Act that has not seen major revisions in decades.
Society has changed since the Act was last updated, and now the provincial government must ensure that policing is meeting the needs and expectations of British Columbians. The public and expert contributions to the process were extensive, and the recommendations to the government through the Public Safety and Solicitor General Minister Mike Farnworth, covered a wide range of issues, including: the recruitment and retention of quality police officers, training, support, and a culture of community policing; diverse public safety responses for mental health calls and wellness checks; increased options for policing Indigenous communities; a fully independent police oversight body for all police services in the province; and integrated policing that includes replacing the RCMP with a new provincial police service.
In November, the provincial government announced over $200 million in funding to boost the RCMP that will help fill chronic vacancies in rural police detachments. While this is a short-term measure, Minister Farnworth still has the major task of police reform ahead of him.
In Saanich North and the Islands, staffing shortages have been a persistent issue for all three RCMP detachments. In addition to advocating for broader police reform, I will continue to work with policing leaders in the riding to ensure that the provincial government is maintaining its commitment to staff the detachments appropriately.
- 2022/04/28: Reports: Transformational change recommended for policing in British Columbia
- 2022/05/11: Modernization of the Mental Health Act and the Police Act is necessary, will the BC NDP do it?
- 2022/05/13: MLA Column: Police Act committee delivered needed change
- 2022/11/03: Will the Minister review the Mental Health Act?
Energy, Mines, and Bamberton Quarry
When the BC NDP government approved LNG Canada in 2018, it was understood they only approved the first half of the project.
With the CleanBC climate plan yet to be announced it was unclear how the government was going factor 4 megatonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the equation and still be able to meet our GHG reduction targets in 2030 and beyond. In the background, lingered the threat of an application for the second half of the project, and any number of other LNG projects, being speculated about.
The BC NDP government has always deflected questions from Sonia and I about the potential of expansion of the LNG industry. They never close the door, rather they say they have told industry that any new project needs to fit the emissions budget set in CleanBC. In other words, new projects will be approved if they don’t negatively impact the province’s ability to meet the targets.
Despite jamming LNG Canada’s first half of their project into CleanBC, the problem the provincial government faces is that establishing and expanding a nascent LNG industry has never been a responsible addition to the emissions profile of a province already struggling to meet the ambitious targets. Now several years later, LNG projects such as Woodfibre LNG, Tilbury LNG, Cedar LNG, and Ksi Lisims LNG continue to loiter. The RCMP, and their special C-IRG (Community-Industry Response Group) along with private security forces are still protecting the heavily contentious Coastal GasLink pipeline construction through Wet’suwet’en territory. Speculation grows that this is just the first pipeline across northern BC, not the last. Premier David Eby, said in one interview that British Columbia cannot expand fossil fuel infrastructure, but when Sonia pressed him in Question Period he failed to definitely rule out increased fracking and new approvals for LNG. This will most certainly be a focus of our work in 2023.
In Saanich North and the Islands, this Fall we saw how outdated British Columbia’s mining laws and regulations are at the Bamberton Quarry operated by Malahat Investment Corporation. The application to expand the quarry by 47% did not meet the requirements for an environmental assessment, which is triggered for a 50% expansion. The provincial requirements for public notification and access to application documents is woefully inadequate.
The reality of our mining and environmental assessment (EA) laws/regulations as they are currently written is that operators can apply to expand their quarry by slightly less than 50% in perpetuity and never be required to undertake an EA. It is an absurd loophole that must be fixed. As it turns out the Saanich Inlet Protection Society triggered a section of the EA Act by writing and requesting an EA. The Environmental Assessment Office is now considering the request. Sonia and I will continue to monitor the application in 2023.
- 2022/04/01: BC NDP continues supporting fossil fuel expansion in a climate emergency!
- 2022/04/07: With LNG Canada looking to expand, how does it fit BC NDP climate commitments?
- 2022/05/05: Why is the BC NDP ignoring the environmental racism and harms caused by fracking?
- 2022/10/05: Why is the BC NDP allowing Coastal GasLink to drill under Wedzin Kwa while salmon are spawning?
- 2022/11/01: Will the Minister require an environmental assessment for Bamberton quarry?
- 2022/12/20: MLA Column: Green MLAs voice concerns over Bamberton project
Indigenous, Family and Child Welfare
There has been many positive steps taken in Indigenous reconciliation in the last five years. Following the passing of the Declaration Act, establishment of the Secretariat, implementation of section 3 by creating an interim approach for drafting and updating legislation, the impact has been both local and province-wide.
Despite the progress there are also many areas still causing concern. One of those is the slow response of government and policing agencies with respect to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Throughout 2022, I met several times with senior provincial policing officials about the now countless tragic cases of women such as Chelsea Poorman, who have been utterly failed by government and police.
Unfortunately, Canada has a long history of deliberately undermining Indigenous women, willfully disrupting the relationship they have with their children, and allowing police files to languish. It continues to this day. I spoke to this issue many times throughout the year. It culminated in a speech this Fall at second reading of a bill introducing important amendments to the child welfare system. The hopeful outcome is that these changes will finally give Indigenous communities a pathway to taking responsibility for their own child welfare systems. I invite and encourage you to watch it here.
- 2022/05/05: Ministerial Statement: National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- 2022/05/12: Why has BC NDP invested so little in stopping violence against Indigenous women and girls?
- 2022/05/19: Ministerial Statement: Marking one year since confirmation of unmarked graves at Kamloops
- 2022/06/01: Why is BC NDP government limiting the Gwa’sala-‘nakwaxda’xw historical information on child welfare?
- 2022/08/15: Opinion – The Pope can do more: Release records, return artifacts, remain accountable
- 2022/10/04: Ministerial Statement: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Day of Action
- 2022/10/26: Ministerial Statement: Responding to the tabling of reforms to the child welfare system
- 2022/11/22: Changing the law is the first step in improving Indigenous child welfare in British Columbia
Funding for Children with Autism
As the Fall session adjourned, Premier David Eby demonstrated his willingness to change course on an issue. In the final week, I asked Premier Eby if his vision for British Columbia included finally listening to the parents of children with autism and restoring the individualized funding that Children and Family Development Minister Mitzi Dean had cancelled a year earlier. Premier Eby stayed seated and allowed Minister Dean to deliver the same government-approved talking points that she had repeated for a year, stating that she was listening to parents and proceeding with changing the funding model. It was Orwellian double-speak considering earlier in the week, Autism BC had released a report showing that more than 95% of families polled wanted the individual funding to be restored.
In my final question on the issue, I pointed out the cruel nature of the decision and how the hub model the provincial government was committed to disrupts the relationships that children and families have built with service providers who understood and created family-like bonds with the children. A couple of days later, Premier Eby called the media to the Premier’s Office to announce that he was changing course and restoring the individual funding. While I appreciate Premier Eby’s willingness to reverse this decision, it is unspeakable how the BC NDP caused unnecessary fear and pain to the families of vulnerable children by forcing them to fight for a year for the services that work for them.
- 2022-02-24: Why is Minister of Children and Families growing bureaucracy and not supporting families?
- 2022/11/23: Will Premier Eby scrap proposed changes to individual autism funding model?
Worker Protection and Support for Injured Workers
I had always expected a BC NDP government to be far more supportive of workers, workers rights, and workers compensation than their BC Liberal predecessor. Perhaps some people expect that Sonia and I will always be in the shadow of the BC NDP on these issues because they are the “workers party.”
They had long wanted to change the card check system for union organizing, which they finally did, but in other areas it has been interesting to watch them tinker around the edges. They offered fewer paid sick days, and their response to several reports recommending major changes to supports for injured workers have been tepid. Rather than bring forward a comprehensive revision of the labour relations and workers compensation laws and regulations, Labour Minister Harry Bains has instead made several smaller amendments.
This year I did offer my thoughts on the issues several times and only my most recent exchanges with Minister Bains at committee stage of the latest amendments to the workers compensation law is not part of the record below.
- 2022/04/29: Recognizing the National Day of Mourning and workers safety
- 2022/05/03: Labour policy lurch continues in British Columbia, more protections needed for workers
- 2022/05/31: What is BC NDP doing to protect workers from poor air quality due from wildfires?
- 2022/11/08: Changes coming to WorkSafeBC
Premier John Horgan resigns/David Eby becomes Premier
Normally, it is shocking news when a popular Premier steps away from their powerful office. However, Premier John Horgan had well-publicized health issues over the past couple of years and with his poor handling of the museum project, questions about the future of the premier, who continued to enjoy the support of a majority of British Columbians, hung over the political landscape as the summer approached.
For those of us who work in the legislature rumours about an early exit for the Premier heated up even before his health issues emerged. This is only an important point because when Premier Horgan finally announced his resignation and asked the BC NDP to have a leadership race, the event that unfolded in the subsequent weeks was really quite shocking. I am not going to go into the partisan aspects of this any further, I will just say, David Eby is now our Premier, and he announced his new cabinet on December 7, 2022.
Premier Eby has repeated several times that he will not call an election before the set election date in October 2024, so now that the disruption of the leadership event is behind government, they are able to once again focus their attention on serving British Columbians.
I am happy that some semblance of stability has returned. Constituency advocacy was definitely impacted through the summer and fall months as there were so many unknowns for ministries, provincial administration, and former Cabinet members, it felt like government was in a wait-and-see mode until it finally resolved in early December.
Private Members Bills
The treatment of Private Members Bills in British Columbia is extraordinary.
When a citizen elects a Member to represent them they should be able to expect their representative has a pathway to propose motions and bills and have them debated and voted on. Currently the government House Leader (GHL) controls the agenda and only the bills created by their colleagues in cabinet get debated. As a result of the futility, I have limited the amount of time that I and my staff spend getting a bill drafted.
I must thank Premier David Eby because when he was the Attorney General he opened up access to the legislative drafters to all Members. However, it is of little use if his GHL is not going to allow the work of the legislative drafters to be debated. I raised this issue multiple times with former GHL Mike Farnworth and will ask the new GHL, Ravi Kahlon to change the culture and open up the process as it should be.
This year, I and my Caucus team worked with several community members to bring bills with changes to limit the use of solitary confinement in BC prisons, and increased protections of bear dens. The government did not allow either bill to be debated. We are in the process of determining our approach to the legislative agenda this coming year and are considering presenting bills. More on this in the New Year.
- 2022/06/01: Proposing changes to limit the use of solitary confinement in provincial justice system
- 2022/10/06: Bill to protect bear dens in British Columbia
ASK Salt Spring
I am on Salt Spring Island the first Friday of every month for ASK Salt Spring. The community circle is at 11:00am at the Salt Spring Island Multi Space.
This 2-hour open discussion is on whatever topic relating to the provincial government participants want to talk about.
The Public Circle: Community Meetings
My next round of Public Circle Community Meetings is in March.
We will finalize the schedule in January and announce dates and locations as soon as we have the details confirmed.
MLA Columns: Year-In-Review
2022/12/03: MLA Column: Premier Eby needs to get control of chaotic government – Black Press
2022/10/30: MLA Column: Municipal candidates show dedication to community – Black Press
2022/10/08: Addressing Crises in B.C. requires humanizing and collaboration – Peninsula News Review
2022/09/15: Opinion – The Pope can do more: Release records, return artifacts, remain accountable – Globe and Mail
2022/08/04: MLA COLUMN: Get involved in the upcoming municipal elections – Black Press
2022/06/21: Column: $800 million Royal BC Museum plan is politics masquerading as reconciliation – Daily Hive
2022/05/13: MLA Column: Police Act committee delivered needed change – Times Colonist
2022/04/29: MLA Column: Southern Gulf Islands Forum Addresses Salish Sea Anchorages Issue
2022/04/04: MLA Column: Lack of family doctor means diminished quality of life – Black Press
2022/01/27: MLA Column: Building back better starts in the legislature – Salt Spring Exchange
2022/01/21: Supported housing project moving ahead on Salt Spring Island
2022/01/04: MLA Column: Good public policy, not optics, should be government’s goal – Black Press
Contact my Community Office. We are here to advocate on behalf of residents of Saanich North and the Islands.
If you need advocacy or you have a question, concern, suggestion or idea, please do not hesitate to contact me at Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca or 250-655-5600.
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