Sixteen hardy folks braved the chilly winds on a rainy fall Saturday. They were well-rewarded, for they all got an opportunity to meet the NDP Candidate, Zeb King and ask him questions. Even though some freezing participants left before 1:00, it is safe to say that everyone left glad that they had met Zeb as well as all having a better understanding of why he wants to be our next MLA.
The loud and clear message Zeb offered to us was of his commitment to both the climate and social justice as well as his tenacity, persistence, and unwillingness to give up these commitments when faced with opposition. He reminded us that the time to make needed changes to our environmentally-damaging habits is running out and that we simply must act immediately.
He began by telling us that he lives in Brentwood Bay, a neighbour and good friend of Adam Olsen whom he recruited to serve on the Central Saanich City Council with him. (They served together for a short time until Adam left to be our MLA.) As a fifth-term member of the Central Saanich City Council, Zeb is deeply rooted in the Saanich area, but he grew up in a very different part of Vancouver Island: Alert Bay.
It was here that his passion for the environment was born - a passion that he converted to activism in his youth. It was also here that he began his lifelong commitment to reconciliation. Determination to do everything that he can for both the planet and its people has fueled his entire life. His education - a B.S. in Politics, a M. A. in Public Affairs, and current Ph. D. work in Relational Organization - all help him work effectively with people to address our climate emergency. .
He maintains that climate action and social justice go hand-in-hand and both must be addressed. Asking folks to change their environmentally-damaging habits without the supports they need to address their basic needs will fail. Rather, we must bring everyone along together - providing basic needs so that we can all live a sustainable, environmentally-conscious life.
Zeb spoke of his commitment to the planet and its people in relation to his five terms as a Municipal Councilor for Central Saanich. Early in his tenure, in 2002, he tried to get Central Saanich to develop a climate action plan. He faced resistance: neither councillors nor the mayor believed in a climate emergency. Defeated, but undeterred, he kept trying, eventually writing the application that was awarded $60,000 for Central Saanich’s first climate action plan. Despite this intransigence from both the mayor as well as other councillors, Zeb continued, updating the plan in 2018 as well as seeking to get Central Saanich to declare a climate emergency in the 2018-2019 term. Again, he faced resistance. But not for long. . . .When he convinced students to speak to the council about their passion and concern, the motion to declare a climate emergency passed unanimously. Additionally, 11 action motions were passed which have significantly improved Central Saanich’s response to our climate emergency.
Zeb’s message to us was that, while he may not always win, his passion for the planet and its people fuels him to persevere and never give up until he has achieved his goal. His hopes are that he can take this passion for the environment and social justice to the next level by having his say in the NDP majority government as well, as potentially, having a seat at the table as a cabinet member.
He reminded us: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. It would be easy to focus on all the things that the NDP have not accomplished in their term. Zeb reminded us that the NDP has only had three years to address years of damage by the Liberals. There is a long way to go to address our climate crisis as well as the huge needs of our marginalized populations. As important steps, the NDP supports a universal minimum wage and $10/day childcare, initiatives Zeb also strongly supports.
Affordable housing is another imperative: He supports pressure on the Federal Government to give British Columbia its fair share. He believes that a deeper look at the BC Tenancy Act may be fruitful. He also spoke of possible positive outcomes were Salt Spring included in the Vacancy and Speculation Tax which could force folks with big empty homes to rent to avoid being taxed.
Concerning the protection of our fast-disappearing old growth, Zeb told us that he began mourning clearcuts as a youth as well as building trails in the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island. But, he also grew up in a community fueled by the logging industry. He cautioned that the issue is extremely complex, made even more difficult by trade agreements, and that we may need to change a little bit at a time.
Zeb promised that he would encourage community participation to - together - solve the myriad of problems that still face the NDP. Only by constituents and legislators working together will we address the huge issues facing us, not only with the environment and social justice but also addressing the devastation of the pandemic and its economic and emotional scars.
When asked about the first three things that he would do if elected, Zeb highlighted:
- Climate Action: We were reminded that over 50% of our emissions come from transportation, so he would focus on this major polluter. He supports Fare Free Transit - helping the environment and constituents at the same time.
- Housing: When asked about addressing homelessness, Zeb affirmed his support of Housing First. Without a safe place to sleep, delivering needed services such as medical help, is unbelievably complicated. We must all have a place to stay safe, warm, and dry.
- Health/Education: Zeb supports universally-funded social benefits (like our schools) that are paid by all rather than a pay-for-use system in which only users support services. He believes that we cannot continue to fear that paying our health care workers and our teachers fairly is too expensive. One participant asked why seniors are punished when they turn 80 by having to pay $200 to get a letter from their doctor saying they are still capable? Zeb responded that this is a remnant from the Liberal era - and one of many things that need to be addressed and changed. According to Zeb, there has been progress: In the short time the NDP has been in power, MSP monthly payments have been stopped and senior free ferry fares have been reinstated. Zeb also told us that wages that were flat during all the Liberal years have gone up 17% in the short time the NDP has been in power.
When asked what we need to do to get through the next wave of the pandemic, Zeb suggested that we should:
- Reach out and learn from the successes of other countries. He cited the example of Korea, the country of origin of his wife, and suggested that we learn from them.
- Make sure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is plentiful and readily-available.
- We need to do better testing.
- Reach out more to those who are isolated.
- Take care of our kids as this imposed isolation has had deep impacts upon them.
Zeb reminded us that there have been some positive impacts of this pandemic. Among these are a significantly-increased opportunity for many to work at home. Our isolation has also resulted in a 7% decrease in emissions. But, we were cautioned that we have a very small window of opportunity before we slip back into our old, environmentally-damaging habits.
As 1:00 approached and participants began to flee the biting wind, Zeb reminded us that, while everything could not be changed at once, he was committed to incrementally address issues that have challenged us for too long using the tenacity, persistence, and dogged determination that has fueled him his entire life. We all thanked Zeb for making the journey to introduce himself to us and share his plans to address a myriad of issues with climate action and social justice topping that list.
Interested in joining us? Come to the next ASK Salt Spring gathering at the United Church Meadow this coming Friday, October 16, 2020, from 11 a.m. -1 p.m., to welcome Islands Trustee Laura Patrick. (Portlock Picnic Pavilion if it rains, and masks may be required.)
All are welcome to ask questions, listen to those of others, and participate in lively conversations.
Socially-distanced chairs and safely-made chocolate chip cookies provided; Bring your favourite beverage, curiosity, and a smile.