ÍY SȻÁĆEL (Good Day),
Welcome to my update for week nine of the 2023 Spring legislative sitting between April 24 – April 27th.
There are just two weeks to go until the 2023 Spring legislative session is adjourned for the summer and MLAs primary focus returns to our constituency work.
Premier David Eby’s first session in the big office has been an interesting one. It started slowly, with his legislative agenda and budget finally being introduced weeks after we started the session, and now looking to the last two weeks, we have only a couple of bills left to complete and a handful of Ministers left in budget estimates. It will be interesting to see how we spend the remaining time.
I have not yet published any of my budget estimates content. I am hoping to publish and share that work in the first few weeks following adjournment. There are many interesting interactions with the Ministers on their budget and plans.
In addition, this session the BC Green Caucus has put out a lot of calls on government to act. I will summarize those as well in the coming weeks. We try to fashion ourselves as more than opposition Members by proposing ideas for consideration and debate. The government has implemented some of our previous calls, like free contraception, and so this session we continued offering ideas informed by the work of our incredible policy team, Emily Bishop, Hailey May, and Stephanie Siddon.
The boundaries of Saanich North and the Islands will now officially change in the next election. After consulting with communities across the province, the Electoral Boundaries Commission final report became law last week. Initially, the commission proposed moving Brentwood Bay to Saanich South, but in the end decided it would be the Keating neighbourhood that would be carved off Saanich North and join Saanich South. I am sad that they decided to break up Central Saanich however these changes were minor compared to some of the changes that will take effect in the next election.
Last week in question period I asked about access to safe supply, police oversight and accountability, and a review of the mental health act. We continued debating Bill 13, the Pay Transparency Act, and I delivered a response to the Ministerial Statement regarding residential school findings in shíshálh (Sechelt).
Frankly, I am surprised that the pay transparency bill has not garnered more attention. Instead of delivering pay equity to women, gender diverse, and BIPOC workers, the BC NDP is admitting to taking “small steps” toward it.
Both the NDP and BC United agree with this approach. During the debate I offered several amendments that would expedite pay equity and both parties voted against every one. It makes no sense that in 2023 we are debating anything less than pay equity.
Finally, this week the BC NDP took a positive step forward in reconciliation by providing a fund for First Nations communities to access financial resources to engage the province in consultation. I have raised this issue for years, the provincial referrals for consultation pile up in First Nations inboxes, the province time limits the response to 30 days and when they hear nothing they proceed as if they have consent.
With commitment from the province to consult and gain consent, their previous approach was no longer acceptable. With no revenue streams available to First Nations to fund the legal and technical work to ensure their rights were being appropriately represented in decisions, they were basically asked to do this work as volunteers which obviously is unacceptable. This was a necessary step until the provincial government and First Nations establish a new fiscal framework in the future.
We still have to work on the time limits but the announcement of $200 million over the next four years is an important investment and means there should be more capacity for the consultations with the province to move more smoothly. It will result in fewer delays, limit the hard feelings, and better decisions for all of us.
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 25, 2023
Since the toxic drug crisis was declared in 2016, more than 11,000 British Columbians have died. It’s the leading cause of unnatural deaths. But these deaths are preventable. Less than 1% of people who use drugs in this province have access to safe supply.
Hundreds of thousands of British Columbians use drugs — whether daily, on the weekends, or once in a while. The BC NDP says that saving their lives is a top priority. Yet, 99% of people only have access to the toxic supply that kills 6 people every day.
This government could expand safe supply & save thousands of lives, but they’re more concerned about their political viability. As Moms Stop The Harm says, “it’s a result of stigma & lack of will”. We are 7 years into this toxic drug crisis. The BC NDP must do better.
Today I asked Minister Whiteside when she & the BC NDP will expand safe supply for anyone who needs it. Unfortunately, her response conveyed a lack of urgency & failed to inspire confidence that this toxic drug crisis will be curbed anytime soon.
New data shows Indigenous people are nearly 6 times more likely to die from toxic drugs compared to the rest of the population. The First Nations Health Authority says Indigenous people have even worse access to treatment, including safe supply. This is deeply saddening.
This government is ignoring the advice of its own experts. The Chief Coroner’s death review panel asked them to go further on safe supply, through medical prescription & compassion club models. Yet, expanded safe supply and compassion club access is nowhere to be seen.
As a result of their policy failures & refusal to heed the advice of experts, the BC NDP are enabling mass death & disproportionately harming Indigenous peoples. Premier David Eby and his government need to act & urgently expand safe supply. Lives literally depend on it.
April 26, 2023
Our policing services have grown increasingly authoritarian, militaristic & out of reach of oversight. The Vancouver Police Department Chief bragged about answering to nobody, saying “I don’t report to any politician. I don’t report to the City, the province, or the federal government.”
The VDP restricted media from covering the sweeps of the Downtown Eastside. Traffic cameras were turned off & media were barred from entering. In recent years, RCMP restricted reporters at Fairy Creek & on Wet’suwet’en territory. Journalists were unlawfully arrested by the RCMP.
So who are they accountable to? Police are meant to protect & serve the local communities they represent. Instead, we’ve enabled a gross inflation of power, increasing restrictions on free press and police forces that boast about reporting to nobody.
Last year, a Special Committee tasked the provincial government with reforming the Police Act & delivering better accountability for our police forces. Today in Question Period, I asked Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to report on the progress he’s made.
In his response, Minister Farnworth denied that we have an accountability problem in policing. He says we have rules in place & and he expects police to follow them. He promised that new legislation will be introduced in the fall. We expect the BC NDP to deliver.
April 27, 2023
Mental Health Act
The Mental Health Act has not been substantially updated since 1964. Our understanding of mental health and substance use disorders has changed since the last century. Our laws need to reflect that. I asked Premier David Eby if he’d commit to a full review. He refused to stand up and answer.
Instead Minister Jennifer Whiteside provided a non-answer. We need to increase access to mental healthcare, but spending billions of dollars on a broken framework and expecting to get better health outcomes for British Columbians is ridiculous.
Stakeholders, advocates, experts, officers of the Legislature, including the Ombudsperson and the Representative for Children and Youth, and two Committees of this House have tasked this government with updating the Mental Health Act. This government ignores them.
We can’t expect to treat modern mental health issues based on best practices from the 1960s. By refusing to initiate a full review of the Mental Health Act, the BC NDP is willing to put people through a system that causes more harm than good.
April 25, 2023
Yesterday, I stood and responded to the statement provided by the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation in acknowledgement of the pain and tribulations that are being felt from our relatives in Shíshálh, Chief Yalxwemult Lenora Joe, and the leadership in the community, acting on the information provided from the Elders that survived the horrific experiences that happened in residential schools, specifically the St. Augustine Residential School operated by the Catholic church in their community.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, as we have now stood numerous times. Just to acknowledge each time these findings are publicly stated that it’s not just the communities that are noting their findings that feel the effect of these announcements, but it indeed reopens the wounds of residential and day school survivors that live today, their family members and those that may have suffered as a result of being descendants of those people who, unfortunately, never made it home from school.
As the minister said, we must do more. We must do better. We must do our part. I think it’s important to acknowledge, in that, that residential and day schools which we have stood and acknowledged several times now in this House in this chamber were only one part of a much broader policy of assimilation and cultural genocide that was experienced by Indigenous people here in British Columbia and right across our province.
While we mark these occasions by lowering flags and by wearing orange shirts, as a direct descendant of residential and day schools survivors, I feel it’s my obligation to also remind this institution that the steps that we need to take must be more than that. It’s important to acknowledge that that broad set of policies that residential and day schools were a part of were actually about separating mothers and children and undermining Indigenous mothers and fathers.
Even as this institution changes and evolves in many wonderful ways, in fact, it’s important that we’re honest and we acknowledge the many awful ways that it’s not evolving and changing quickly enough. I think of the ongoing suffering that the Ministry of Children and Family Development continues to cause our families. I think about the drug poisoning crisis and the report that we just had last week where 16.4 percent of the deaths of people that passed away as an unfortunate result of the drug poisoning crisis where Indigenous relatives and Indigenous, people, when only 3.3 percent of the population are Indigenous people. That’s 5.9 times the rate of the general population.
I think it’s also important to acknowledge the impact that has had on our women, our matriarchs, our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins; 36.5 percent of the Indigenous people who passed away are women. That’s 11.2 times the rate of women in the general population that have passed away due to drug poisoning. There is a direct connection, and we must make that direct connection to the policies of this place as part of that broad policy.
When we stand in here and acknowledge the impact of residential schools, it is important that we are fully embracing and aware of the deep pain and suffering that it has not only caused the families of those who didn’t come home from school but those who did come home from school. There are people in our communities that continue to carry those stories and that pain and suffering to this very day.
Bill 13, Pay Transparency Act, which will require employers to report pay structures to the province, including information about pay gaps between male and female employees. The bill was tabled for third reading on April 25th.
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 passed committee stage on April 26th.
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
third reading on April 26th.
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 third reading on April 26th.
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 third reading on April 26th.
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 third reading on April 25th.
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 third reading on April 25th.
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 third reading on April 25th.
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 third reading on April 26th.
MLA Olsen responded to Committee Stage of Bill 13, Pay Transparency Act
● Transcript (2:10pm)
MLA Furstenau questioned the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions
● Transcript (5:05 pm)
MLA Olsen questioned the Ministry of Attorney General
● Transcript (1:05 pm)
MLA Olsen questioned the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship
● Transcript (3:20 pm)
MLA Furstenau questioned the Ministry of Health
● Transcript (3:05 pm)
April 24, 2023: B.C. Greens Call For Strategy On Transitional Housing
April 26, 2023: B.C. Greens Introduce Amendments To Pay Transparency Legislation
IN THE NEWS
April 24, 2023: CBC the Early Edition, April 24
CBC news morning Vancouver Island, Seabreeze Salt Spring – MLA Olsen
April 26, 2023: No more fee-based physician program: B.C. Medical Services Commission reaches deal with Telus Health – MLA Olsen, CTV
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