ÍY SȻÁĆEL (Good Day),
Welcome to my weekly update for week five of the 2023 Spring legislative sitting for March 6 – March 10, 2023.
The pace of the legislative work began to pick up in the final week before the two-week Spring Break.
The BC NDP finally started to put legislation on the agenda to be debated when we return at the end of March. This included bills to address intimate images protection, pay transparency, and changing gender identifiers on birth registration.
My BC Green colleague Sonia Furstenau (MLA, Cowichan Valley) put forward a private members’ bill to restrict the ability of employers and other organizations from using non-disclosure agreements in cases of harassment and discrimination.
Last Friday, I hosted Hon. Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety, on Salt Spring Island. We visited with the RCMP detachment and fire department, and met with the community at ASK Salt Spring. I have shared an editorial about our collaborative work that was published in the Gulf Islands Driftwood.
In Question Period this week I asked about public safety on Salt Spring and addressing gender-based violence. I submitted a petition with 700+ signatures about the Bamberton Quarry, and delivered my response to Budget 2023. In Budget Estimates, I discussed the $1.45 billion Hon. Anne Kang, Municipal Affairs Minister transferred to local governments, and asked Hon. Lana Popham about her 2023 budget in Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport.
I have hosted my first (Mayne Island) of six community meetings. It was an engaging evening with community members, CRD Director Paul Brent and Island Trustees Jeanine Dodds and David Maude. I will have a more complete update in the near future. Over the next week, I will be hosting five more community meetings in communities across the riding.
You can learn more about where the meeting closest to you is being held at https://www.saanichnorthandtheislands.com/events
I look forward to discussing the provincial issues and concerns that are important to you.
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 at Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca or 250-655-5600.
Adam Olsen, MLA
Saanich North and the Islands
March 8, 2023
Since they formed government the BC NDP has consistently misconstrued promises as actions.
They promised for five years to address wage inequity and to deliver free contraception. They finally delivered on the contraception promise but instead of pay equity, British Columbians get pay transparency which is not good enough!
When it comes to addressing gender-based violence the BC NDP promised an action plan would be made public by the end of 2022. As we near the end of the first quarter of 2023, there is still no action plan. And, no funding in Budget 2023.
With respect to delivering on the Calls to Action on the National Enquiry on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the BC NDP government has offered a tiny amount of funding to do the work. Despite that we continue to respond to Ministerial Statements. Good words are not actions.
When the Alliance of BC Students look at Budget 2023 for funds to address gender-based violence at British Columbia post-secondary institutions, they will be disappointed.
Promises are not actions.
March 7, 2023
On Friday March 3, 2023, Hon. Mike Farnworth, British Columbia Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister, visited Salt Spring Island with me.
We met with the local RCMP detachment and Salt Spring Fire to learn more about the challenges they face maintaining public safety in the community.
In addition, we attended ASK Salt Spring for a 2-hour question and answer meeting with the public. It was a fantastic exchange with topics ranging from policing, public safety, cannabis regulation, mental health, addictions, roads, road safety, road maintenance, safe cycling lanes on Fulford-Ganges, ferries, ferry terminals, and many more.
In Question Period, I thanked Minister Farnworth for visiting Salt Spring, noted the gratitude of my constituents for the open and honest discussion. I asked what he learned about the community and what support is available for the construction of a new fire hall and communications infrastructure.
March 9, 2023
I met with Eric Falkenberg-Poetz, Frances Pugh and Daniel Kenway from the Saanich Inlet Protection Society at the legislature. They gave me a petition to present to the British Columbia Legislature.
The petition had over 700 hand-signed signatures, collected by volunteers in a few short weeks. Petitioners are asking Environment Minister, Hon. George Heyman, to require the Bamberton Quarry and Foreshore Expansion projects to undergo an environmental assessment.
Frankly, it is an ask that should not be needed! The Ministry of the Environment did a comprehensive study in 1996. It stated clearly that the precautionary principle should be applied when considering the expansion of industrial activity in the Saanich Inlet.
It is surprising that the operators and owners of the Bamberton property are not wanting to understand the potential impact of their operation and how to mitigate it considering they understand the importance and fragility of the Saanich Inlet.
It is important that the BC NDP and Minister Heyman not under estimate the passion of the people that live around the Saanich Inlet!
BUDGET 2023 RESPONSE
March 8, 2023
Simply, Budget 2023 feels more like an update to Budget 2022 than the transformative legacy that Premier David Eby could have delivered.
Along with the multi-billion dollar surplus that the BC NDP government is rushing to spend by the end of this fiscal year, and the new budget starting on April 1st, Premier Eby had a Dave Barrett type transformative moment to address the deep structural issues that have been created by decades of neo-liberal economic policy.
In my response to Budget 2023, I talk about the missed opportunity and the need for the provincial government to adopt a more balanced, sustainable economic and environmental approach.
Bill 12, The Intimate Images Protection Act 2023, to provide protections against the sharing of intimate images without consent.
Bill 13, The Pay Transparency Act, to require employers to publicly report on their gender pay gap, among other measures.
Bill 15, The Vital Statistics Amendment Act, 2023, which would eliminate the requirement for people 12 and older to get doctor confirmation to change gender identifier on their birth registration, and to remove the requirement to indicate gender on a birth certificate.
Bill 16, Supply Act No 1, 2023, which would provide interim supply for ministry expenditures for the first three months of the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Private Members Bills
MLA Furstenau tabled legislation to make it illegal for employers and other organizations to misuse non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in cases of harassment or discrimination.
March 9, 2023
In the 30 minutes I had in Budget Estimates 2023 with new Minister Hon. Lana Popham, I asked about support for the tourism industry, museum storage of sacred Indigenous cultural items, support for music festivals, and involvement in the Belleville terminal upgrade in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
March 7, 2023
The BC NDP continues to furiously spend the multi-billion dollar surplus before March 31st.
In supplementary budget estimates I had a few minutes to ask questions about the decision of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to distribute $1 billion to the Growing Communities Fund to support the priorities of the188 local governments across the province. In addition, they have allocated $450 million to critical community infrastructure and $45 million to support libraries.
The scale at which the BC NDP is spending is astonishing!
That is not to say that investing a billion dollars into local governments is a wrong-headed approach. However, local governments, through their lobby organization the Union of BC Municipalities, have been advocating for more than a decade for fiscal reform that produces sustainable, resilient sources of revenue that they can count on. This is not how the Growing Communities Fund is designed. Instead, they have created a one-time fund that will be distributed to local governments to be spent over the next five years.
One of the benefits of the way the Growing Communities Fund is structured is that local governments can use money for projects that are local priorities normally ineligible for federal and provincial conditional grants.
While the funds allocated for libraries, the equivalent of three years funding, is desperately needed by our community libraries, they have actually been asking for a per capita increase to produce a more sustainable system over the long-term.
In the end, this is more of the short-term thinking from Premier David Eby rather than the transformative, systemic change that we saw 50 years ago from former BC NDP Premier Dave Barrett.
MINISTER FARNWORTH VISITS SALT SPRING
Farnworth and Olsen demonstrate collaboration
Editorial: Gulf Islands Driftwood – March 8, 2023
Last Friday’s ASK Salt Spring session had more star power than usual, with Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth joining MLA Adam Olsen to meet with Salt Spring constituents.
Farnworth is also the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and his visit was presented as having a community safety/law enforcement focus. Olsen has also been an active member of the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act.
“Part of the reason Minister Farnworth is here is because we reached out when the announcement for increased police resources was announced,” said Olsen. “There’s been kind of a chronic situation here on Salt Spring from a policing perspective.”
The main problem, he said, is that police are asked to take on more tasks outside of a policing realm due to stresses on the community’s social fabric.
Farnworth said he also met with members of the local RCMP detachment while on the island.
“I think one of the challenges that we often face is that you have policing, and you have mental health, and you have housing and you have poverty,” said Farnworth. “And they’ve been viewed as being separate silos that are operating independently of each other, and there’s a lack of recognition that there is a strong relationship between them.”
Defunding the police, which has been suggested by some critics of the current system, is not the answer, he said.
“It’s a question, in my view, of ensuring that . . . we take care of those people who have the challenges that they face, whether it’s poverty, whether it’s addiction, whether it’s homelessness, and ensuring those things are funded in a way so that, in essence, the police are not ending up being a frontline social worker, or mental health worker, which they are not trained to do.”
Another policing question was raised by community members who did not want to lose certain members of the RCMP detachment and asked if a change could be made to the regular four-year transfer rule.
Farnworth said he has heard that request from a number of communities in B.C. and would like to see it addressed.
“But that also means talking to my federal counterpart as well,” he said.
Questions from some of the 56 people attending at the Ganges Fire Hall session ventured well beyond the public safety and policing matters under Farnworth’s ministry purview. Pedestrian and cyclists’ safety, funding for the Island Coastal Economic Trust, ferry service and the lack of senior government infrastructure funds for improvement districts were among topics raised.
He promised to investigate a couple of issues, including the provincial government’s longstanding infrastructure funding policy that has made it impossible for the fire district and North Salt Spring Waterworks District to get provincial or federal government grant funding for major capital projects.
Olsen and Farnworth both stressed that all parties in the house work hard to make progress on important issues, and that well-publicized conflicts and controversies do not accurately reflect the relationships between MLAs, the three parties or the work that is done.
Olsen pointed to a controversy that erupted the previous day about a Langley cannabis company claiming it had the right to produce and sell cocaine via Health Canada permission, which caught the B.C. government off guard.
“This is where the format of Question Period and the theatre of Question Period really actually lets the public down just in terms of what goes on in the Legislative Assembly,” said Olsen, “because you can take a nuanced situation and make it something that perhaps it’s not and that’s what Minister Farnworth faced yesterday in the questioning and what it did was it drove a narrative that now has created confusion, and confusion doesn’t help us work our way through.”
Olsen stressed that all parties in the Legislature have supported safe supply, harm reduction and decriminalization measures when it comes to addressing toxic drug supply deaths.
“This is not a situation that the minister and his colleagues have to solve on their own,” he continued. “Or that the BC Liberals should be thinking that they need to solve on their own and that the [Greens] think they can solve on their own. This is actually a situation, when it comes to the dignity of British Columbians, where the party lines need to just go away . . . and we just need to be colleagues and friends and supporters of good work to keep people alive, in my opinion.”
Farnworth responded to a meeting attendee who said he felt politicians and governments could not be trusted, as witnessed by their acceptance and promotion of COVID-19 vaccines.
Farnworth was first elected MLA for his Port Coquitlam area in 1991, after serving on the Port Coquitlam City Council since 1983. He said he had worked with people across the political spectrum “and without exception, I think those people are all elected to work and to do the right thing; to do a job on behalf of the people of this province, whether you agree with them or disagree. I know that the people see Question Period, but behind the scenes there’s a lot of good work that takes place. And when it came to the pandemic, I was incredibly proud of how our legislature worked cooperatively in the best interests of the people of the province of British Columbia, and the decisions that we made based on medical science.”
He stressed that if there’s a solution to be found, “that’s what we are there to do.”
“Ninety per cent of the work is very collaborative,” agreed Olsen.
This Friday’s ASK Salt Spring meeting is at the usual Salt Spring Island Multi Space lobby venue. Capital Regional District (CRD) director Gary Holman is the guest, with this year’s CRD budget being the main topic of discussion. ASK Salt Spring is a volunteer initiative of the Salt Spring Community Alliance coordinated by Gayle Baker. Each week it features local or provincial politicians or reps from various public or community agencies who present updates and take questions from the public.
The next round of community meetings will be hosted from March 10-18, 2023.
Join MLA Adam Olsen to discuss topics relating to the provincial government. Community meetings are open to the public and completely non-partisan.
On Mayne, Galiano, Pender and Saturna Islands, CRD Director Paul Brent, and on Salt Spring Island, CRD Director Gary Holman, will join MLA Olsen to highlight, update, and answer questions on the work they do together to represent and support the Gulf Island communities.
Please share these events with you friends and neighbours!
Learn more about upcoming events at https://www.saanichnorthandtheislands.com
MLA REPORT: Getting down to business on improving the economy
Green MLA Adam Olsen meets with local business leaders
Column: Peninsula News Review – March 5, 2023
I keep a pulse on the local business community through regular meetings with business leaders. At the end of British Columbia Chamber of Commerce week (Feb. 13-17), I invited the chambers in Saanich North and the Islands to a video call to hear how I can better advocate for them with the provincial government.
Our riding is diverse, as are the needs of the businesses. In addition to supporting the tourism economy with safer transportation routes and visitor-friendly infrastructure, there was overwhelming agreement that workforce housing was the top priority across the Peninsula and Southern Gulf Islands.
We have a range of housing needs – for frontline workers, skilled trades, health care, the technology sector. The Sidney commercial centre, and the Keating and West Sidney/North Saanich business parks generate more than a billion dollars of activity annually making them critical contributors to the local and regional economy.
The enterprises in these commercial and industrial zones produce necessary tax revenue for our municipal governments, jobs for our community members, and vibrant neighbourhoods for people of all ages.
Currently, thousands of workers commute more than 40 kilometres to get to work each day. On the Southern Gulf Islands, businesses are struggling because their workers have been priced out of the real estate market, and many rental units have been turned into short-term vacation rentals.
Add all the factors challenging local business competitiveness together and it poses a significant risk that I and my colleagues in elected office must understand and respond to.
Earlier in the week, my BC Green caucus colleague Sonia Furstenau and I met with the BC Chamber of Commerce board chair Greg Thomas, and president and CEO Fiona Famulak. They visited the legislature to meet with MLAs to advocate for businesses.
Over the last few years, the resilience of businesses across the province has been tested with the global pandemic. The ensuing inflation and rising costs on business have added to their challenges. Many businesses have closed their doors, and many more are threatened.
The BC Chamber pointed to increasing wages, the employer health tax, PST, mandatory benefits such as paid sick leave, and delays of project permitting.
I left these meetings with a fresh reminder of the balance we must strike to ensure that both the workers get paid fairly and have the benefits they need to keep them safe and supported at work, with the reality of the entrepreneurs and investors in our communities who create the jobs, hopefully close to home.
Lastly, a reminder of my upcoming Public Circle community meetings in March. Please join me to discuss topics relating to the provincial government. Community meetings are open to the public and completely non-partisan. A meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 13 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Sidney’s Star Cinema, 9840 Third St.
Adam Olsen is the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.
IN THE NEWS
CBC Political Panel
Listen in every Monday morning, 7:30 I’m on the CBC Political Panel on The Early Edition with Stephen Quinn | Live Radio | CBC Listen
Indigenous leaders say they lack resources to weigh in on new B.C. laws – Times Colonist/Vancouver Sun/Glacier publications
Les Leyne: NDP cabinet ministers struggle to spend last-minute budget windfalls – Times Colonist/Glacier
Les Leyne: NDP spending spree under scrutiny – Times Colonist/Glacier
Editorial: Collaborative government approach is effective – Gulf Islands Driftwood
Farnworth and Olsen demonstrate collaborative approach – Gulf Islands Driftwood
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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