Today I had the distinct honour of addressing delegates to the 67th Annual General Meeting and Convention of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) in Nanaimo. As noted on their website, the AVICC
“… is a body formed for the purpose of representing in one organization the various municipalities, regional districts and other local governments of Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast, Powell River and the Central Coast.“
The AVICC has 51 member municipalities, districts and local governments from these regions. Below I reproduce the text of my speech.
Please let me start by thanking the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities for granting me the opportunity to speak with you today.
The last time I addressed the AVICC was at the 62nd AGM and Convention on April 8, 2011 at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. I spoke as a UVic-based climate scientist on the challenges and opportunities associated with global warming.
If someone had told me then that I would be standing before you five years later as the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and leader of the BC Green Party, I would have told them that they must be crazy.
But here I am. And here we are.
Ultimately the reason I got into politics is probably very similar to the reason why you got into politics.
I cared deeply about my community and I wanted to do what I could to better it for present and future generations.
I was profoundly troubled by the direction this province was heading.
I could no longer stand on the sidelines and watch the dismantling of British Columbia’s provincial leadership on the climate change file as our government pursued an utterly unrealistic fossil fuel windfall from a hypothetical Liquefied Natural Gas sector in a desperate attempt to win an election that nobody thought they would win.
Well we are already seeing these promises unravel as the province chase a falling stock, doubling down and selling out future generations along the way. And I’ve been saying the same thing now for more than three years. The market did not, does not and will not, any time soon, support a BC LNG industry anytime soon.
Rather than chasing the economy of the last century we should be positioning ourselves as leaders in the 21st century economy.
We have a unique opportunity in British Columbia because of three strategic advantages that we have over virtually every other region in the world.
But for British Columbia to actually capitalise on our strategic advantages, we must ensure we protect them.
A quality public education is not the luxury of a strong economy. A quality education is what builds a strong economy.
A Loraxian approach to resource management does not protect our renewable resources, natural environment or build public support. We need to move away from the professional reliance model and ensure our regulatory framework is complied with and enforced.
And we must start thinking about the long-term consequences of our decisions, decisions that put people, rather than vested interests or re-election goals first and foremost.
We should be using our strategic advantage as a destination of choice to attract industry to BC in highly mobile sectors that have difficulty retaining employees in a competitive marketplace.
We should be using our boundless renewable energy resources to attract industry that wants to brand itself as sustainable over its entire business cycle, just like Washington and Oregon have done.
We should be setting up seed funding mechanisms to allow the BC-based creative economy sector to leverage venture capital from other jurisdictions to our province.
Too often the only leveraging that is done is the shutting down of BC-based offices and opening of offices in the Silicon Valley.
And following the recommendations of both the B.C. Mayors Climate Leadership Council and the BC Climate Leadership team we should continue steadily increasing emissions pricing.
By doing so we send a signal to the market that incentivises innovation and the transition to a low carbon economy.
And the BC Greens have a plan about what to do with the revenue. The funding would be transferred to municipalities across the province so that they might have the resources to deal with their aging infrastructure and growing transportation barriers.
By investing in the replacement of aging infrastructure in communities throughout the province we stimulate local economies and create jobs.
By moving to this polluter-pays model of revenue generation for municipalities, we reduce the burden on regressive property taxes.
Stable, local jobs give rise to vibrant, resilient municipalities. Yet, building strong municipalities is about more than making smart economic choices at the provincial level.
It is also about ensuring that municipal governments are empowered to make the investments their communities need. It is about asking ourselves: “How do we finance our municipalities now and how might we better finance them in the future”.
It’s critical to immediately initiate a provincial dialog on the future of municipal financing. There is far too much downloading and deregulation that is putting increased pressure on municipalities.
Whether it be dealing with the failure of issues that fall under provincial or federal jurisdiction, pressures on municipal spending through the introduction of regulations that they have no control over, programs paid by municipalities for which they have little control over costs, or the cancellation of funding of programs that are still require to be offered, municipalities are often left on the hook.
Take an issue that affects everyone here. Coastal communities often need to step in to clean up derelict vessels. They often bear the cost of the clean-up even though it falls in the jurisdiction of higher levels of government. This is a glaring example of a dereliction of duty exhibited by both provincial and federal governments.
Is continuing to burden homeowners with property tax increases year after year really the best approach?
Or, could provincial and municipal governments instead work together to create a more progressive financing system that promotes, instead of impedes, the type of fundamental economic activity that we all value, such as buying a home.
It’s also critical that we bring the typically urban-based tech and rural-based resource sectors together. Innovation in technology will lead to more efficient and clever ways of operating in the mining and forestry industries.
I was recently told the story of a BC-based technology innovator partnering with a local mine to dramatically improve the efficiency and environmental footprint of their mining operations.
Rather than hauling thousands of unnecessary tonnes of rock to a crusher for processing, the new technology allowed the rocks to be scanned for gold content on site. This meant that prior to trucking, the company could determine if it was more cost-effective to simply put the rock to one side for use as fill later.
We should be investing in innovation in the aquaculture industry, like the land-based technologies used by the Namgis First Nation on Vancouver Island who raise Atlantic salmon without compromising wild stocks.
These are just a few of the many ideas that could help us move to the cutting edge in 21st the century economy.
Fundamental to all of these ideas is the need to ensure that economic opportunities are done in partnership with First Nations. And that means working with First Nations through all stages of resource project development – from conception to completion.
The Green Party of BC is a solutions-oriented party — one that fundamentally believes that policy should flow from evidence. I like to call this evidence-based decision-making, as opposed to what happens too often in politics today — decision-based evidence making.
We have a vision of a compassionate society that lives within its means while preserving the environment around us. It is a vision that guides us to think about the long-term consequences of the decisions we make today.
If you’ve been watching the BC Greens in the Legislature over the last three years you’ll see I’ve tried to offer government solutions to problems that are facing all of us.
As I learned in my scientific career, and as I tried to teach my students, criticism is easy. But what’s more difficult, yet far more valuable, is being constructive in one’s criticism.
If you don’t like my idea, tell me what you would do instead. That is the approach I have taken in the legislature. That is the approach of the BC Greens.
MSP reform, housing, affordability, and sexualized violence are issues that we’ve been able to make significant progress on this year.
I believe that the BC Greens have helped to shape the narrative and in a not insubstantial way have been strong agents of change on these files.
Most recently it was announced that another one of my private members bills is supported by the government — a bill requiring responsible pet ownership.
So what are the essential traits of a successful leader? I firmly believe is that it is being principled, honest, authentic, trustworthy and having integrity.
Leaders must have the courage to be honest with British Columbians about the risks and consequences of any government decision.
Leadership builds public opinion – it doesn’t follow it.
In the shadows of the massive challenges that we face, our province needs new leadership.
Leadership that offers a realistic and achievable vision grounded in hope and real change.
Leadership that places the interests of the people of British Columbia — not vested union or corporate interests— first and foremost in decision-making.
And it’s not only today’s British Columbians that we must think about, it’s also the next generation who are not part of today’s decision-making process.
We need leadership that will build our economy on the unique competitive advantages British Columbia possesses, not chase the economy of yesteryear by mirroring the failed strategies of struggling economies.
Leadership that will act boldly and deliberately to transition us to 21st century economy that is diversified and sustainable.
Yes BC needs leadership. But leadership doesn’t just rest with one person. Everyone here has the opportunity and responsibility to take this mantle of leadership on.
Leadership means inspiring others to act in ways that contribute to the betterment of their society.
We are all here because we believe BC has the potential to show this leadership.
I hope to offer that vision and that leadership to the people of British Columbia over the coming years and I look forward to working with all of you to make that a reality.
The fact is, very few of the important challenges facing our society can easily be placed within the traditional left-right political spectrum.
Addressing these challenges requires us to come together from across the political divide. It requires us to cooperate and collaborate across all levels of government. And it requires us to develop a social license before, not after, a policy pathway is chosen.
I’m asking everyone in this room to consider working together to find real solutions to the important problems that face us today —problems in affordability, homelessness, poverty, climate change, education and health care.
To conclude, I leave you with what Stephen Lewis stated at his UBCM speech in 2012. He noted that British Columbia has the most lunatic political culture in Canada. Everyone laughed.
But quite frankly, I think we should all have been ashamed.
We can do better. We will do better. And I commit to you today, on behalf of the BC Greens, we will to do our best to work with you to solve the challenges each and every one of your communities face.
Thank you and thank you to the AVICC for giving me the opportunity to present to you today.