So Adam, Why Doesn't the Province Give Us Everything We Think We Deserve?
Twelve gathered to welcome MLA Adam Olsen and William Kelly to this ASK Salt Spring gathering. In his Territorial Acknowledgement, Adam also spoke briefly of his joy with all the connections he observes at SIMS - the Saltspring Island Multi-Space, the former Middle School. He loves to see all the children activities and is excited by all the different groups sharing space - and making those invaluable connections.
Speaking of invaluable connections, Adam told us a bit about his visit with Green Party MLA colleague Sonia Furstenau to Red Fish Healing Centre, offering co-located mental health and addiction programs, (http://www.bcmhsus.ca/our-services/provincial-integrated-mental-health-addiction-programs/red-fish-healing-centre/model-of-care). Seemingly such a natural combination of support programs, remarkably, it is the first of these co-located programs in North America.
Despite the obvious advantages of these co-located programs, Adam noted that centralization of services does at times require one to leave the nurturing of one’s own community for a more distant location. This led to a brief conversation about the thinking of some that if support services are not offered, those in need will simply not come to that community. Adam called this the If we don’t build it, they won’t come mentality. In his opinion, people in need live in all communities, and it is the responsibility of each community to address those needs.
From there, the conversation shifted to a much-talked about community need: a walk-in health clinic. A clear need experienced by many on Salt Spring who do not have a primary care physician, in Adam’s opinion, without this clinic, we are placing a heavy additional burden on our Lady Minto Hospital. This sentiment was also expressed by Erin Price-Lindstrom in her recent visit ASK Salt Spring: https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/blog/search/erin.
Not to be confused with a Primary Care Network (https://divisionsbc.ca/north-shore/what-primary-care-network), a team of healthcare workers who may or may not be co-located, a clinic is a location, requiring a building on commercial property. When a participant asked how other communities got these clinics, Adam responded that, in most cases, they were led by nonprofit societies with some provincial funding. Given the challenges acquiring centrally-located commercial property on Salt Spring, local nonprofits committed to getting a clinic for Salt Spring, like the Salt Spring Community Health Society (https://saltspringcommunityhealth.ca/) have not yet been successful.
A participant asked why the province was not taking the lead in getting a clinic for Salt Spring. Isn’t it their responsibility, he queried? Adam agreed, but he told us that the provincial response to this question is to focus on accomplishments like the recent changes to physician remuneration and efforts to fill our health care vacancies.
To add even more complexity, Primary Care Networks and clinics also carry contractual issues. Our wide variety of healthcare providers have markedly different contracts, some are private, like our doctors, and others are employees of Island Health. Navigating relationships between these widely-varied contracts to build a collaborative team is a challenge Erin Price-Lindstrom also discussed in her recent ASK Salt Spring visit as one of the biggest hurdles facing efforts to rethink how we offer our healthcare.
A participant spoke of three of his friends who have to travel off-Island three times every week for dialysis. He asked: Is this right? Adam noted that these long journeys for dialysis are as time consuming as a part-time job, often taking eight hours three times a week to simply stay alive.
And, what if the ferry does not run when expected? Suddenly a missed ferry becomes so much more than an inconvenience, quickly turning into a life-or-death dilemma. While it was agreed that there are some realities - and built-in inconveniences - of living on an island, there are certain service necessities as well. Adam asked us to consider the services other communities of almost 12,000 have as a baseline. Shouldn’t we have a similar level of service? Added to this list would be the services that are needed for life support - like dialysis machines - so that one’s health (and life) does not depend upon BC ferries meeting its schedule.
Cautioned by Adam that hospital dialysis machines likely require the support of a series of staff and resources, he asked why we could not look at it in a different way: Home dialysis systems do exist. Shouldn’t we explore other options instead of hospital-only solutions?
A participant lamented the number of seniors who were leaving Salt Spring due to an inadequate number of available senior residences. Adam agreed, noting that the demand for housing impacts every Salt Spring demographic, not only seniors. A participant then asked why, given the clear need for housing here, the province does not intervene more often using its powers of paramountcy.
And, you may ask, what is paramountcy? According to an article by UBCM (https://www.ubcm.ca/about-ubcm/latest-news/ubcm-responds-invocation-paramountcy):
Paramountcy, also referred to as statutory immunity, is addressed in section 14(2) of the Interpretation Act, and provides that the Province is not bound by “an enactment that would bind or affect the government in the use or development of land, or in the planning, construction, alteration, servicing, maintenance or use of improvements, as defined in the Assessment Act”.
This participant reminded us that this provincial right of paramountcy is being used for the Drake Road supportive housing project, allowing it to proceed without Islands Trust zoning applications, (but still required to address other issues such as building and water requirements.) He asked why it was not also being used to allow needed housing on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) properties in central Ganges. Saying that Ganges was locked in by ALR land, this participant asked about using laws, like the proposed Housing Supply Act (https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022PREM0065-001745), to develop ALR properties for housing.
We learned from Adam that the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) will not even discuss a request for the removal of a piece of agricultural land from the ALR without that request coming from the local government. The Islands Trust would have to formally request a piece of ALR property be rezoned before it is even considered by the ALC. This participant then asked why property needed two levels of protection. He questioned why land should be protected by both the Islands Trust and the ALC. he asked: Shouldn’t we have just one level of protection?
Adam responded by telling us that 2/3 of the Islands Trust population is in his riding so that he, more than any other MLA, was concerned about Islands Trust issues. The province was asked to review the nearly 50-year old Islands Trust Act by a vote of 21-2 of the Islands Trustees last year. There does not seem to be any provincial movement toward review of the act.
This frustrates Adam who believes that it is the responsibility of the province to regularly review its acts to make sure that they are doing what they are intended to do. Rather than criticizing these acts, Adam wants a public process to identify the parts that are working and the parts that are no longer serving us. Among the acts that Adam would like to see reviewed is the Local Government Act (https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/r15001_00).
A participant spoke of his work in Alberta and Australia with a Law Review Commission charged with reviewing laws and identifying inconsistencies, gaps, and/or overlaps with other laws. We learned that, in five years, this Commission would complete its analysis of each law brought to them as well as suggesting changes or new laws that will better serve its citizens. Adam was enthusiastic to learn more, making sure to get this individual’s contact information.
Adam then spoke of his concern that the BC Legislature, while committed to democratic elections, exhibits little democracy in its procedures. With a majority party in power, even something as vital to a democracy - the introduction of bills - is limited to a mere 20 individuals. Adam is working to make it a requirement for the government to debate Private Members’ Bills as well.
As 1:00 was approaching - and Adam was soon to join a cycling event to Vesuvius - our roads were briefly discussed. (For a more in-depth discussion of our roads, please join us at ASK Salt Spring Friday, June 2, 11-1, at the Lions Hall - one time location! - to welcome Adam and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming.) Adam lamented that our roads were designed for one mode of transportation when they should be designed with multiple users in mind. Instead of the Motor Vehicle Act, shouldn’t it be called the Safe Transportation Act?
He also reminded us that roads are very expensive to build and maintain. While Salt Spring is getting some improvements, like the Ganges Hill project and an unexpected safety study of our major roads, we have to understand that the province will make its spending decisions on the needs of the province rather than specific requests of each community.
Building and maintaining local roads are generally the responsibility of each community. It becomes incredibly difficult for unincorporated communities because, even though they might be clear on their priorities, the province has to agree and fund these priorities. It makes for a very slow process.
Already 1:00, Adam dashed off to his interview with CLIR.FM, something we hope most of our guests will also enjoy doing. Our first project with CLIR.FM was an interview with Gary after last week’s ASK Salt Spring: (https://answered.transistor.fm/episodes/gary-holman-fulford-water-issues)
But, we did not let Adam dash off until we had thanked him for a great conversation, his joy at being with us every month, his ability to share his wisdom and philosophy, and his willingness to roll up his sleeves to do the work needed to make his visions for better communities realities. (Thanks, Adam and William!)
Please join us this Friday, April 28, 11-1 in the Lobby of SIMS, the Former Middle School, to discuss Workforce Housing.
What would you like to discuss?
What do we mean when we speak of Workforce Housing? Is is different from Affordable Housing and, if so, how?
While the province has multiple programs funding subsidized housing, what are the funding sources for Workforce Housing?
How do other communities fund Workforce Housing?
What are the key prerequisites needed for a project to house our workers to reach completion?
Are there good locations for a Workforce Housing project here? Where are they?
Please join us Friday, April 28, 11-1, for a conversation about Workforce Housing!
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