- Gayle Baker
A Dawning Recognition of our Vulnerability in Tense Times?
After a Territorial Acknowledgement suggesting we read The Dawn of Everything (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/oct/18/the-dawn-of-everything-a-new-history-of-humanity-by-david-graeber-and-david-wengrow-review-have-we-got-our-ancestors-wrong) to better understand how Indigenous societal structures have impacted our democracy, 22 Salt Springers welcomed our MLA, Adam Olsen.
Adam began by briefly reviewing some of the bills from the recently-concluded legislative session. Among them were two concerning childcare - one to regulate the childcare industry and the other to further the provincial commitment for universal childcare: https://www.leg.bc.ca/content/data%20-%20ldp/Pages/42nd2nd/1st_read/PDF/gov15-1.pdf)
Adam also told us a bit about two complex bills with long-awaited amendments to forestry policy. Among other things, it moves the responsibility for creating forest stewardship plans from the logging company to the Chief Forester who is now responsible for creating forest landscape plans as well as creating oversight for road building. This bill also provides a mechanism for the province to buy back timber licenses and clarifies the process for the provincial government to gain consent from First Nations: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/42nd-parliament/2nd-session/bills/first-reading/gov23-1).
In Adam’s opinion, this forestry bill is a much needed first step toward addressing British Columbia’s long-standing adherence to a policy of resource extraction that places corporate profits above environmental considerations and Indigenous rights.
Adam also spoke briefly about his concerns about the Freedom of Information legislation which now levies a $10 application fee for all access to information requests. It also allows British Columbian information to be stored on out-of-province servers: https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96165_00) While he agreed that millions of dollars are being spent on Freedom of Information requests, he still maintains that charging us for our own information is not be a wise policy.
Later in our gathering, we learned that Adam believes that legislation is far more robust when there is a minority government. He cited the passage of 50+ bills during the recent minority government compared with 30 pieces of legislation during this current majority legislative session. In his opinion, more is accomplished with a fragmented power base. Without that, Adam believes that a majority government will get increasingly risk-averse, passing less and less legislation, until the pressure of another election spurs renewed action. A majority government is also more likely to shut down needed debate as happened in this legislative session.
Adam concluded his opening comments by comparing his early days as an elected official in 2008 during extremely-challenging economic times to today’s concerns. He has never before seen more tension, even including serious security worries. While Adam can attribute these tensions to a multiplicity of forces, including COVID, resource protests, and the devastating weather systems buffeting us, he is still shocked and concerned.
Adam spoke of a dawning public recognition of our vulnerability. The border closures as well as recent storms have made it all too clear that our traditional supply chains are threatened and fragile. In Adam’s opinion, our local sources of food and supplies need immediate strengthening to reduce our dependence on distant sources.
While the province is not to blame for some of these threatening forces, Adam holds the government responsible for failing to respond to emergencies with the clear communication that is needed. Instead, Adam believes that the province’s responses have been political, more concerned with messages positioning politicians to get reelected than doing the job of governing. As a result, Adam sees a growing lack of trust that could, if unchecked, become a widespread lack of confidence in our government.
As a step in the direction of defusing these party politics, Adam is hoping that a number of multi-party committees will soon be established. He hopes these committees will include ones on Indigenous issues, the opioid crisis, and our environmental emergency. In Adam’s opinion, these non-political issues must be solved by politicians working together to build consensus-driven action.
A participant described the recent protest that blocked the Pat Bay Highway, asking for support of our hardworking police. Adam asked us to understand that this unfortunate event is an illustration of the delicate balance between our rights for peaceful assembly and the legal prohibition of some acts of civil disobedience, including forced road closures.
In Adam’s opinion, while the police have the tools to take the needed action, they do not have the confidence that the province will back them. Adam believes that this is yet another example, so clearly illustrated by the Fairy Creek muddle, that our government must stop using our police and courts as shields. They must, instead, begin to take political responsibility for having created these problems and use diplomacy to solve them.
Concerning Wet’suwet’en, we learned that, in 2014, the BC Liberals signed an agreement with elected chiefs to approve the Coastal GasLink pipeline knowing that they should have also included the hereditary chiefs. This situation has been willingly and knowingly continued by the NDP, further fueling the confusion. Instead, in Adam’s opinion, our government should have given the resources and support to Indigenous peoples to work together to become a part of the solution.
Adam reminded us that we are in the middle of an awkward transition: Until the resources are available for the Indigenous Nations’ governance work required for the self-determination promised in Articles 3 and 4 of the 2019 UNDRIP legislation(https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/indigenous-people/new-relationship/united-nations-declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples), the province will continue to struggle with the issues created by the Indian Act( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Act).
When asked what the implementation of UNDRIP means to all of us - including settlers who bought land and built homes on unceded territory - Adam shared his vision of multiple sovereignties. He used the example of our current multiple sovereignties: Federal, provincial, and local with often overlapping jurisdictions.
In Adam’s vision, a similar system of multiple jurisdictions is needed that also reflect Indigenous decision-makers. While there is no doubt that Indigenous claims are a legal reality, cemented by the 1763 proclamation by the King of England that no territories could be taken without either a treaty of purchase, Adam believes that honesty about current realities and diplomacy to successfully seek a solution is the only route forward.
Switching gears, we learned that the current residents of SeaBreeze Inne will have until February 14 to find alternate accommodations. While no solution has yet been found, Adam assured us that those who can find a solution are meeting weekly to seek alternatives for them.
When disappointment with BC Housing’s unwillingness to purchase SeaBreeze Inne was expressed, Adam stated that, while BC Housing has been buying hotels throughout the province as a response to housing people through COVID-19, they would prefer to support purpose-built housing. When it was pointed out that Drake Road land was available for such a housing project, Adam stated that there is quite a bit of ongoing work to build supported housing on Salt Spring.
While he had no concrete answers, Adam was clearly very aware of the widespread concern for SeaBreeze residents and assured us that he is meeting regularly with agencies and other elected officials with a full commitment to solve this difficult issue.
When asked whether the Speculation and Vacancy Tax would help address our housing problem, Adam saw some hope in its potential to reduce the number of vacant homes on Salt Spring Island. He reminded us that solving the global housing crisis is especially difficult in jurisdictions like British Columbia that have depended upon the housing market to provide affordable housing. This is always going to be a challenge as this market seeks profit from housing, and the provincial government relies heavily on the revenue generated by increasing housing costs.
While our government parades its affordable housing successes, a huge portion of its income is derived from the hot real estate market. (The Property Transfer Tax is the third largest source of provincial revenue.) Adam believes that this dependence upon the income from high housing prices places the province in a potential conflict of interest, supporting affordable housing while also unwilling to cool the market. In Adam’s opinion, as long as real estate prices remain high - filling our provincial coffers - our most vulnerable will remain vulnerable and some of those who have been comfortably housed will slide into that vulnerability as well.
As our time together drew to a close, Adam was given an enthusiastic round of applause for fielding our difficult question with honesty, wisdom, and hope despite too many challenges. A heartfelt Thank-you, Adam!
Please join us Friday, December 10, 11-1, in our winter location at the Library Program Room to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman.
Capacity is limited to 25, and masks are required, removed only to
drink coffee or eat homemade chocolate chip cookies :)
What do you want to ask him?
Have the North Salt Spring Waterworks District discussions about allying with CRD begun again?
What is your solution for accommodations for SeaBreeze residents?
Can you explain a Local Community Commission and whether it will be a referendum issue?
When do you think HarbourWalk designs will be complete?
What do you think we need to do about decades of deferred road maintenance?
See you Friday, December 10, 11-1, in the Library Program Room to welcome Gary!
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
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