Today I had the honour of addressing the delegates to the 2017 Convention of the Union of BC Municipalities as Leader of the BC Green Party. Below I reproduce the essential elements of the speech. You will see in the text a number of sections where I spoke freely. I tried to link to articles on my website that give the essence of what I was referring to in my speech.
Join us for Andrew Weaver’s 2017 address to the BC local government convention in Vancouver.
Posted by BC Green Party on Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Please let me start by thanking the Union of BC Municipalities for providing me with this opportunity to speak to you today.
Last year I stood before you as the Leader and lone elected MLA of the BC Green Party. This year so much has changed. I’m thrilled to be now joined by my two caucus colleagues: Adam Olsen, the MLA for Saanich North & the Islands and Sonia Furstenau, the MLA for Cowichan Valley.
Both Sonia and Adam come to the BC Legislature with experience at the local government level. Adam was a former Central Saanich Councillor and Sonia was a Regional Director in the Cowichan Valley Regional District. While our caucus is small, it is certainly mighty.
The world is changing there is a growing agitation for change borne out of an overall dissatisfaction with the status quo, career politicians, and conventional economic assumptions.
Simultaneously, we are experiencing major disruptive threats due to the mounting effects of climate change and technological advancement.
Many of these trends are present in the sociopolitical landscape of B.C.
The affordability crisis, caused by a combination of runaway real estate prices due to speculation and the desirability of B.C. as a place to live, and incomes that have failed to keep pace, in particular for young people, have left many people feeling hopeless and anxious about their future.
British Columbians are also simultaneously environmentally conscious, as well as cognizant of our province’s historical dependence on resource development for economic growth.
We are not afraid to acknowledge that there are many challenges, such as climate change and technological disruption, facing the world.
But with every challenge, comes an opportunity. If we make smart choices based on a long-term vision for the province, we can seize the exciting opportunities arising and build a dynamic province where British Columbians enjoy a high quality of life for generations to come.
In that, the provincial government, needs to recognize the crucial leadership role for municipalities and empower your members to pursue solutions that work for your unique communities. Your knowledge and expertise are needed now more than ever.
Rather than hanging onto, or trying to go back to, the economy of the last century we should be positioning ourselves as leaders in the 21st century economy and that may look different for every community.
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 capitalize 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.
And we must start thinking about the long-term consequences of our decisions, decisions that put people, rather than vested corporate or union interests or re-election goals first and foremost.
Last year in my UBCM speech I spoke about the need for leadership that placed the interests of the people of British Columbia — not organized union or corporate interests— first and foremost in decision-making. In that speech I announced for the first time that the BC Green Party would no long be accepting corporate or union donations.
“Leadership means leading by example,” I said. “And the BC Greens commit to doing just that.”
One year to the day later, I’m proud to say that we have had our last provincial election under corporate and union rule. I hope that in the weeks or months ahead, we will see the same corrosive influence removed from municipal politics as well.
If we are going to make BC a more prosperous place for ordinary people, we must:
During the election the BC Green platform set out a bold plan to achieve this vision. It was grounded in economic security and sustainability in their full and truest sense. And it provided clear steps – based on evidence – to move us towards greater wellbeing for all British Columbians.
This is what we ran on. The NDP ran on something different. As did the Liberals. All parties presented ideas that resonated with certain people and communities.
But none of us got it perfectly right, as the election results indicate.
The BC NDP didn’t win a majority. The BC Liberals didn’t win a majority. And the BC Greens didn’t win a majority. Instead, we have a minority government. And I truly believe it has the potential to become far more than simply the sum of its parts – if parties choose to work together.
All parties have something to offer on behalf of the British Columbians that voted for our vision for the province. We have many shared priorities, goals, and values.
The interim budget presented two weeks ago is a wonderful starting point. It is a budget that includes initiatives from all three parties:
It was built on the foundation of the BC Liberals’ February budget and retained a number of positive initiatives started by their government.
It includes some important new NDP priorities. And it featured some BC Green led initiatives, such as the Innovation Commissioner, Emerging Economy Task Force, and Fair Wage Commission.
The BC government is working towards a new more collaborative form of governance and I am feeling very optimistic that this shift will lead to the creation of stronger public policy.
On child care, for instance, there are multiple proposals on the table. The Confidence and Supply Agreement our caucus signed with the BC NDP caucus set up structures for consultation so that we can collaborate to develop sound, evidence-based policies that will put people first.
In a minority government, we have an opportunity to collaborate to deliver the best public policy outcomes for British Columbians.
Childcare should be accessible, affordable and include a strong focus on early childhood education. We agreed with the BC NDP on these values, but had had slightly different ideas in terms of how to implement them.
Going forward, I believe we can develop a child care policy that features the best aspects of each proposal. Both proposals are a starting point upon which we can further improve.
We are not going back on this commitment – we are taking it further.
Our cooperative mindset can’t be confined to the legislative chamber, though, it must extend to each of your communities.
Given the challenges our province is facing – climate change, the opioid crisis, housing prices, homelessness, poverty, the automation of jobs, the decarbonization of our energy systems – we need your leadership.
Each community will have different challenges and opportunities in addressing these problems, no one knows this better than you.
The province needs to support your work.
Throughout my time in the legislature I have heard from countless communities who have innovative and ambitious plans in their jurisdiction. They’ve gone the distance, but the provincial government won’t step in to take it any further.
And, as we all know too well, the development of resources without proper engagement, consultation and consent has been a major source of conflict in communities across BC.
This approach is disrespectful, damaging to the environment, First Nation communities, municipalities and damaging to cross-governmental relationships.
My colleagues and I believe that we need a different approach to resource development: one that is inclusive, truly collaborative, and does not come with a pre-determined outcome.
One that respects the principle of free, prior and informed consent.
One that is bottom-up rather than top-down.
My favourite example of this concerns the ski resort proposals at Jumbo and Valemont.
Talk about Jumbo vs Valemont process
Another pressing, cross jurisdictional issue is, of course, housing.
We currently have an endless supply of demand. British Columbia is a beautiful province and wonderful place to live. Understandably, people want to move here to retire, study, work, and raise families. In many communities, the housing available is bursting at the seams.
Thanks to inadequate provincial policies and a lack of leadership on the housing file, municipalities have been forced to do more with less.
As we head into this new governance chapter my Green caucus colleagues and I stand with your communities and hope to amplify the solutions you are calling for.
We must protect the values of houses and apartments as homes first, not investment commodities.
Despite the barriers that have been blocking innovation and adaptation in BC, I have heard incredible success stories from companies and municipalities:
Talk about Terrace/Burns Lake, manufacturing
To close I’ll end my speech much the same way as I did last year when I announced the BC Greens were going to stop accepting corporate and union donations on the eve of an election year:
Real leadership doesn’t come from doing what is easy. It is built on doing what is right.
In the year ahead this sentiment will continue to guide our work. Thank you again for having me.
December 11, 2017