Twenty gathered via Zoom to welcome our MLA, Adam Olsen. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Adam took a few minutes to share his personal resolution to seek positive things, never forgetting how lucky we are to live in these islands of beautiful British Columbia. He also acknowledged ASK Salt Spring for the regular opportunity it offers him to look deeply at the issues that matter most to us.
Adam sees his top 2022 challenges to be in the continuing housing crisis; Indigenous rights; and concerns about local, provincial, federal, and global political climates. These challenges are exacerbated by COVID and severe climate changes, threatening our health, mental health, security, and fragile infrastructures.
The first question explored our healthcare system, asking Adam whether it is better under NDP leadership. Specifically,
Is progress being made addressing the shortage of doctors (approximately 700,000 British Columbians do not have primary care physicians) and other health care workers?
Adam stated that an already-strained healthcare system has been severely impacted by the pandemic, clearly illustrating the need for more healthcare workers and a restructuring of how primary healthcare is delivered. In Adam’s opinion, if we want to attract these professionals, we need to develop policies that attract them. One option would be to increase healthcare training spaces in our colleges and universities and to make tuition free options for the professions we desperately need so that healthcare workers can graduate without being burdened by debt.
Adam also suggests refocusing our efforts from Urgent Care Clinics back to Primary Care Networks offering patients the support of a team of healthcare professionals. While a foundation of our current healthcare systems is that doctors operate private businesses and bill the provincial government system for the services they deliver, Adam believes that a significant proportion of the newly-qualified doctors welcome salaried work and the team approach offered by these Primary Care Networks.
The second part of the question was: Is a two-tier healthcare system developing that will offer those who can pay better healthcare services?
While doctors are not allowed to charge individual patients for services, membership-based health care providers are currently under scrutiny concerning their legality. The example of Telus’s Life Plus, with an annual fee of over $4,000 (https://www.telus.com/en/health/care-centres/personalized-care/member/lifeplus) was mentioned as a concern. Is a two tiered health care system evolving that favors the rich?
Adam sees this as another disturbing sign of a growing equity gap throughout our communities, negatively impacting access to housing, healthcare, and mental health services to our less affluent. Adam worries that our entire infrastructure of hospitals, schools, supply chains, housing, transportation, sewers, water, and natural systems - like watersheds and forests - is too fragile to withstand the unavoidable challenges facing us.
Switching gears, a participant asked for Adam’s opinion of the Islands Trust Policy Statement, also asking him if he supported maintaining the Trust as it is currently or allowing it to increase its scope of responsibility.
While neither a Yes or No answer, Adam’s response was that he believes that it is the province’s responsibility to review the 50-year old Islands Trust Act rather than waiting for Islands Trust to request this review. So far, the province appears to be reluctant to undertake this review, but Adam regularly advocates to the Minister that the province should be a leader by reviewing its law.
But, Adam also reminded us that our governance challenges do not rest solely with Islands Trust. Other provincial agencies (Island Health, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and Housing); federal agencies such as RCMP; as well as our service deliverer, CRD, all have a role in our governance. The fragmentation of governance is challenging and everybody works hard to make the best of the situation. Salt Spring’s present governance model rests with a variety of taxpayer-supported agencies.
Adam noted that the Gulf Islands’ fragmented governance system creates its own unique problems. While addressing these problems appears to rest with our community, Adam continues to advocate for provincial leadership to address this fragmentation. While he will work determinedly with any governance system, Adam is an enthusiastic participant in any conversation about addressing Salt Spring’s governance.
A participant asked if a Local Community Commission (LCC) could be the answer for Salt Spring. (For a brief overview, see: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/local-governments/governance-powers/powers-services/regional-district-powers-services/committees-commissions) For more detail than you ever wanted, please email email@example.com.
An in depth conversation about the possibilities and challenges of a Local Community Commission is a perfect topic next week, January 14, 11-1, when Gary Holman is ASK Salt Spring’s special guest. Adam did note, though, the apparent distrust of CRD that must be addressed before proposing an LCC as the solution to Salt Spring’s governance challenges.
Adam assured us that his relationship with our CRD and Islands Trust elected officials is strong and will remain strong were any changes in our governance pursued. And, that he will be an enthusiastic contributor to any Salt Spring governance discussions, reminding us that creating safe places for these conversations is critical.
As 1:00 approached, the conversation switched to housing, with a participant asking a question on many of our minds: Is there any big news coming from BC Housing to address the future of our residents of SeaBreeze Inne? Adam assured us that BC Housing has been extremely proactive addressing the issue and that, while the news is not his to share, he expects good news in the near future.
When asked whether our government believes that housing is a basic human right, he replied that it is harmful to our society to have its members insecurely-housed. In Adam’s opinion, secure housing is a basic prerequisite needed to flourish.
Noting that our large lot settlement patterns were established almost 50 years ago, Adam believes we need to have honest, courageous discussions about Salt Spring’s carrying capacity as well as re-examining the status quo. Rather than battling over political and economic principles established over the past two centuries, he believes that we need to explore how we are going to live together in a future of limited resources rather than pursuing that dream of unlimited growth and development.
Promising to return again February 4 to engage in rich conversations about those issues that matter most to us, we gave Adam our heartfelt Thanks! and pressed our Leave Meeting button.
Please join us 11-1 January 14 to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman
Given COVID concerns, we will be gathering virtually via Zoom:
(In case you need it, the passcode is 947504)
What do you want to ask him?
Have the North Salt Spring Waterworks District discussions about allying with CRD begun again?
What is CRD currently doing to address our Housing crisis?
Can you explain a Local Community Commission and whether it will be a referendum issue?
When do you think HarbourWalk designs will be complete?
What do you think we need to do about decades of deferred road maintenance?
See you Friday, January 14, 11-1 on Zoom to welcome Gary!
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
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