ASK Salt Spring with MLA, Adam Olsen on climate challenges, healthcare worker support, road funding and more

After a Territorial Acknowledgement expressing a hope for regeneration, ASK Salt Spring participants welcomed our MLA, Adam Olsen. While the initial circle was small, during our two hours together, a total of 22 Salt Springers joined the conversation. He began by sharing his enthusiasm for the trip here, saying that the 35-minute ferry trip allowed him to be exactly where he needed to be - on the Salish Sea.

Adam went on to express his fears that we were simply not doing what we need to do to adapt to or mitigate a climate emergency, blatantly ignoring decades of warnings. As a result, he sees challenging times ahead, expected not in years but in days, weeks, and months. He noted the destruction caused by hurricane Ida and noted the clarity in one ABC report, stating that it was “the result of human-based climate change."

Adam expressed his sadness that we seem unable to make the needed changes in the face of these heartbreaking lessons and warnings. Adam wants to see urgent changes in our government’s policies.

While BC faced major concerns even when Adam was elected as our MLA in 2017, those challenges have multiplied significantly, and now we are grappling with several intersecting crises.

When he was elected, the most pressing healthcare issue was a country-wide lack of primary care doctors. While this still is as serious as it was in 2017, added to that is the fast-growing shortage of nurses and other healthcare professionals. Our healthcare workers are struggling: Some are retiring early and some are resigning rather than face a lack of support by the system, an increased workload due to the shortages, housing, and affordability challenges. Exhausted by COVID-19 and the mental health and overdose crises, our healthcare system is increasingly fragile.

Switching to transit, a hopeful alternative to combat greenhouse gases, we learned that a large part of our transit system is funded by the Federal Community Works Funds, commonly known as “gas tax.” As regulations are put into place to transition to electric transport, will this fossil fuel-consumption-based funding decline and, eventually, disappear? Is the government developing strategies to generate revenue sources to continue to support transit and active transportation?

In Adam’s opinion, our province needs to begin immediately engaging British Columbians on the options to address this looming financial shortfall as any plan to replace this massive source of funding will take years to implement. In 2018, Metro Vancouver and TransLink studied a few models for alternative funding models, such as mobility pricing. While this is a solution used in many European cities, it will take some time to introduce and implement a wholesale change in direction. We need to continue the conversation, and the province needs to be leading the discussion.

When asked why it is so hard for us to get adequate funding for our roads, Adam replied that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) is chronically under-funded with significantly more road needs than budget. As all the roads in the Gulf Islands are provincial, there is a great deal of competition from the Southern Vancouver Island region for the sparse budget. Often dependent upon casualty and usage statistics, it is not surprising that other more highly-populated areas are consistently prioritized over the Gulf Islands for road funding.

Adam was asked about the soon-to-be-required proof of vaccination by a participant who, while supportive of vaccinations for everyone, had serious concerns about both the justification and the effectiveness of this requirement. Adam replied that, in his opinion, the government’s communications of their COVID-related actions have been consistently inadequate, late, and sometimes even confusing.

Our healthcare system continues to be deeply challenged by the global pandemic. The models produced by the Health Ministry last week showed that a vast majority of the people in hospital are unvaccinated. The vaccines are very effective in protecting people from COVID-19 and an important public health measure, an individual's contribution to living in a community.

Switching gears, a participant asked Adam about Woodwynn Farm, a 78- hectare farm in Central Saanich formerly owned by the province. We learned that the Tsartlip First Nation recently bought this farm and is currently restoring it. Adam was asked about the status of the land, and he confirmed that it was fee-simple and within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

This participant then asked if Indigenous rights on Salt Spring were being violated. While we did not get a clear answer to this question, this concern generated a conversation about Indigenous rights in light of the BC Declaration of Indigenous Rights (DRIP). We learned that while the Indian Act is still in place, the BC legislation addressing the Declaration of Indigenous Rights is certain to bring changes.

The legislation supporting the BC Declaration of Indigenous Rights is expansive in its scope. While this shift is still being defined, Adam told us of the recently-released Action Plan with dozens of initial actions that our government proposes take over the next five years to implement these rights. As this process has just begun, it is likely to be a while before we have clarity around the government and economic structures that will emerge to address Indigenous rights.

Adam was asked about the reported RCMP violence at Fairy Creek. While Adam did not debate the reports of violence, the conversation quickly shifted to the NDP’s role in this long-lasting chaos. According to Adam, our government has made several decisions throughout the protests, including to utilize the federal RCMP rather than other provincial police units that currently exist or that they can create. Our government has grown comfortable remaining silent, relying on a convenient deflection as RCMP oversight and accountability is provided by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, the responsibility of the federal government.

Not a new strategy, Adam feels that our government has repeatedly dodged its responsibility for the mess at Fairy Creek. He believes that this deflection of responsibility is deeply-rooted, even including the accepted governmental definition of Old Growth to also include low-productivity forests, effectively claiming that a far higher percentage of Old Growth is protected than is the reality. By dodging its responsibility to prioritize the protection of our Old Growth forests over the pressure from logging interests, Adam believes that our government is not only fueling this crisis but is also missing the opportunity to be the leader in the climate action that we need.

As the end of our time together drew to a close for this month, we heard the impassioned plea from a young man living in his truck: Stop consuming and collecting, seeking, instead, a simpler life unburdened by possessions and competitive consumerism.

As Adam prepared to return home - again planning to enjoy his short voyage on the Salish Sea - he expressed his enthusiasm with being with us, saying that ASK Salt Spring had made him unafraid of candidates’ debates, giving him the opportunity each month to practice answering any question we lob at him.

After a round of applause for Adam, we all began to disperse, some helping pack up the chairs while others continued the conversation in small groups. Thank-you, Adam!

Please join us Friday, September 10, 11-1, at the United Church Meadow to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman.

Would you like Gary to tell us. . . .
What is happening to address the Booth Canal-Central safety concerns?
Are talks with North Salt Spring Waterworks District over?
When will the Middle School be available for community use?
What is happening with the HarbourWalk plans?
How is the composting project progressing?
Have the Burgoyne Wastewater Treatment ponds been decommissioned yet so that we can finally begin to move forward? If not, what is happening?
And. . . .?

Come to the Meadow to ask your questions, listen to those of others, and participate in rich, respectful conversations.

Bring your favorite beverage and a smile.
Chairs and chocolate chip cookies provided.

See you at the Meadow!

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.
We would love your receipts! Remember: #15

Gayle Baker
ASK Salt Spring

September 7, 2021 10:22 AM

  • Brenda Guiled says:

    Well done report, as ever. Most appreciated!