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  • Gayle Baker

Ferries, Bills, Speeches. . .and "When Oh When Will We Get Vaccinated, Adam?"

March 5

Escaping Zoom Gloom, the spring-like weather enticed many outdoors and away from their computers. As a result, only ten participated in this ASK Salt Spring gathering. While too many missed our rich time of learning and conversation, those who participated were so very appreciative of the wisdom, honesty, and insight our MLA Adam Olsen brought to this conversation. While words cannot hope to replicate this rich discussion, it is hoped that this report will still offer some valuable information to those who missed ASK Salt Spring this week.

After a heartfelt Territorial Acknowledgment, we began by learning a lot about the central governance role of the BC Throne Speech. Its purpose is to outline the agenda of the governing party for the coming year. While it is not always voted upon by members, it is heavily-debated and lays out the action plan for the legislative session.

Adam is concerned about the current Throne Speech, delivered December 7, 2020, by our Lieutenant Governor, Janet Austin. (For a full report of it: https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/read-the-full-b-c-throne-speech-from-december-2020-1.5220788. He feels that is too general and does not identify the government’s priorities and how they will be accomplished. Intended to be a clearly-defined roadmap, it is Adam’s opinion that this Throne Speech does not provide the clarity needed to hold the government accountable. Adam hopes for a new Throne Speech by April. Stay tuned. . .

While Adam clearly understands that the needed-focus on COVID recovery has consumed much NDP attention, it is also Adam’s opinion that these first 100 days of the new NDP government have been less than remarkable.

Despite this frustration, Adam expressed his enthusiasm for the accomplishments of committees. In this smaller, more collaborative, environment, Adam is deeply-appreciative of the good work being done across parties. One example of this is his committee work revising the Police Act. While this process is still in the information-gathering stage, initial stakeholder outreach has also begun. Adam has high hopes of good results. While Legislative work may be hampered by unwavering partisanship, it was heartening to learn that MLAs are doing very good cooperative work in a number of the Legislative committees.

Adam has hopes for the passage of local government campaign funding limits as well as innovations for the Housing Hub (https://www.bchousing.org/housinghub/about) to address the needs of the missing middle, those with household annual incomes of less than $99,000. See Adam’s second reading speech for Bill 7 (Tenancy Statutes Amendment Act, 2021) here.

Adam is preparing a private members’ bill that would allow local trust committees to make local decisions about logging. While many municipalities already have this right, unincorporated areas and Gulf Island communities, like Salt Spring, currently do not have the ability to make those decisions. While it does not necessarily curtail all logging, it would give our local trust committee bylaw-making power to manage tree-cutting activities.

A major portion of our time together was focused on the COVID vaccination process and some emotionally-expressed discontent with the information we are being given. Many seem to feel that we are following all the rules but that the government is not fulfilling its end of the contract by giving us the information we need and want. Participants expressed that, during these challenging times, it is simply not enough when the provincial government tells us: We have it handled; Trust us.

Instead of defending the government, Adam wholeheartedly-agreed that we deserved better information. He worries that an NDP preference for vagueness is a strategy to ensure that the government will never be wrong. Some serious questions simply need answers:

- Why are our counts not going down despite our strict protocols?

- Without good data, do we actually know who are our most vulnerable?

- Why are too many unwilling to consider that our schools may be transmission centres?

And, the questions go on. . . .While Adam does not have the answers, he invited us to contact his office (Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca), and he and his team will get answers. He also told us that there was news soon coming that will address some of our concerns but that it was not his to share.

Acknowledging the sense of mourning from the Site C announcement (https://thenarwhal.ca/site-c-dam-2021-review-community-concerns/), Adam told us that he believed that Premier John Horgan had just given the contractors a blank check, wondering what will stop them now. We learned that 40% of the power generated by the dam will go to Liquified Natural Gas and fracking industrial users. Adam sees this taxpayer-funded corporate subsidy of the fossil fuel industry extraordinarily-harmful to our children and their children.

Adam agreed when a participant stated that we needed far better watershed mapping, but the good work by our inter-agency Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance (SSIWPA) as well as the very effective Watershed Protection Society were also noted. Work by Transition Salt Spring to support protection activities through fire, water, and forest partnerships was also mentioned. Adam spoke of some exciting collaborative environmental efforts in Saanich. He cited a multi-community effort to revise Official Community Plans to align common environmental issues rather than being limited by jurisdictional boundaries.

BC Ferries is in the midst of a community engagement exercise focused on schedules. We are being asked to help BC Ferries establish criteria to evaluate schedule options. The online survey can be completed until March 16 at : https://www.bcferriesprojects.ca/sg. Once this information is gathered, BC Ferries will be asking communities to evaluate the resulting scheduling suggestions.

While some reminded the group that, in the 2015 engagement process, BC Ferries simply did not get it, filling out this survey is an initial way to ensure good results for this 2021 initiative. Adam reminded us that, while other Gulf Islands were hurt by the 2015 schedule changes, Salt Spring retains the best service of any other island. That said, Adam has met with Brian Anderson, Vice President, Strategy & Community Engagement, to discuss issues such as needed-terminals. He also sees some hope for a reservation system on the shorter routes so that those with important travel needs, like medical appointments, can be assured of a place on the ferry.

As it was quickly time for Adam to leave for his next meeting, we enthusiastically-thanked him for giving us such a rich experience every month. He returned the compliment by telling us that he appreciated the opportunity for a town hall-like opportunity with us each month, hopeful that other areas in his riding might replicate ASK Salt Spring. We learned that his time with us helps him stay sharp expressing his opinions on the things that are most important to all of us. He also told us that issues raised at ASK Salt Spring have generated further action on his part, with promising results.

Please join us next Friday, March 12, from 11-1 to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman to listen to your concerns and tell us about some important and exciting developments. Want to know more about possible community use of the school district’s middle school?Interested to know what we have learned from the Booth Canal to Central pathway to help us do better next time?

Bring your questions, eagerness to learn, and enthusiasm to participate in a discussion of the issues that matter most to us.

To join:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83173679715?pwd=QnU0dFBJbkEwMkY5T2VYUXFiSmxuZz09

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

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

asksaltspring.com

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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