ÍY SȻÁĆEL (Good Day),
Welcome to my update for week seven and eight of the 2023 Spring legislative sitting between April 3 – April 6th and April 17th – April 20th.
I have been busy this session. As you can see my involvement in the House has increased in question period, responses to bills, and budget estimates debates. Keeping the library updated has been a challenge!
I would be in a more desperate situation if it weren’t for Kayla Brent who has been repeating the multi-step process I have evolved over the years to ensure that all my work in the legislature is published on my blog.
As you scroll down you will see lists of responses to bills and budget estimates with just links to the transcripts. Over the next several weeks I will be adding those videos to YouTube and my website and updating you through this newsletter.
In question period I have been focused on a variety of concerning social and environmental issues. Better funding in education for student mental health counselling, the need to regulate private addictions treatment programs, the sweep and displacement of the encampment in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, the demand by Kwakiutl hereditary leaders and community members to halt old growth cutting in their territory, and the ongoing controversy of shipbreaking in Baynes Sound. In my statement this week I focus on pay equity.
In addition to the legislative work, I have been busy in the constituency as well. I attended Ask Salt Spring, cycled with Cycling Salt Spring and Island Pathways, and attended the opening of Archipelago at ArtSpring (April 21st). I had the honour of hosting Bob McDonald at the Sidney LitFest and an Earth Day panel on fracking. I attended the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communites conference in Nanaimo, spoke at the North Saanich Residents Association AGM, and met with Islands Trust, CRD, and Island Health elected and administrative representatives to discuss a variety of regulatory and enforcement issues facing communities on the Southern Gulf Islands.
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
April 3, 2023
Counsellors in Schools
Since the pandemic, mental health referrals and hospitalizations for youth have hugely increased, yet the BC NDP only provide our schools with 1 counsellor for every 693 students. At a time when we need to invest in our children’s mental health, we’re letting them down.
Today in Question Period, I asked when the government will hire enough counsellors to meet the needs of all students in BC. In her response, Minister Rachna Singh called the issue “complex” and fired shots at the BC Liberals while offering no promise of change.
While the BC NDP say the right words on mental healthcare, the reality is that outcomes are getting worse for children’s mental health. In 2021/22, mental health challenges were the most common reason for the hospitalization of Canadians aged between 5 and 17.
According to the BC Teacher’s Federation, the student to counsellor ratio doesn’t align with research evidence that recommends 1 counsellor for every 250 students. BC School Counsellors Association President, Dave Mackenzie said of the 1:693 ratio, “these 20-year-old ratios are a travesty and deserve attention from the Ministry.”
The evidence is clear: healthy kids make healthy adults. Tackling these issues early on prevents long-term illness, substance use disorders and helps put children on a path to lifelong wellness. The BC NDP must step up and ensure all youth can access timely mental health supports.
April 4, 2023
Regulating Private Addictions Treatment
The addictions treatment system in this province is failing to meet the needs British Columbians. A lack of public treatment beds has forced hundreds of desperate families to turn to costly, unregulated private facilities to try to help their loved ones. This is unacceptable.
Private facilities are the wild west of unregulated care. They lack treatment standards and can charge $20,000 or more per month without government oversight. And if you need trauma counselling? That’s an extra $375 per hour. Family support groups? That’s $6,500 upfront.
Sadly, many people leave these centres only to return weeks later and receive another multi-thousand dollar bill. Without regulation, treatment facilities are allowed to do as they wish with vulnerable people, meaning they often cause more harm than good.
Today in Question Period, I asked Minister Jennifer Whiteside when she will regulate private treatment facilities in British Columbia. In typical BC NDP fashion, she responded by blaming the BC Liberals and patting herself on the back for progress that is clearly insufficient.
We’ve heard firsthand from families of kids who’ve been kicked out of these private centres and driven to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside with a garbage bag full of their belongings. We cannot allow people seeking help to be pushed back to the street, where toxic drugs await them.
Public facilities face month-long waitlists that leave families reliant on private care.
The BC Greens are calling for an immediate start on work to regulate private treatment centres and prevent further harm to those simply trying to get better.
April 5, 2023
Housing in Downtown Eastside
Earlier this week, Premier David Eby stood in front of a million-dollar townhouse to announce his new affordability plan, “Homes for People”. Today, he is scattering the homeless population in Vancouver’s downtown eastside (DTES). This is not leadership — this is policing poverty.
Today marks the 7th encampment removal in the DTES in 8 years. The mass displacement began this morning when barricades were put up by police & street cameras rendered inoperable. Clearly, the intention was to keep the public eye away from this humanitarian disaster.
While tents and belongings are thrown into garbage trucks, people are being pushed towards packed shelters & dilapidated single-room occupancy (SRO) units. In SROs, people face overdoses, violence, assault & filthy conditions. People living on the street have repeatedly said they feel safer outside.
Premier David Eby says the encampment removal is necessary to keep people safe, but let’s be clear: moving people inside without fixing the deplorable conditions at SROs is unsafe & unacceptable. Everyone deserves dignified housing.
Today I asked the BC NDP to confirm there is dignified housing available for everyone being displaced in the DTES. They couldn’t. Citing close collaboration with the City of Vancouver, Minister Ravi Kahlon said 300 units would be coming soon. How soon you ask? Not until June.
Premier David Eby is scattering hundreds of people right back into a dangerous situation, while saying it could take months before housing becomes available.
The BC NDP say they want dignified housing for these people, but evidently they want them off the street more.
BC’s Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, shared online that she was very troubled by today’s events. We have a housing crisis in BC and instead of addressing the root issues, we respond with disgust & stigma towards our province’s most vulnerable people.
Today’s encampment removal in the DTES demonstrates a catastrophic policy failure in British Columbia. Housing is a fundamental human right — we need Premier David Eby and the BC NDP to act like it.
April 17, 2023
Protecting Old Growth in Kwakiutl Territory
The BC NDP have repeatedly promised to protect old growth forests & meaningfully engage with First Nations. They promised a paradigm shift and a deferral on all at-risk old growth. Yet, old growth within this deferral area is actively being logged on Kwakiutl territory.
These culturally significant and biologically rich old growth stands are being cleared against the community’s will. Cuts were approved without consultation, leading the Kwakiutl to issue a letter to the Minister of Forests demanding the logging stop.
Recently, logging operations have led to landslides, sloughs & tree blowdowns, sending debris into the Cluxewe River. This is critical salmon-spawning habitat.
The BC NDP said these forests wouldn’t be touched until a plan to protect its old growth stands had been created — it hasn’t. While this government continues to make sweet-sounding promises, they are more than happy to cut first & ask questions later.
Amidst calls for a moratorium, a secret forestry deal has been approved between some elected officials & logging companies. Today I asked Minister Ralston if he would suspend all activity in Kwakiutl territory & share the new agreement with the Nation’s members. Instead of answering, he restated the BC NDP’s commitment to reconciliation — meaning reconciliation with those who agree with them.
Lemare Logging Ltd has already harvested several stands & is building roads towards the next set of trees. Urgent action is needed to curb the destruction of one of Vancouver Island’s last old growth forests. The BC NDP must step up & fulfill their broken promises.
April 18, 2023
Shipbreaking in Baynes Sound
Baynes Sound produces half of all BC shellfish. It is an important site for the K’omoks First Nation and is federally designated as a Biologically & Ecologically Sensitive Area. Despite this, the province has allowed ship breaking – one of the most hazardous industries in the world – to occur on its shores.
Ship breaking involves the demolition of seacraft. It is globally recognized as having the potential to pollute shorelines with harmful substances like asbestos, PCBs and heavy metals. If properly regulated, it is an important industry — but BC lacks clear laws.
Deep Water Recovery, the company operating in Baynes Sound, was found to be out of compliance 4 times under BC’s Environmental Management Act and Hazardous Waste Regulation. The company received three warnings and one advisory. Still the province refuses to issue fines or revoke their license.
Nearby residents & the K’omoks First Nation have raised serious concerns about risks to their safety, the health of their families, and the environment. Today the BC Green Caucus is calling on the government to regulate the shipbreaking industry.
Last spring, a group of several NGOs, including WWF Canada, sent an open letter urging the BC NDP to follow other global leaders and adopt ship breaking regulations. The Association of Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities (AVICC) also unanimously passed a motion calling for legislation. To date, nothing has happened.
Ship breaking in Baynes Sound is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Today I asked if the BC NDP will step up and regulate an industry that is actively endangering the health and rights of First Nations, wildlife, and community members.
Minister George Heyman said the government is “working on it”. He assured us that he was aware of the issue and that inspections & meetings will continue. With 3 years of advocacy and no action, it seems very likely that environmental violations will also continue under the BC NDP.
This industry poses serious risk to workers, communities & marine environments. By refusing to act, the government is signaling to companies across the province that pollution is tolerable under its watch. The BC NDP must step up and regulate shipbreaking in BC.
April 20, 2023
We are debating pay transparency legislation. At committee, Finance Minister Katrine Conroy has told me repeatedly “this is the first step.”
We should be debating pay equity legislation like many other provinces did in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began three years ago, it drew the inequalities of our world into the daylight.
Disproportionately, it was racialized workers who became ill and died, because they were more likely to work in low-paid jobs deemed essential when everyone else was told to stay home. Gender inequalities in the household work and layoffs emerged. It was called a she-session. The gap between the rich and the poor grew. Where gender and race and disability intersected, the impacts were all the more complex and challenging.
A lot has changed since the outset of the pandemic. In British Columbia, many of our job losses have been regained. But we all know that jobs are not all created equal, and we know that our province remains a deeply inequitable place. While a few individuals in corporations swim in windfall profits, many are growing increasingly desperate because of the cost of living, the housing crisis, the toxic drug crisis, the impact of extreme weather events.
We celebrate the hard-won battles of workers throughout history. Workers are why we have a weekend, why we have a minimum wage, why we have the right to refuse unsafe work. Workers, people, organized and fought for these wins.
These wins do not absolve us from the responsibility we have to address inequality and inequity.
We must challenge the notion that a small step towards pay equity is good enough. We should not sit idly by, accepting that the burden be unfairly carried for yet another generation.
Today our fights are for pay equity, housing as a human right and clean air in the workplace, demanding the government decide with people instead of corporations.
Even as the banners in this House change, it seems the fights remain the same.
Bill 17, Family Law Amendment Act, which would amend how pets and pensions are handled during divorce proceedings. The bill passed third reading on April 3rd.
Bill 18, Haida Nation Recognition Act, which would recognize the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) as the government of the Haida Nation. The bill was tabled for second reading on April 20th.
Bill 19, Money Services Businesses Act, which would make the BC Financial Services Authority the regulator for money services businesses, armed with investigation and enforcement powers. The legislation would also impose background checks and reporting requirements. The bill was tabled for second reading on April 20th.
Bill 20, Business Corporations Amendment Act, which would create a beneficial ownership registry for private businesses in B.C. — similar to the one set up for real estate holdings, as recommended by the Cullen Commission. The bill was tabled for second reading on April 20th.
Bill 21, Civil Forfeiture Amendment Act, which would introduce unexplained wealth orders, streamline vehicle forfeiture, target illegal cannabis operations, and eliminate the limitation period for investigated properties. The bill passed third reading on April 6th.
Bill 22, Strata Property Amendment Act, which would make it easier for strata corporations and owners to install charging stations for electric vehicles. The bill was tabled for first reading on April 6th.
Bill 23, Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, which would create safe passing rules, introduce new speed limiting technologies, and allow the government to regulate automated vehicles. The bill was tabled for second reading on April 20th.
Bill 24, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, which would allow the Ministry of Children and Family Development to support former youth in care up to the age of 27, among other changes. The bill was tabled for second reading on April 20th.
Bill 25, Electoral Districts Act, which would implement the final recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commission without amendment. The bill was tabled for first reading on April 17th, and second reading on April 20th.
Bill 26, Municipalities Enabling and Validating (No. 5) Amendment Act, which aims to move a supportive housing project in Vancouver forward despite legal objections lodged by opponents. This bill was tabled for first reading on April 18th.
Private Members’ Bills
MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced Bill M221 – Member’s Conflict of Interest Amendment Act, which, if passed, would prevent MLAs from taking board positions or employment for a period of time after holding office. It is based on the federal Conflict of Interest Act, but increases fines from $5,000 to $50,000, mirroring Alberta’s legislation. The amendments allow former MLAs to apply for an exemption, which the Conflict of Interest Commissioner can grant if they are satisfied that the public interest in protected.
Second reading of Bill 18 – Haida Nation Recognition Act
Second reading of Bill 25 – Electoral Districts Act
Second reading of Bill 23 – Motor Vehicle Amendment Act
Committee of the Whole Bill 11 – the Election Amendment Act, 2023
Committee of the Whole Bill 21 – the Civil Forfeiture Amendment Act 2023
Ministry of Transportation
Ministry of Housing
Ministry of Labour
Youtube (coming soon)
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation
Youtube (coming soon)
Ministry of Municipal Affairs
Youtube (coming soon)
Ministry of Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation
Youtube (coming soon)
Ministry of Agriculture and Food
Youtube (coming soon)
April 4, 2023: B.C. Greens Call For Regulation Of Private Treatment Centres
April 18, 2023: B.C. Greens Call For Regulation Of Ship Breaking Industry
IN THE NEWS
April 3, 2023: CBC the Early Edition, April 3
April 10, 2023: CBC the Early Edition, April 10
April 17, 2023: CBC the Early Edition, April 17
April 5, 2023: ICET gets one-time funding
April 3, 2023: B.C. to spend billions on more homes to ease housing crisis
MLA REPORT: Peninsula residents air concerns during series of community meetings
Column: Peninsula News Review – April 2, 2023
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.
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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