Saturday, June 22, 2024
June 22, 2024

MLA Column: Advocating for people and communities in Saanich North and the Islands

By ADAM OLSEN

MLA, Saanich North and the Islands

I have a deep connection to the beautiful place we live. I belong here, and this perspective informs the way I advocate, engage and relate to the people, to the land and to all the flora and fauna.

Reflecting on the past six years that I have been MLA for Saanich North and the Islands; I am proud of the advocacy work of our community office. From day one we have aspired to be community-centred, advocating for constituents who contact us, while proactively working to bring people together on important issues to build local resilience.

My approach has been informed in part by Peter MacLeod’s work (MASS LBP) in the early 2000s on The Constituency Project. Conversations with Peter offered rich insights on how we could effectively engage with the constituency, stay connected and also be a connector. This constituent-centred approach was inspired by my experience working in local businesses like the Butchart Gardens, where professional, personal and prompt customer service was emphasized.

Creating an effective and efficient approach to advocacy has and continues to be an iterative process. It’s important to recognize and acknowledge the constituency advocates who have worked in the community office since 2017. Their efforts refined and improved our approach.

Over the last year alone our office has engaged in advocacy on roughly 687 different case files. These cases can range from anything as straightforward as responding to an inquiry about provincial services, to convening stakeholders and facilitating efforts to change existing provincial policies and legislation.

Our office is non-partisan and responsive to any issues or concerns related to provincial jurisdiction. However, we focus our advocacy on the issues that are most important to the constituents of Saanich North and the Islands. Over the last six years, this means that we have focused primarily on transportation, healthcare, housing, waterways/nature, Indigenous Peoples and local governance in the Southern Gulf Islands.

While not the only metric of progress, these efforts have resulted in real and tangible investments in the community.

Between 2017 and 2023, the provincial government has invested more than $300 million in Saanich North and the Islands in areas such as affordable housing, healthcare, childcare, education, transportation, rural broadband connectivity and Covid-19 recovery. These investments have been consistent across both minority and majority governments with an investment of roughly $158 million from 2017-2020 (minority government), and roughly $148 million between 2020-2023 (majority government).

None of these investments are possible without the community making them a priority. I raise my hands to the mayors and councillors, CRD electoral area directors, Islands Trust trustees, and their local government administrations, local community groups and individuals for their work in community to prepare grant applications and to effectively administer and steward projects.

While the provincial government cannot financially support all the worthy project applicants, we will continue to work with proponents to advocate for, and support, their initiatives.

Whether you have never connected with our office or do so frequently, I encourage you to reach out. We are here to support you, or your community organization. Please do not hesitate to contact me and our team of community advocates at Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca, by calling 250-655-5600 or visiting our community office on 9828 Fourth Street in Sidney, BC. For more information visit www.saanichnorthandtheislands.com/.

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