MLA Column: Proposed legislation aims to protect firefighters and bear dens

Apr 6, 2024 | Blog, Community, MLA Column | 0 comments

I’ve sat on a lot of committees in my time as an MLA, including police act reform, freedom of information and privacy act reviews, and several hiring committees.

Last summer, I participated in an all-party committee to look at how private members (all MLAs except cabinet ministers) could introduce, debate, and vote on bills or motions. Currently, the legislative agenda is entirely controlled by a couple dozen cabinet ministers in executive council.

All elected representatives should have the opportunity to introduce public policy and have it debated and voted on. The BC NDP committed to the committee recommendations to increase access of private members for the next parliament after the provincial election. Let’s celebrate the changes as a positive legacy.

However, with an election scheduled for this fall, the only thing current members can count on is the next six weeks. So, I have introduced two solid initiatives with strong public support that the BC NDP government should consider before the election.

For three consecutive years, I’ve introduced legislation to protect bear dens on public and private land.

Premier David Eby committed Minister Nathan Cullen to protect wildlife, implement recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review and Together for Wildlife Strategy, work toward Indigenous Conserved and Protected Areas, and lead the provincial “work to achieve the nature agreement’s goals of 30% protection of B.C.’s land base by 2030.”

Why not start by protecting the habitat around bear dens? Bear den habitats are a critical oasis for stressed forests, and bears are essential ‘forest tractors’ spreading nutrients across their territory. Bears are crucial allies in regenerating devastated clearcuts and torched creeks and streams.

It is not in our ecological or economic interest to displace bears. It leads to increased human-bear contacts and unfortunately often ends in the destruction of the bear. The B.C. Conservation Service killed more than 600 bears last year, many the result of increasing pressures on bear habitat.

I also introduced the Firefighters Amendment Act, a proactive measure that creates provincial standards to limit firefighters’ exposure to forever chemicals in firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) and fire suppression foams.

Labour Minister Harry Bains has progressively added presumptive clauses in our workers compensation programs for firefighters with certain cancers to support them and their families’ access to the resources and services they need.

Just as Premier Eby set targets for nature protections, I encourage him to set equally ambitious targets for the transition to fire protection and suppression equipment free of per- and polyfluoroalkyls (PFAs).

Firefighting is a dangerous job, and we should not unnecessarily expose firefighters to toxins. The BC NDP government should follow the lead of Vancouver Fire Department and ensure all fire services no matter where they are located in British Columbia—professional and volunteer, large and small— have access to PFAs-free equipment.

Former Premier John Horgan recognized that good ideas are not limited to his side of the house. Now Premier David Eby has an opportunity to support good ideas in a spirit of cross-party collaboration in the waning weeks of the 42nd parliament.

Community Meetings

I will be visiting your community for my spring community meeting tour. I hope to see you there!

A community meeting on the Saanich Peninsula is set for Thursday, April 11,from 6:30 to 8 p.m., in my community office in Sidney, at 9828 Fourth St. (street level in the Aranza building, across from ANAF#302). Let us know if you will join us, RSVP at

Adam Olsen is the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.

This was originally published in the Peninsula News Review on March 31, 2024.


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