Wednesday, July 24, 2024
July 24, 2024

MLA Olsen will not seek third term

Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen will not be on the ballot for the fall provincial election.

The two-term BC Green Party MLA made the surprise announcement at a press conference held in Victoria last Tuesday.

Olsen, 48, who is married and with two teenaged children, said he had been greatly impacted by the tragic deaths in the past calendar year of three men, younger than himself, who all had children that would not know their fathers.

“There are three deaths in the last calendar year that each, in their own way, have put me into an existential re-evaluation of what is truly important to me, who I’m prioritizing and where I serve,” he said. “It has put me in an ethical dilemma because frankly, I’m stubbornly reluctant to change how I serve the people of Saanich North and the Islands.

“I began asking myself, ‘How much do my children actually know me?’ Really, for the first time, I allowed myself to consider how much elected public life dictated the mood, the availability and the actions of our family. I became much more thoughtful about the impact that it was having on my partner Emily, our relationship and how that had changed. All but two of our married years have been in elected public life.”

“There’s only one story about this decision,” he stressed. “And that’s the story of what’s in the best interests of our family.”

Olsen expressed gratitude to the BC Green Party staff and volunteers, and to leader Sonia Furstenau.

“The BC Green Party has provided a political space and a rigid political system for me to be creative and expressive. The organization has encouraged me to be me, and supported me. It’s an important instrument of legislative accountability, even when there’s only been two of us in parliament. I raise my hands in thankfulness and gratitude for the opportunity to act as the conscience of the legislature for this time.”

Of Furstenau, he said, “We’ve worked together for the past seven years as close as two people can be in a political landscape that is focused just solely on removing obstacles. We have been those obstacles. And the love and the trust that Sonia has shown in me should be a model for all our political leaders.”

He also gave thanks to Green Party of Canada leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May.

“I’m forever grateful to Elizabeth for the investment she made in me and my development as a community leader. I’ll never forget her generosity with me, and I will pay it forward wherever and whenever I can.”

A provincial election is set for Oct. 19. When asked at the press conference if he was worried that his withdrawal was leaving his party and the next candidate in a difficult position, Olsen pointed out that no other parties had declared nominees in the riding at this point.

He will also be the BC Green Party’s campaign chair for the election.

“We are delighted to have Adam in the role of campaign chair,” said Furstenau. “He brings extraordinary campaigning experience and capacity, and I know that he will help us move forward with the momentum, and with the recognition that we are a voice of integrity.”

Political cohorts offered appreciation for Olsen’s service.

“As candidates competing in provincial elections, and now as elected officials, I’ve always seen Adam as a colleague,” said Salt Spring CRD director Gary Holman. “It’s been an honour to work with him, and I’m grateful for his support on so many local issues. It seemed to me that as a First Nations leader, Adam has a special role to play in British Columbia’s path to reconciliation. He is still a relatively young man, and I hope he can find a way to continue serving our communities while supporting his family.”

His federal counterpart May said, “I am so indebted to Adam Olsen for being such an outstanding MLA. And prior to that I owe him a great deal for, as Central Saanich council member, being the only elected person to endorse me to be the area’s Member of Parliament in 2011. He is like a brother to me and I will miss him as my MLA. That said, I am confident the next BC Green candidate for Saanich North and the Islands will be elected and continue to work for the community following Adam’s excellent example.”

Olsen has been a regular guest at ASK Salt Spring sessions coordinated by Gayle Baker, who is also a Local Community Commission member, where he has reported to the community and taken questions on any topic from attending members of the public.

“While I am pleased that Adam is making life decisions that ‘excite and delight’ him, what a loss for Salt Spring!” she said. “I join so many others in appreciation of his hard work, enthusiasm, responsiveness to our concerns, willingness to address complex issues and his consistent optimism, even during those hard times.”

Baker invites people to wish Olsen farewell at the ASK Salt Spring session this Friday, July 5, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Salt Spring Island Multi Space.

Olsen noted in his press conference that there are “many seats at many tables” and he would find alternate ways to serve his communities at those tables.

“I’m certain that after a time to reset and recharge, I’ll begin a new phase of my career,” he said.

Olsen was first elected in 2017, beating incumbent NDP MLA Gary Holman with 41.95 per cent of the popular vote to Holman’s 30.56 per cent, and 26.46 per cent received by Liberal candidate Stephen P. Roberts. He then increased his popular vote in the 2020 election to almost 52 per cent.

The Tsartlip Nation member began his political career as a Central Saanich municipal councillor in 2008.

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