It has been a privilege and an honour to serve the constituents of Oak Bay-Gordon Head as their Green Party MLA in the Legislature these past two months. Obviously the transition from scientist to politician involves a steep learning curve but while you can take the scientist out of science, you can never take the science out of a scientist. I am committed to work with the government and the official opposition to ensure decision-making flows from evidence, and not the other way around.
While the learning curve has been steep, the transition has been seamless thanks to the support and guidance of outstanding Legislative Staff (Taylor Hartrick, Evan Pivnick and Mat Wright) and Constituency Office Staff (Judy Fainstein and Huxley Johnson). Our constituency office is now up and running (see www.andrewweavermla.ca) and we are already well-researched on many critical issues facing British Columbians.
During the short time I have been in the Legislature, I have come to realize more fully how individual MLAs that are free to express their views, unhindered by the party whip system, can have a substantial impact on government. In our parliamentary democracy we elect members to speak on behalf of their constituents. Unfortunately, the party whip system is such that this rarely happens. There are many inspiring, insightful and articulate members sitting on both sides of the house. Yet too often partisan politics, manifesting itself most illustratively in what has become a dysfunctional question period, suppresses these individuals from freely speaking their views. Instead the spotlight is given to highly partisan, sound-bite rhetoric.
Together we need to demand better. We have to be willing to challenge our MLAs on how they represent their constituents in the Legislature; we need to hold them to account when party interests are put ahead of the interests of British Columbians.
During the provincial budget debate I have risen numerous times to speak to a diverse array of issues facing British Columbians. I have raised questions concerning the Northern Gateway Pipeline, and the fact that the Federal government is using taxpayers’ money to push forward multi-million dollar investments with the explicit aim of expanding tanker traffic on the BC coast—regardless of the wishes of British Columbians. I have continued to challenge the government’s assertions concerning the economics of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and suggested that instead our economic prosperity lies in the development of the clean tech sector, not in the further expansion of fossil fuels. I have also spoken to the lack of strategic planning around one of our most iconic and important resources: our forests. And I have spoken on education, housing, transportation and infrastructure funding. As you will see from the Hansard transcripts (available online at http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/8-8.htm ), my approach to asking questions has been well received by the government who have in turn been respectful in their response and forthright in delivering answers.
There are also a number of issues related to Oak Bay-Gordon Head that I have been giving considerable attention to, including the need for careful oversight and fiscal management of the proposed CRD sewage treatment system, as well as the need to enhance access to adolescent metal health services (through Ledger House, a care facility that is located in the riding). In the upcoming week I will be inquiring about how specifically the government plans to “provide every citizen of British Columbia the opportunity to have a family doctor by 2015.” This is particularly important to the residents of Oak Bay-Gordon Head as, according to the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons, not a single GP in Greater Victoria is accepting new patients.
As a party, we have broken new ground. We are coming to terms with what is possible with an elected representative sitting in the Legislature. However our place within, and our impact upon, the political landscape of BC is still evolving. I am confident that as we move forward we will establish ourselves as the party of small business, families, communities and the environment where common sense solutions to real problems form the basis of our policy platform.
Most British Columbians would probably not describe themselves as politically inclined. But at the same time, many own small businesses, work within our communities and care for their families while expressing a desire to preserve our environment and to assist our fellow citizens. Politics can seem inaccessible and unresponsive to these issues. And this is where I think the Green Party of BC should start. As demonstrated by the successful campaigns we ran in the Greater Victoria region, we can appeal not just to the politically inclined, but also to those who feel unrepresented by today’s political parties. It is no coincidence that the highest voter turnout in the Province at 71% was in my riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head and the second highest at 70% was in Saanich North and the Islands where my colleague Adam Olsen came within 380 votes of winning (31,602 votes were cast). In Oak Bay-Gordon Head we like to say: “We don’t split the vote. We are the vote”. As we move forward, I hope this slogan takes off in all of our campaigns as we reach out and earn the support of British Columbians across the Province. We need to position ourselves as a party that is principled, honest, and realistic and one that is truly willing to carry our constituents’ voices into the Legislature. I believe that this is the impetus needed to get the silent majority of British Columbians reinvigorated in our democracy and back to the voting booth.
Finally, it is important that we all acknowledge the dedicated work of volunteers across the province that made it possible for a member of the Green Party to be elected. This is not my success. It is your success. Together as we work towards implementing a new way of doing politics in this province I am convinced that we will dramatically grow our party in the years ahead. Thank you to everyone for your support – together we can and will make a difference.
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