ÍY SȻÁĆEL (Good Day),
Welcome to my update for week eleven of the 2023 Spring legislative sitting between May 8 – May 11th.
Well, first an apology for the long delay in getting this final newsletter of the 2023 Spring session out. It has taken some time to get the video content uploaded on YouTube and posted to my blog adamolsen.ca. That work has been done by legislative intern Kayla Brent. I would be in a much worse scenario if Kayla was not there to help. I raise my hands in deep gratitude to Kayla for her assistance in completing the tedious and repetitive work.
Way back in 2017, I watched as my colleague Andrew Weaver posted his work on his blog. At the same time, my friend John was encouraging me to keep a daily journal. As the six year anniversary of my election passed in early May, I’m thrilled that I copied Andrew and as a result I have been successful in posting a record of my legislative work. I am sorry John, I have not been so diligent in keeping a daily journal. However, my blog remains an excellent library of both my legislative work and random journal entries in the form of blog posts.
All the work from Spring 2023 has been published on my YouTube channel. If you are not already subscribed, I hope you will consider it… click here. You will see below links to my work on various Bills that I had yet to publish.
Budget estimates is a whole other story. The annual budget process requires each Minister to move a budget vote for their Ministry and then answer questions before the vote.
This is a unique opportunity for Members to query a Minister on their budget. The questions, especially from the BC Green Caucus, stray into more general topics like the Ministers philosophical approach on an aspect of their Ministerial responsibility.
In the first weeks of the Spring session the Government House Leader and Official Opposition House Leader coordinate the estimates timing. Government allocates a specific number of hours for estimates to be completed and the Official Opposition allocates a specific number of hours to each of their critics. Generally, smaller budgets equal less time, and the Ministry of Health estimates goes on for days.
The BC Green Caucus House Leader (me) then works with the Official Opposition to negotiate time within each Ministry, usually 30, 45, or 60 minutes, depending on our priority.
Estimates is a slower process than question period and is generally an inefficient use of time. Hours pass as critics ask questions, Ministers consult with senior staff, and then finally respond. Sometimes it takes several minutes to get an answer. So, a 30 minute session is not a lot of time to cover a lot of ground.
I would like to see the process for budget estimates change to be a more efficient use of time. Perhaps critics could question senior staff of the Ministry strictly on the budget, and then have time with the Minister asking more political questions. Both streams are important and the BC Green Caucus leans more heavily toward the political questions because our colleagues in the opposition effectively ask about budget allocations in the hours they have with the Ministers.
Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing blog posts with my budget estimates exchanges. There were a number of important issues that I covered across government that I want to highlight. I will share those posts in future newsletters.
My final question in Question Period was about the lack of independent oversight of the BC Conservation Service. There is a lot wrapped up in this issue including public and Conservation Officer safety and constabulary independence in environmental investigations. I am also sharing several items from the debates of government Bills including Bill 18: Haida Nation Recognition Act, Bill 13: Pay Transparency Act, Bill 11: Elections Amendment Act, Bill 21: Civil Forfeiture Amendment Act (2023), Bill 25: Electoral Districts Act, and Bill 23: Motor Vehicle Amendment Act (2023). In addition, I am sharing the video links to Budget Estimates for a seemingly endless number of Ministries.
As you can see this Spring session will go into the books as my most active session as a Legislator. I covered a remarkable number of topics, often in many different Ministries in some cases only separated by the few minutes it took me to get from one room to another.
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
May 9, 2023
BC Conservation Service has no independent oversight
BC’s Conservation Service is a police service. They dress like police, drive similar cars, carry assault rifles & have police-like powers under the Police Act. But conservation officers have no independent oversight. This must change.
The lack of oversight has created space for the abuse of power & toxicity and direct government control of BC Conservation Service. Despite calls for reform & constabulary independence, the Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth has failed to take action.
The Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act raised this issue a year ago & still nothing has changed. The BC NDP must recognize that conservation officers need a safe & transparent workplace to effectively protect our environment, wildlife & local communities.
Serious crimes need investigation & this government’s loitering is threatening public safety & the hundreds of people we ask to do this dangerous work. BC needs urgent action to ensure its well-armed conservation service is accountable & subject to proper oversight.
No Statements this week.
Bill 9, Haida Nation Recognition Act – 3rd Reading
Today, the Legislative Assembly passed Bill 18, the Haida Nation Recognition Act, marking a historic moment for our province and its journey towards reconciliation.
We were honoured to be joined in the House today by several members of the Haida Nation, who have worked tremendously hard to see this day come. It was wonderful to be able to share some words on this special occasion, and celebrate as a family.
Debating Pay Transparency vs. Pay Equity
In March, the House debated Bill 13, the Pay Transparency Act. While important, the legislation does not go far enough. What B.C. needs is pay equity.
The following exchange took place during committee stage, where I introduced several amendments in an attempt to make this bill more meaningful and bring our province closer to achieving real gender equity.
Bill 11 takes a misstep — British Columbians are represented by their local MLA, not party leaders
In April, I responded to Bill 11 and supported two amendments proposed by the Official Opposition which would’ve prevented party leaders from having more power in our elections.
Are unexplained wealth orders the right tool to combat money laundering?
In April, I responded to Bill 21, the Civil Forfeiture Amendment Act, which would permit unexplained wealth orders to combat money laundering. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has raised serious concerns about this legislation, suggesting it will violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Critical reflection is needed to ensure British Columbians’ constitutional rights are upheld, while still tackling organized crime.
Recognizing the Haida Nation’s inherent right to self-governance & my dear friend, Gut Takin Jaad
In April, I had the pleasure of responding to Bill 18, the Haida Nation Recognition Act, and reading the words of my dear friend, Gut Takin Jaad, a Haida member, former legislative intern with the BC Green Caucus, and a current Constituency Assistant for MLA Sonia Furstenau.
Imagining a future with Indigenous riding names & a farewell to the Keating Neighbourhood
In April, I responded to the Electoral Districts Act which added six new ridings to the province and changed the boundaries of dozens more. While my riding, Saanich North & the Islands, remains largely unchanged, we will be losing the Keating neighbourhood to South Saanich. I’ve represented this community in one way or another since 2008 and am sad to see it leave SNI. As several electoral districts are seeing their names altered as well, I reflected on a future where the original names that were used by the Indigenous peoples in this province reflect the names of the ridings that we represent.
Bill 23 helps us move towards less car-centric communities
In April, I responded to Bill 23 which creates minimum passing distances for cyclists, imposes speed limiters on heavy-duty vehicles to reduce collisions and greenhouse gas emissions, and expands the province’s ability to permit technology like robot delivery services. Overall, this legislation marks important progress towards less car-centric communities, though there is still plenty of work to be done to make our cities safer and increasingly friendly for alternative modes of transportation, like bikes and busses.
I will be publishing these exchanges on my blog throughout the summer months with a commentary about each discussion with the Minister. I’ll share those links in this newsletter as well.
March 27, 2023
Ministry of Citizens’ Services
- Transcript (3:55pm)
March 28, 2023
Ministry of Children & Family Development
- Transcript (3:35pm)
March 28, 2023
Ministry of Education & Child Care
- Transcript (3:35pm)
March 29, 2023
Ministry of Child Care (Education & Child Care)
- Transcript (3:10pm)
March 29, 2023
Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy
- Transcript (6:10pm)
March 30, 2023
Ministry of Forests
- Transcript (2:40pm)
April 3, 2023
Ministry of Labour
- Transcript (5:50pm)
April 4, 2023
Ministry of Energy, Mines, & Low Carbon Innovation
- Transcript (2:10pm)
April 5, 2023
Ministry of Municipal Affairs
- Transcript (5:00pm)
April 5, 2023
Ministry of Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation
- Transcript (2:50pm)
April 6, 2023
Ministry of Agriculture & Food
- Transcript (2:15pm)
April 17, 2023
Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure
- Transcript (5:05pm)
April 18, 2023
Ministry of Housing
- Transcript (1:35pm)
April 26, 2023
Ministry of Water, Land, & Resource Stewardship
- Transcript (5:50pm)
April 27, 2023
Ministry of Attorney General
- Transcript (1:05pm)
May 2, 2023
Ministry of Public Safety & Solicitor General
- Transcript (4:50pm)
May 10, 2023
Ministry of Post Secondary Education & Future Skills
- Transcript (5:50pm)
BC Conservation Service needs independent oversight
British Columbians would be shocked to learn that the BC Conservation Service (BCCOS), a small, heavily armed service with no independent oversight, can be directly controlled by the BC NDP government through the minister of the environment.
The Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act report submitted to the legislature last year recommended the Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth fix this glaring lack of independent oversight and he has ignored it.
The BCCOS website describes conservation officers as “highly trained, dedicated individuals responsible for enforcing 33 federal and provincial statutes, they hold Special Provincial Constable Status under the Police Act and have unrestricted appointment to enforce acts and statues, and protect the public and preserve the peace.”
Conservation officers dress like police, drive police-like cars, use police-like tactics, carry police-like assault rifles, have all the powers of police under section 9 of the Police Act but are not subject to police-like independent oversight and have no constabulary independence. They are directly responsible to the minister of environment. It’s his own police force.
When I asked Minister Farnworth about this issue in budget estimates he directed incidents with weapons to the Independent Investigations Office, and issues around toxicity of culture, such as homophobia, transphobia, and racism to the Public Service Agency (PSA).
But section 6 of the Police Act states the Public Service Act does not apply to special provincial constables while exercising a constabulary duty.
Does Minister Farnworth really believe it’s appropriate for the PSA to act as police complaints commissioner for special constables? When I tried to ask the PSA about this situation, I was inexplicably rerouted back to the BCCOS chief and Ministry of Environment staff.
Antiquated legislation unleashes the authority of the minister of environment to direct a provincial policing agency, the BC Conservation Service, in serious environmental investigations like large-scale corporate mining and forestry non-compliances.
For the BC NDP to admit the BCCOS is a fully functional and unrestricted environmental policing agency, limits the powers of the PSA and BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU), and restricts the BC NDPs ability to access information or influence investigations in environmental crime.
The provincial government would be subject to internal policing reviews of environmental decisions both under provincial offence provision, and perhaps the Criminal Code of Canada. Beginning to understand why this BC NDP might be dragging its heels on oversight of the BCCOS?
Constabulary independence should be enforced as a cardinal principle of our democracy and rule of law, just as Minister Farnworth reminds me. But it’s not how his regime is operating.
Conservation officers who put their lives on the line every day must know they have a safe place to do their police work on environmental matters. Currently, they do not.
The Police Act is Minister Farnworth’s responsibility. He is allowing a heavily armed service, with all the powers of police but no independent oversight, to be under the direct control of his colleague, Minister of Environment George Heyman.
Minister Farnworth has been loitering on the special committee recommendation to require independent oversight of the BC Conservation Service for over a year. Serious crimes need investigation and his inaction is threatening the safety of the public and the people we ask to do this dangerous work.
A lack of independent oversight of the BC Conservation Service is unacceptable and the BC NDP needs to fix this immediately.
IN THE NEWS
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