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  • Gayle Baker

An Enthusiastic Welcome for Candidate Adam Olsen

October 2

Thirty-six enthusiastic Salt Springers gathered in the United Church Meadow to welcome candidate Adam Olsen. While his visit to us was much like so many other times he has joined us at ASK Salt Spring, the spattering of green Adam Olsen signs signaled a slight difference in this gathering. The plentiful applause and the evident appreciation for him clearly illustrated the appreciation for Adam that has grown considerably these past few years. Later in the gathering, Adam shared his initial concerns (and, yes, even trepidation) coming to Salt Spring where involvement is widespread, intelligence prevalent, and opinions abound. He credited ASK Salt Spring as a reason that he now welcomes his regular journeys to Salt Spring. (Thanks, Adam!)

Adam began by recalling the frequent journeys of his ancestors across the often-treacherous passages between islands, each with overlapping tribal territories but no clear boundaries. They made their passages in large - 40’ long by 7-8’ wide - canoes lashed together to make sailing catamarans. Early each summer, marked by the blooming of the ocean spray bush, that sweet smell of summer, they left to set their reef nets and settle in for their season of fishing. When the season was over and the catch complete, his people journeyed back to their home on Brentwood Bay, named Land of the Maples, for the winter.

Adam spoke of the intimate relationship his ancestors had with salmon, an essential life-force. He shared with us that salmon caught in the Saanich Inlet were called chum salmon and that his father had nicknamed him chum when he was a lad. Despite the importance of salmon to British Columbia, we learned that we have not had a salmon advocate in the Legislature since the 1990s. In the ensuing decades, our salmon have been decimated. As we destroy their spawning spots, we destroy them. Adam told us of grizzly bears that looked like weasels, struggling for survival as their food source is being destroyed.

He reminded us that the federal government has a role in this decimation. It had promised that fish farms would be eliminated by 2025. There is now back peddling: a plan to get rid of fish farms has now been promised by 2025.

Adam is concerned that much of the federal fish policy is being dictated by the Atlantic interests. He believes that British Columbia is too willing to let Ottawa dominate. It is time that British Columbia pressure the federal government to focus energy and funding on our precious west coast salmon habitats. A Costal Protection Act for our western waters may be a good beginning. It is imperative that this result in clear lines of responsibility, ending the shuffle of responsibility from agency-to-agency, too often resulting in nothing being accomplished. Adam cited the jurisdictional complexity of something as simple as anchorages as an example of the need for a cohesive agency charged with protecting our waters.

Adam spoke with enthusiasm about the amazing slate of Green Party candidates, highlighting Alexandra Morton, a renowned whale and wild salmon advocate. She brings the passion and expertise needed to place salmon protection clearly on the agenda for our next Legislature, a long-overdue focus.

Adam also lauded Kate O’Connor who is vying for the Saanich South seat. She brings an experience Adam cannot hope to replicate: she will be inheriting the world we create: As the youngest - set to turn 18 next week - she will offer an extraordinarily-important perspective as the new Legislature addresses challenges which will determine the course of our homeland for decades.

Despite his enthusiasm for the amazing Green Party candidates, he reminded us that candidates who win will have to suddenly change their lives completely. . . . something he learned very quickly when he was elected. Shifting to a modern tradition, Adam told us that at the initial sitting of each new Legislature, each MLA uses a Sharpie to sign their name on their assigned desk. While some of these desks are new with only a few signatures, others hold decades of signatures. Adam was proud to be the first to sign his name in his tribal language. . . and he looks forward to doing that again at a new desk when he is returned to the Legislature.

Adam was asked whether he was concerned about building a coalition. He summed up his feelings with the statement that he was sour about what happened but optimistic about what can happen. As the minority government, he told us that it is set, reset, and move forward. After 12 years in politics, he is well aware of the perils of building coalitions but is also clear that building a solid working relationship with the NDP and the Liberals is the only way to proceed.

One participant asked about childcare. While Adam agrees that childcare should be universal, he disagrees with the NDP that the $10/day daycare and $15/hr universal minimum wage is all that needs to change. Adam is adamant that early childhood education must be an essential part of the lifelong continuum of learning. He is convinced that as long as early childhood education is stranded in the Ministry of Children and Families, it will languish. It needs to be moved to the Ministry of Education so that early childhood education takes its place as an essential part of our educational system, designed, monitored, and funded as a part of our lifelong learning commitment to all.

Despite Adam’s insistence the early childhood education is inappropriately located in the wrong ministry, he credited Sonia for her success getting an impressive amount of funding to early childhood education programs in Saanich North and the islands.

When senior services were introduced, Adam recalled that when his 13-year old was born, neither he nor his wife had a clue about caring for this miraculous new life. But. . . his and his wife’s parents knew exactly what to do. And, through the wisdom of his elders, this child thrived. Why can’t we count on our seniors to help address our early childhood needs? Why can’t seniors and children be together in a place in which they both get the care they need as well as passing on the joy, wisdom, curiosity, and love between generations? Why must there be age silos?

Unfortunately, from Adam’s perspective, much of our senior care is managed by for-profit companies fueled by public funding. Reports show that there were approximately 207,000 hours of senior care paid for by our taxes that were never delivered to seniors. According to Adam, too much of our senior funding goes to for-profit administration and into the pockets of stockholders. He quoted the statistic that there was 12 times more money stored in the bank accounts of for-profits serving seniors than in the entire tax allocations for non-profit senior services.

While Premiere Horgan has committed to invest $1.5 billion in senior care, he is unwilling to address to the too-prevalent profiteering in the for-profit senior service sector. Adam likened it to a bucket with holes. Instead of trying to add more and more water, Adam suggested the holes should be plugged. His suggestion of a way to begin this repair is a transition away from funding for-profit senior services and toward non-profit, co-op, and community-based programs. Another imperative to repair this bucket full of holes is to establish an all-party committee for seniors reporting directly to the Legislature and charged with oversight, including audits, accountability, and transparency.

A question about Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) led Adam to tell us a little about the committee reviewing the Police Act and his hopes that this committee will be re-convened when the new Legislature returns. And, his hopes that he will be again asked to join it. This committee had a sweeping mandate to look at the 40-year old, seldom revised, Police Act and recommend both changes to this act as well as alterations to the directions being given to police.

Adam reminded us that policing is complicated, charged with addressing the widely-different needs of rural and urban communities. Despite these differences - and with the understanding that there are times when force is needed to maintain the safety of a community - Adam strongly supports community policing in which our law enforcement officers are a positive part of our community rather than outside forces imposing strength and weaponry.

Policing in British Columbia is a shared responsibility with approximately 30% of the costs for our RCMP funded by Ottawa. Some provinces have decided to reject federal funds, paying for and controlling their policing. While a big step, this is also an option for British Columbia.

On Salt Spring we were reminded that the recruiting challenges faced by the RCMP all across the country are made even more challenging by the difficulty of finding housing on Salt Spring. As a result, our RCMP is often staffed below its allocation. It is also possible that Salt Spring’s allocation should be increased in light of recent concerns. Adam shared that neither he nor Gary had been able to determine the process for applying for an increased allocation but that they were working on acquiring this information.

We learned that the RCMP produces an annual report about their activities in their community. It was generally agreed that it would be useful for Salt Spring to get access to this report. Also, other communities have police committees comprised of community members, RCMP, businesses, and elected officials. This collaboration has resulted in good outcomes, including a better understanding of police challenges as well as support for a community policing approach. When asked how Salt Spring could get the funds needed to have such a committee (potentially reimbursing the RCMP for time away from duties), Adam responded that the province should provide those needed funds.

When food security was introduced to the conversation, we were told that hunger was among the biggest generators of crime: It is an imperative to provide basic food needs to all. Adam responded that it has not been all that long - 150 years - since 90% of our food needs were harvested locally, with a mere 10% supplemented by trade. While there are still arable areas available to produce more locally, modern perspectives have interfered. We have veered away from robust community-based food economies producing, processing, and distributing locally to one of large supermarkets supplying us with the cheapest, most-plentiful options possible.

Adam suggested that we focus upon getting back to the basics of feeding ourselves locally rather than continuing to fight the political battles over the Agricultural Land Reserve. Adam shared his story of oranges with us: His 8-year old daughter loves oranges and can eat them all day, everyday. Recently, a new crop of California oranges arrived at the supermarket. In a hurry, Adan was stuffing ample numbers of oranges in his bag, intent upon getting them quickly for his daughter and moving on to other tasks. But, from the corner of his eye he began to notice an old lady and her elderly daughter standing near the display of oranges as well. Instead of stuffing them into a bag, the older lady appeared to be worshipping this orange with focused intensity.

Adam stopped stuffing and rushing. . . instead, they began to talk. He learned that, in her youth, this lady had eaten one orange a year: It had been at the bottom of her stocking and was the most anticipated gift she and her siblings received each Christmas. And, how she remembered the slow, glorious savouring of those magical oranges! That wondrous memory had remained with this lady these decades later.

It brought home to Adam our casual access to just about any food we want that has replaced an important dependence upon local production, processing, and distribution. Sharing this story with his daughter, he thinks she understood - but she does continue to consume many, many oranges each day.

As 1:00 drew near, and we prepared to bid a fond farewell to Adam once again, we asked what we could do to help. His reply was simple and direct: VOTE! And, if that is not enough, one could also volunteer, endorse, and place a sign.

Interested in joining us? Come to the next ASK Salt Spring gathering at the United Church Meadow this coming Friday, October 9, 2020, from 11 a.m. -1 p.m., to welcome NDP candidate Zeb King. (Portlock Picnic Pavilion if it rains, and masks may be required.)

All are welcome to ask questions, listen to those of others, and participate in lively conversations.

Socially-distanced chairs and safely-made chocolate chip cookies provided; Bring your favourite beverage, curiosity, and a smile.

No time to sit in the Meadow? Any question, anytime:

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We would love your receipts! Remember: #15

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