MLA Adam Olsen Challenges Status Quo: Do MLAs Still Need to Sit Two Sword Lengths Apart?
Twenty-two joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering to welcome MLA Adam Olsen, assistant Patricia Pearson, and intern Maya Achuthan. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Adam shared with us things that excite and delight him. He first told us of how delighted he is with the community office and how updated processes have improved its service and productivity. As the Legislature is adjourned until October, Adam spends the summer focusing on us, his constituents. From the smile on his face, it is clear that he loves this role. But, when the Legislature reconvenes, he will welcome his renewed close access to his government, opposition colleagues, and cabinet ministers.
In addition to his focus on his constituents, Adam is a member of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC). One of the recent issues on the table is accommodating an increase in the number of MLAs and answering the question of where they will sit in Chamber. Most of us were shocked that new desks will cost $20,000. As one participant mused, How could a desk - even an intricate, beautifully-handcrafted one - cost that much?
To add to the discussion in this committee, there is concern about finding the space for these desks. Currently, the Legislative Chamber is organised around conflict with MLAs sitting two sword lengths apart - presumably so that an MLA of old could brandish a sword without harming the opposition MLA who might also be brandishing a sword :). And, so began a 40 minute ASK Salt Spring conversation about furniture in the Legislature. But, not really, as the issue is the need to ensure that our government has the courage to make the decisions needed today rather than simply relying on maintaining the status quo.
What would happen if legislators sat on benches instead of having their own assigned desks?
What if each legislator were randomly assigned a different spot each week? Would that always-changing seating plan generate new and invaluable relationships?
What if the status quo were questioned, replaced by a conversation about what actually works?
Adam sees little hope for a conversation that questions the status quo by an open discussion about values and objectives. How the Legislature is arranged - yes, the furniture - is important! In his opinion, this seating pattern has a critical role in determining how relationships among MLAs are forged, ultimately determining the effectiveness of our government.
If our legislative leaders choose tradition and status quo over functionality, Adam believes that they they run the risk of falling into an administrative culture that created absurd and disastrous outcomes. An example of this can be seen in the conditions that created the need for Jordan’s Principle (https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1568396042341/1568396159824#). Jordan River Anderson was a young indigenous boy with a complicated medical history. When he was two, it was decided that he could go home from the hospital. Unfortunately, he remained in that hospital until the time of his death at 5 years old because no-one could figure out which organisation would pay for his home care. Kept there by administrative confusion and the unwillingness of bureaucracies to figure out a solution, the tragedy of Jordan's years in the hospital rather than at home clearly-illustrates a system that has lost touch with the individuals it serves.
Whether it is those seemingly-trivial legislative desks or Jordan's lost last days at home, Adam believes that the principle is similar: The status quo does not by default serve us. We must be willing to challenge it and embrace change when it is needed.
A participant spoke of progress concerning reconciliation in the ministry with which she works, Adam agreed, recalling a recent time when real change was possible: the minority government between 2017-2020 showed what can be accomplished when the status quo is challenged and new thinking is embraced. The NDP’s gain of a majority government slowed much of this progress.
Switching gears, a participant asked whether the almost-immediately allocated rebates for eBikes (https://bcebikerebates.ca/ would be offered again. Adam was hopeful that the fund would be replenished but promised to get further information. This participant also asked about our proposed Ganges speed limit reduction to 30 km/h (hoping for an announcement) and line painting (promised this month).
An electric car enthusiast spoke of the need for high speed electric chargers. While there are already 18 charging stations on Salt Spring to serve our 433 electric vehicles as well as the top up needs of visitors, the world is changing, according to this participant. While many Salt Spring EV owners charge at home, a centrally-located high speed charger is needed to serve the needs of:
Those who rent and are not allowed to plug in at their home;
Taxis that drive about all day and need a high speed charges throughout the day;
Electric trucks that are suddenly appearing, needing to recharge to make many work trips each day.
While BC Hydro is very interested in electric chargers, there are challenges: Among these is the practice of installing these high-speed chargers along major highways. Adam mused: Could we convince them that Fulford-Ganges is, in fact, a major highway?
Hoping that Salt Spring, already well-known as the community with the most electric vehicles per capita, could be that rural model of accessible high-speed chargers, this participant is working with partners, seeking funding. While, in theory, these chargers would pay for themselves through user fees, there are challenges: They require a location with excess electrical power as well as parking space(s) the property owner is willing to allocate for charging. It was concluded that a solid business model is necessary for the success of this initiative, convincing those with parking spaces that those charging their vehicles will generate both charging fees as well as purchases while awaiting a full charge.
A participant shared her concern about the danger to pedestrians and cyclists on Saturdays when vehicles are parked on both sides of Ganges Hill. To the surprise of some, current parking signs indicate that it is legal to park on Ganges Hill south of Embe Bakery. Adam wondered if No Parking signs further up the hill had been lost? What will happen after the Ganges Hill repaving project has been completed with our long-awaited 1.2 metre bike lanes on both sides? Will these shoulders be filled up with parked vehicles? Adam’s team will reach out to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) to clarify parking on Ganges Hill.
A homeowner along the Ganges Hill repaving route wondered why no one from MoTI has reached out to her and her neighbours to discuss their plans. She is hopeful that this neighbourhood-wide conversation with MoTI will be arranged rather than MoTI’s apparent preference for phone calls to address issues. While supportive of the project, she, and her neighbours, are concerned about a number of things, including drainage and possible floods as the result of this repaving.
And yes - parking in Ganges, especially on market days, is a concern. . . . While a few participants spoke in favour of a walkable/cycle-able Ganges rather than a car-centric village, most understand the complexity of this issue. (Want to discuss parking in Ganges? Come to ASK Salt Spring Friday, August 18, 11-1, in the SIMS Courtyard.)
When one participant stated that our roads are actually quite safe, a rather heated discussion took place. A cyclist who has given up her car believes that she risks her life every day she gets on to her bike. While some stated that Salt Spring was becoming more and more of a cycling community, others stated with authority that our roads were simply not designed for bikes. Want to see our safety statistics? (https://www.islandpathways.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/1_IP-to-Ministers-Fleming-Dix-ICBC-MLA-Olsendata.pd)
Adam, at various times the driver of a car, an eBike, and a pedestrian, stated that the perspective we hold depends upon our mode of transportation at that time. When driving a car, he gets annoyed with bikes, when cycling, he gets annoyed by cars, and the beat goes on. . . .
Adam suggested that we reframe the conversation to understand - and act - as if we all share equal responsibility for the safety of all road users. Rather than somehow believing and acting as if the driver of the biggest vehicle is entitled, why not shift to understand that we all have responsibility - and the driver of that biggest vehicle has the most responsibility for the safety of all? (Want to learn more about our roads and maintenance? Come to ASK Salt Spring Friday, August 25, 11-1, SIMS Courtyard, for a conversation with MoTI Area Manager, Owen Page, and Emcon Operations Manager, Andrew Gaetz)
A participant suggested that BC ferries charge double for the plethora of oversized personal vehicles, giving smart cars a half price rate. One recalled a time when BC ferries did just that, tearing a ticket (remember ferry tickets?) in half for undersized vehicles, giving them two trips. Another recommended that we charge every Salt Spring-bound vehicle one dollar - funding a free and frequent bus system.
As BC Ferry issues have taken a lot of Adam’s time this summer, he responded by telling us of his dialogues with President and CEO Nicholas Jimenez (https://www.bcferries.com/news-releases/bcferries-appoints-president-&-CEO) primarily encouraging the organization to communicate better, especially when things go awry. Adam is pleased that the detailed information BC Ferries released about its plans for the long August weekend helped better inform ferry users. In Adam’s opinion, while BC Ferries cannot solve every problem immediately, they can tell us what they are doing to address issues and give us the most current sailing information available. (Want to meet the BC Ferries folks and ask questions? Mark your calendar for ASK Salt Spring October 20, 11-1, at Lions Hall.)
As 1:00 quickly approached, a participant offered his out of the box, tongue-in-cheek opinion: Give Ganges back to us, and get rid of the Saturday Market. While this sparked a brief conversation about moving the Saturday Market to another location outside Ganges, we were reminded that our markets attract the customers needed to support many of our artists, farmers, and craftspeople as well as our restaurants, accommodations, and retail businesses.
As we began to fold up our chairs, we thanked Adam and his team for spending time with us each month. We appreciate the opportunity he gives us to look at things from a different perspective, his enthusiasm to understand and address those issues that matter most to us, his willingness to work so hard for us, and that cheerful tenacity with which he proceeds. (Thank-you, Adam, Patricia, and Maya!)
Please join us Friday, August 11, 11-1, in the SIMS Courtyard to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman, our Electoral Director as well as a member of the Local Community Commission Team.
What would you like to ask Gary?
Now that you have had several Local Community Commission (LCC) meetings, what are your initial takeaways? Disappointments? Concerns? Pleasant surprises? Optimism?
While the 2024 budget will be a priority, what else do you see the LCC addressing for the rest of the summer and into early fall?
Is there CRD Board news about which we should know?
Please join us Friday, August 11, 11-1, in the SIMS Courtyard to welcome Gary!
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