In the WSANEC 13-moon calendar, mid-February to mid-March is the WEXES (frog) moon. It is a time of sacredness and purification, and the time to gather food and medicine. The days grow longer, and the sunshine begins to warm the earth.
The frog, as witness and messenger, awakens from hibernation and announces the coming spring, the sacred season of plenty. This is the exciting time of rebirth and renewal.
It is in this spirit that I renewed my commitment to public engagement by hosting six community meetings across the riding. I was thrilled to host my first community meeting on the Saanich Peninsula in three years in the new Star Cinema in Sidney. It’s a wonderful community theatre and if you have not seen a movie in their new space, I encourage you to check it out.
I opened the community meeting with a brief overview of the past few months in the British Columbia legislature highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on our government as well as the value of collaborative non-partisan work in the legislative environment, including on committees and working together to improve access to the legislative agenda for private members (all members except cabinet ministers).
Opening the floor to questions, several topics and issues of concern were raised. We discussed the BC NDP’s decisions to spend the nearly $6 billion surplus and how they allocated it – including more than a billion dollars distributed equitably to the 188 local governments to fund previously unfunded local priorities, funding for libraries, food banks, cancer research, policing, and a $100 million fund for watershed protection.
I heard clearly from some constituents that they hoped more of the surplus would be directed to primary health-care services. One resident expressed her experience navigating the seniors long-term care system with her husband. She was dismayed that more wasn’t being invested in increasing the care hours and increasing staffing. Constituents raised their hopes for electoral reform and their hope to see conservation financing to fund old-growth deferrals. Others hoped that at least part of the surplus would be used to pay down provincial debt.
There are many complex and systemic issues facing our province right now. With a much less rosy financial outlook predicted for the next few years, it is critical that the choices we make today are thoughtful and part of an integrated plan.
I shared that as we questioned the cabinet ministers about the proposed spending, we learned that the premier directed the finance minister who then directed certain ministers to find a way to spend the money. Some ministers seemed ready to defend their decisions while others appeared unprepared. Overall, I was left with the feeling that our BC NDP government does not have much of a coordinated plan. That needs to change.
It was wonderful to connect with so many people who are passionate about their community. While each community in Saanich North and the Islands is unique, in each community we learned about how elected officials and governments can be more effective in our advocacy and we heard about frustrations with bureaucratic, administrative, and multi-jurisdictional gridlock.
If you have questions, concerns, ideas, or opportunities please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 250-655-5600 or email Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca.
Adam Olsen is the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.