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  • Gayle Baker

Seeking a Green Recovery with Adam Olsen

June 5

Only eight attended this Zoom meeting with Adam Olsen. Although one could wonder if Salt Springers have had every one of their questions answered already, it may be only that folks are tired of sitting in front of their screens. A gathering next week with Gary Holman in the United Church Meadow (weather permitting) should give us an idea of the interest in getting together face-to-face to seek answers this summer.

When an apology was given to Adam about a question in a past session when it was asked why indigenous peoples could not reach consensus, Adam graciously said that he is quite practiced at discerning motivations and intentions of others and that no apology was necessary. Still gracious, when asked about Trudeau’s speech about racism that did not reference our indigenous peoples, Adam declined to criticize him.

A Salt Spring homeowner who has not yet been granted immigrant status asked about calculating the six months that she can be here. Is it six month per calendar year or does the clock begin again whenever she crosses the border and then returns again? She was given Elizabeth May’s contact information for help getting this answer. She also asked whether she might be able to stay longer than her allotted six months this year as the border closure had forced her to stay longer than expected on this trip. As a result of using much of her allotted time, she may not get to come back here in the summer months planned. Adam’s office is contacting Immigration for answers to in light of our unusual circumstances.

Question: What are the Provincial Corona Virus health guidelines for the kitchens of restaurants and take out-food establishments. We all want to know that the food preparation and food service has public health safety guidance and adherence.

According to the Canadian Disease Centre:

  • There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through food made by infected people. There is a theoretical risk that a person infected with COVID-19 could spread the virus by sneezing on food or by directly touching food with their hands. However, there have been no cases reported of such transmission with COVID-19. There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through eating or touching raw fruits or vegetables.

  • As such, no “special” COVID-19 precautions have been enacted outside of standard Foodsafe practices.

  • Normal cooking temperatures for foods will kill COVID-19 and other microbes in food. As with other microbes, our advice is to always use a thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the food has reached 74°C.

  • The virus is not believed to be transmitted by eating food because it is destroyed during digestion by the acids in your stomach. The greater risk is getting the virus on your hands and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. There are no special precautions needed when storing food, but we recommend washing your hands after putting away food you have purchased and before preparing food.

Question: Without being a public health expert, I have seen what I would consider public health violations. Adam reminded us to contact bylaw enforcement if we feel that our restaurants are violating safe practices.

Concerning lessons learned, Adam shared his concerns about social distancing and the relaxation of our self-isolation. Can we learn behaviors during these more-relaxed outdoor months that will help us in the coming cooler months when we are forced indoors? Can we learn to take control of our own space and keep these behaviours when we need to move indoors again? We concluded this part of the discussion by agreeing that these challenging times have spawned great conversations.

Question: We have just had some cancellations for June at our B&B. Travellers from BC tell us they are confused with the BC Government messaging: is non-essential travel within BC encouraged or not? If the BC Parks are open for bookings, on SSI and elsewhere, surely people can travel around the province?? Can you give us some clarity, please?

Adam agreed that the messaging is inconsistent, especially with the opening of our parks. He agreed that is is confusing for too many. While he predicted that this may change soon (many in government seem to feel that British Columbians should have an opportunity to travel a bit this summer,) the current direction is that all non-essential travel is discouraged.

It was suggested that we stay tuned as the message seems to be changing.

Question: A unintended benefit of COVID 19 has been cleaner air. What should BC and the provincial government immediately do to sustain this improvement in air quality?

Adam and Sonya have written a green (not Green) recovery document detailing ways to invest that will produce a net positive for both the economy and the climate. Although it is not yet ready to be widely shared, this nine-page document will released soon.

When asked what the government will do concerning our environment, he predicted that they would be dangerously teetering in the centerline with fast-moving traffic on both sides. As they are trying hard to take a centrist position, he does not know how things will be resolved. But, he promised to keep pushing. And, he predicted that it would become harder and harder for the government to ignore green recommendations - and their justifications will get continually more difficult to make, requiring them to use using more and more convoluted logic. He reminded us that the increase in fossil fuel is bad for us all and that this message will be heard more and more often.

Two days after he and Sonya submitted their 9-page green recovery document, they met with green economists. There, the conversation moved beyond the environment to include a recognition of the impact of this pandemic on our most vulnerable workers - women, undertrained workers, and all races. While job training is an option, the larger issue has to also be addressed: if a work environment is toxic and unwelcoming (driven by outdated prejudices), workers will neither thrive nor prosper. Those in the workforce need to be educated to contribute to a healthy - emotional as well as environmental - workplace.

We learned that a 116-acre plot of land at 701 Cranberry Road in the Agricultural Land Reserve including Roberts Lake is on the market for $2,850,000. If sold to a private owner, it could be logged to 3 metres of the lake and dammed, impacting the drinking of 200 Beddis Water District residents depending upon Cushion Lake.

In addition to the lake and forest, there is a hay field. Could Salt Spring acquire this land to both protect our precious watershed as well as producing needed-grain to enhance our local food security? Adam responded that the government does not have the money to buy it. He asked us to check the new CRD Agricultural Land Trust and, possibly, Provincial Parks. Not wanting to pass the issue off to another elected official, Gary, he said that he would love to be a part of the conversation with him to explore acquiring this property. ((Gary has already been contacted.)

Also concerning agriculture, Tony Beck and Laura Patrick have met with the Agriculture Minister. The result of this meeting is that she will convene a meeting of all those involved throughout the Gulf Islands (estimated at 65) in the very near future. A focus will be land acquisition and Grow BC.

When asked about the Landowners Transparency Act, passed May 16, 2019, Adam said that the registry is available to the public seeking to get land ownership information. In addition to the transparency it affords everyone seeking information about who owns what, it is an important law that limits the potential for money laundering. The disclosure requirements in the law for land transfers will make it far more difficult for private companies to transfer property back and forth among individuals, hiding their identities as well as large sums of money.

When asked why an appeal about property taxes is decided by the agency that set that amount, Adam agreed that it was very unfair. In response to the question about who oversees assessment, we learned that a Board of Directors manage this agency and that it reports to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

The conversation shifted to the fragility of our taxation system. According to Adam, other countries are not as vulnerable. So much of our taxes go directly to the Province. (It would make a huge difference to communities if they got back even a small portion of the sales tax they generated.) Unfortunately, while so much of the money generated by communities continues to goes to the Province, the Province often does not deliver on the services promised.

Adam spoke of very serious governance issues that need to be discussed. (As two of many examples, too often, no level of government takes responsibility, and bylaws are not enforced.) Instead, it is a standoff with our leaders refusing to even consider the fundamental changes needed to do things better. It would not be a comfortable conversation, but, in Adam’s opinion, elected officials have to put their politics aside long enough to do their jobs and figure out solutions to these serious problems. Political calculations are stopping these conversations, but Adam is working hard to address this in his riding. Stay tuned. . . .

We left the Zoom meeting at 1:00, so very appreciative of Adam. . . and sorry more had not been there to share his enthusiasm, wisdom, and courage.

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