Over the last few months, I have written and spoken a lot about the erosion of our democracy because of a lack of respect by our provincial government for established and time-tested legislative processes.
Among other offences, they have manipulated the parliamentary calendar for their own partisan purposes, time limited and closed debate on complex legislation before public scrutiny is complete and limited media access unnecessarily.
When the government undermines itself by turning our legislative assembly into performance theatre, a farce, the consequence is the erosion of public confidence in the institution. Unfortunately, it creates the ideal conditions for conspiracies to grow.
When I was first elected in 2017, I reached out to Peter MacLeod from Mass LBP because I was curious about his “Constituency Project.” As part of his graduate studies, he travelled the country visiting constituency offices to see how they were advocating for and engaging the public.
Peter’s advice led to me creating “The Public Circle.” It is a fancy name for the proactive public outreach work of the Saanich North and the Islands Community Office.
In addition to the advocacy service that my small team does on behalf of citizens living in our riding, I’ve experimented with a variety of tactics to increase consultation and engagement to become a more accessible, transparent, and informed elected representative.
I’ve used live video on Facebook, recorded and published podcast discussions with constituents, hosted community issue-focused community dialogues, town hall-style community meetings, and opened the office boardroom (with video conferencing) to community groups to use for free. All under The Public Circle initiative.
As with everything, COVID-19 forced us to rethink some of the tactics we used and was the impetus behind new ones such as the Southern Gulf Islands Forum, a monthly and bi-annual gathering of elected officials in the riding focused on collaborating on multi-jurisdictional issues.
I am excited to reinvigorate The Public Circle with another round of community meetings in March. On the Southern Gulf Islands, I will be joined by Capital Regional District electoral district directors Paul Brent (Southern Gulf Islands) and Gary Holman (Salt Spring Island).
We are confirming the schedule, but for now I hope you will save the date for the meeting in your community and join us in discussion about provincial and regional issues. The meeting is tentatively set for March 13 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Sidney’s Star Cinema, 9840 Third St.
In addition, we will be ramping up other community engagement events. If you have a topic that you think I should host a community dialogue on, please contact me at Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca to share your ideas.
Adam Olsen is the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.
MLA Column originally published in the Peninsula New Review on February 5, 2023.