Saturday, May 25, 2024
May 25, 2024

MLA Column: Shipbuilding, the coastal economy, and supporting communities 

By Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands  

In February 2021, I published a blog post celebrating the British Columbia coastline. It was a response to former Premier John Horgan’s editorial proclaiming that a “made-in-BC shipbuilding strategy” was on its way.   

There was nobody in a better position to make it happen. I wrote, “if this is the plan, let me know how I can help.” Four years later, there is no made-in-BC shipbuilding plan to celebrate.   

Recently, my constituency inbox filled up with British Columbians responding to a call from Build Ferries BC for seven new BC Ferries vessels to be required to have Canadian content in their construction.  

British Columbia already has a world-class shipbuilding industry, generating billions of local investments, wages, and tax revenue. Imagine where we can go with a little attention (and intention) from the provincial government like Horgan promised.  

When British Columbians spend billions on building new ships that are critical for a healthy coastal BC economy, it’s better to spend that money here, creating a more resilient shipbuilding industry, while rippling out through adjacent local businesses as well.  

I’m on board. I envision a competitive marine industry as an increasingly critical contributor to the British Columbia economy. It starts with ensuring the money BC Ferries is about to spend benefits British Columbia’s workers, families, and communities.  

There is an impending decision in June so if this issue matters to you, contact your local MLA and let them know! Send Minister Rob Fleming (Minister.MOTI@gov.bc.ca) and Minister Brenda Bailey (JEDI.Minister@gov.bc.ca) a message, to let them know we need to invest locally!  

A strong marine industry has a positive impact on BC business. It inspires innovation and creativity, and builds more than just ships, it builds community.  

As I toured Saanich North and the Islands for my Spring community meetings, I heard from hundreds of constituents of the instability they are feeling provincially, nationally, and internationally.  

We discussed at length how housing, health, and education systems we once relied on to deliver on-demand services are struggling. We discussed the mental health and addictions crisis, increased isolation, the real and perceived deterioration of public safety.  

As an MLA, my role is to connect people and ideas, advocate for individuals and groups, and bring provincial level resources to support community-driven initiatives.  

That is why we created the Southern Gulf Islands Forum, a place for all your local, provincial, federal, and First Nations elected leaders to regularly connect, and the Salish Sea Trail working group to improve active transportation infrastructure on Fulford-Ganges Road. We are moving these initiatives forward, together.  

It’s why I’ve worked closely with (among others) the Mayne Island Fallow Deer Committee, the Saanich Peninsula Environment Coalition, and the Outer Gulf Islands healthcare societies. It’s why I’m a member of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.  

I believe in the power of community. As we work to stabilize the big systems that are failing to deliver the promise of previous decades, we can look to our communities, like Central Saanich, Sidney, and North Saanich who are recognized across the province for their resilience.  

So, whether it is the positive economic impact that a stronger shipbuilding industry will have on our coastal communities, or the local initiatives that produce local solutions to local challenges, I am actively connecting, supporting, and fiercely advocating for the people and communities in Saanich North and the Islands.  

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