Sunday, May 19, 2024
May 19, 2024

MLA column: Democracy, health, housing and transportation

By ADAM OLSEN,

Saanich North and the Islands Green party MLA

In this column I will address a number of issues that continue to impact people in Saanich North and the Islands, and across British Columbia. 

I’ll start with our democracy. Since my election I have been advocating for improved legislative processes, and better access for private members (all members not in Cabinet) to introduce, debate and vote on private members bills and motions. Throughout the summer, I sat on an all-party legislative committee looking at the issue. 

Over decades, majority governments have wrestled control of the legislative agenda away from the Assembly and now can dictate what is debated and voted on. However, if the committee’s recommendations are enacted by the government, all elected representatives will have more tools to propose legislative changes.  

Primary, urgent and acute healthcare continues to be a major issue across B.C., and Saanich North and the Islands is not immune. With the Saanich Peninsula Hospital emergency room closed in the evening, now indefinitely, no walk-in clinic services on the Saanich Peninsula or on Salt Spring Island and increasing health care service needs on the outer Gulf Islands, our office continues to hear how the system is failing to serve local residents. Even while fearing repercussions for speaking out, I continue to hear from healthcare workers regarding their deep concern for the state of healthcare services.  

Health authority bureaucracies continue to grow while access to critical services is getting worse. Clearly, the Minister of Health is only interested in spending money to reinforce a system that needs transformational change.  

We continue to suffer a housing affordability crisis that has destabilized thousands of people in our communities. The cost of rent has skyrocketed, and this summer rising interest rates have in some cases doubled the monthly mortgage payment for many of my constituents, threatening housing security for people across the socio-economic strata. 

At the time of writing this we have seen legislation to regulate short-term vacation rentals (STVRs). There are conflicting studies about the impact of STVRs on long-term housing supply and rental rates. However, anecdotally I have been hearing about the negative impacts, especially on the Gulf Islands, since I was elected. 

The proposed legislation will provide some limitations on STVRs, create a registry and allow regional districts to develop business licensing. These are steps I support, but it is only part of the solution. We need to see more from the government. 

BC Ferries is still struggling to provide consistent and reliable services. Our office consistently hears about how delays and cancellations impact access to work, important appointments and essential services for many people. The Minister of Transportation recently announced that the province will start charging fines to BC Ferries for every missed sailing; however, it is difficult to imagine how this will remedy the more foundational issues, such as staffing.  

 That said, I am thankful that BC Ferries listened to their customers who advocated for better shelter from the elements while waiting for the bus. They are working on constructing a long-term solution, however, in the meantime temporary tents are in place to provide cover from the wind and rain. 

I will continue to work on these and other issues facing our constituency. If you need support or my advocacy, do not hesitate to contact me at Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca or call 250-655-5600. 

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