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Community

Tribute to Elliot Eurchuk

Today in the Legislature I rose to pay tribute to Elliot Eurchuk, a former constituent, who tragically died from an accidental overdose of opioids at just 16 years of age.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the short tribute.


Video of Tribute



Text of Tribute


A. Weaver: Today I rise with profound sadness to convey my deepest sympathies to the family of Elliot Cleveland Eurchuk, who tragically passed away on Friday, April 20, from an accidental overdose of opioids at just 16 years of age.

Elliot and his family are constituents, and Elliot was a grade 11 student at Oak Bay High School. He loved sports, hiking, books and hoped to study medicine in the future. He was known for his wit, humour and profound kindness.

I cannot imagine the grief his family and friends are experiencing. His school and our collective community are grieving together with his family.

His parents, Rachel Staples and Brock Eurchuk — Brock, a longtime friend of mine, who I graduated from high school with — have bravely spoken out to tell their story and warn other youth and parents about the danger of prescription opioids.

Every day in British Columbia we are losing youth in our communities. The B.C. Coroners Service reports that the number of overdose deaths among ten- to 18-year-olds almost doubled, from 12 in 2016 to 23 in 2017. One life lost is truly heartbreaking, yet the scale of this emergency could hardly be articulated in a way that respects and reflects the grief felt around B.C.

To Elliot’s parents and family, please accept my sincere condolences for your tragic loss. I’m sure I speak on behalf of all my colleagues in this chamber when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with you at these difficult times.

Addressing delegates to the AVICC annual convention

Today I was afforded the opportunity to address delegates at the 69th annual convention of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities. As noted on their website:

The Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) is the longest established area association under the umbrella of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM). The area association was established in 1950. It now has a membership of 53 municipalities and regional districts that stretches from the North Coast Regional District down to the tip of Vancouver Island and includes Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, the Central Coast and the North Coast. The Association deals with issues and concerns that affect large urban areas to small rural communities.

Below I reproduce the text of my speech.


Text of Speech


I am delighted to be here this morning with all of you – and I think we share an essential trait as politicians, even if we are not always aligned in policy or vision.

Each of you, I expect, can identify the issue or the passion that motivated you to run for local government. It may have been an environmental issue, as it was for my colleague Sonia Furstenau, or it may have been a desire to see a project in your community to move forward.

And it is passionate leadership at the local government level that sees so much positive change come forward in our province.

Look at the Town of Gibsons – the first in North America to pass a natural asset management policy, showing extraordinary leadership in recognizing the indisputable logic of including natural assets in financial planning.

In Cowichan there is the Cowichan Watershed Board, laying the foundation for watershed co-governance with First Nations, and taking tangible, necessary steps toward reconciliation in the process.

Recognizing that healthy and happy communities – as Charles Montgomery so eloquently points out – have social connection and collaboration in their fibre, Oceanside and Mt. Waddington’s Health Networks are models for bringing people together to create long-term positive health outcomes.

It was my own commitment to action on climate that motivated me to run for MLA in 2013, after I had seen our province go from a climate leader under Gordon Campbell to a climate laggard under Christy Clark.

As a climate scientist, I had long encouraged my students to engage with decision makers – or become decision-makers themselves – if they wanted to see politicians take action on climate. I realized that I too had a responsibility to participate in the building of political will to act on climate – not as a voice of doom, but as a voice for the extraordinary possibility and opportunities that lie before us in this challenging time.

So much of the conversation around climate and the transition away from a fossil-fuel economy is backward-looking, focusing on the economy of the 20th-century.

Look at the hysteria and rhetoric around the kinder morgan expansion – the shocking doubling-down on a pipeline that would export heavy oil – diluted bitumen – out of Vancouver. In every way, this is the wrong direction for our economy, our environment, our relationship with First Nations, and our climate.

Now take the potential that lies in new technology and innovation. Shell has recently announced that it has the technology to extract vanadium from bitumen, and use the vanadium to build steel that can be used to manufacture battery cells that have the capacity to store energy.

Consider that potential! Rather than dumping yet another raw resource as quickly as we can into foreign markets that reap the rewards of jobs and revenue as they process it into a usable and far more valuable commodity, we could be looking at using this resource to develop and support steel manufacturing, innovative energy storage technology, and the renewable energy sector.

We could massively increase the return to our citizens and our economy, and we could be actively building the future energy systems that will sustain our children and grandchildren.

We sell ourselves short by looking backwards – when transformation and innovation are happening more and more rapidly, it is the worst possible time for us as a province or a nation to double down on the ever decreasing returns in a race to the bottom of early 20th-century economics.

And it’s smaller communities – like the ones that many of you represent – that could benefit immensely from the emerging economy that’s rooted in education and driven by innovation and technology.

Consider the potential of Terrace as a centre for manufacturing – we as a province should be reaching out to Elon Musk and encouraging him to see the potential benefits of a Tesla plant or battery manufacturing plant in Terrace, where shipments to Asia are easily accessible through Prince Rupert’s port, and shipments to Chicago are at the end of a rail line that runs straight through Terrace.

Here on the island, Victoria has already earned the moniker “Techtoria” – and the Cowichan Valley is situated perfectly to be the next destination region for an industry that is growing by leaps and bounds.

BC’s own digital technology supercluster was recently awarded $1.4 billion in federal funding – an investment that is expected to produce 50,000 jobs and add $15 billion to BC’s economy over the next ten years.

And the work being done will make the lives of British Columbians better – including creating a health and genetic platform that will allow medical specialists to create custom, leading-edge cancer treatments that are personalized to the unique genetic makeup of each patient.

This work – hi-tech innovation, research, education – this work can happen anywhere in our increasingly connected world. It’s the connectivity highways that we should be investing in – these will allow all communities to reap the rewards of the 21st-century economy.
At a reception for the BC Tech Association last week, I met Stacie Wallin. Her job is to nurture tech companies that have hit the 1 million dollar level in revenue to scale up to the 25 million dollar level.

And she is so busy that she has nearly a dozen people working with her to keep up with the work that’s coming her way. When pipelines and LNG plants crowd out our conversations about BC’s and Canada’s economy, we miss what’s actually happening – the exciting, innovative, emerging economy that is reshaping our communities.

And there’s so much more. The film industry, tourism, education, professional services, value-added forestry, innovation in mining, renewable energy – our potential in this beautiful province is as boundless as our stunning scenery – and squandering time and energy to prop up sunset industries is the wrong place to be putting our precious efforts and money.
And if governments double down on 20th-century carbon-based economics, it’s your communities that feel the impacts and pay the prices.

Floods, droughts, wildfires, damage from increasingly punishing storms, sea level rise & storm sureges – all of these cost your communities, and your citizens, more and more money.

Communities are hit with the costs of building infrastructure to prevent flooding during the melt season, at the same time as having to determine how to deal with depleted aquifers that won’t be able to sustain the residents who depend on them for drinking water, and another drought this summer will once again put Vancouver Island at severe risk for wildfires.

The impacts of climate change will continue to put severe pressures on all our communities – which is why it’s utterly irresponsible for our provincial government to be considering a 6 billion dollar subsidy of the LNG industry – including letting LNG Canada off the hook for paying their fair share of carbon pricing.

Consider that fact alone – that the potential single greatest emitter of greenhouse gases in BC would only ever have to pay $30/tonne for its carbon pollution, while the rest of us, including industry, will see carbon pricing rise by $5/tonne each year.

This is an unacceptable logic, and one that we can’t possibly support – and I urge you, as the elected representatives who will be seeing the costs and consequences of climate change in your communities – I urge you to also encourage this government to recognize that giving massive tax breaks to the LNG industry because it isn’t economically viable is not the direction BC should be heading right now.

Consider an alternative. Why not invest in the Squamish Clean Technology Association (SCTA) created to seek out leading edge ventures that will help create an innovation hub focused on clean energy. We could attract the best and brightest minds to come to BC to figure out how to harness the renewable energy that abounds in our province while encouraging the innovation that our world needs most right now.

In response to a question from the audience on Friday about how to get municipal staff to think beyond their standard frames of reference, I understand that Charles Montgomery pointed to new models for civic design, and suggested that politicians may need to “drag them kicking and screaming” into the 21st century.

This also applies to many of our provincial and federal representatives, who may say that they recognize our need to transition to the new economy, but then try to convince us that the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions … is to increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Doubling down with doublespeak – let’s not let this become a new Canadian tradition.

We need our provincial and federal politics to reflect the best of what we see at the local government level.
Informed discussion and debate, listening to people who present differing opinions, allowing for compromise as a path forward, working from a place of shared values and finding solutions that best reflect those values.

And while it may not always feel this way at your council and board tables, the reality is that your level of government is one that is generally far less driven by partisanship and ideology.

We have an extraordinary opportunity to bring our electoral system into the 21st century in BC with the referendum that is happening this fall. And while there will be many discussions on both sides of this debate over the next several months, it’s essential to begin with what are we trying to solve with electoral reform in BC.

Currently, under First Past the Post, elections are geared towards a “winner take all” outcome. And that winner almost never has the support of the majority of the voters.

40% is often the magic number.

40% of the popular vote in BC can generally deliver to one party a majority of seats in the legislature, and 100% of the power for 4 years.

Informed discussion and debate, listening to differing opinions, compromise, collaboration, finding common ground based on shared values – that’s completely unnecessary when your party has enough votes to ram through any legislation and any agenda you like.

Compare this to almost any other human endeavour, where collaboration, cooperation, and respect deliver the outcomes that have moved us forward throughout history.

Yes – let’s compete to bring forward the best ideas, the boldest visions – but let’s not make competition the only value that underpins politics.

Charles Montgomery points out that the infrastructure of our cities and our communities can be a source for unhappiness, through creating mistrust, a sense of disconnect, and a lack of sociability.

It seems that our political infrastructure – and in particular a first past the post system that delivers 100% of the power with a minority of the votes – can also create mistrust, lack of sociability, and unhappiness. In our winner take all system, inflicting knock out blows to the other side becomes a normal part of our politics – but how much does this damage our governance?
How many good ideas, brought forward by opposition MLAs or MPs have died sad deaths on the order papers under a majority government that can’t be seen to work across party lines?

Electoral reform – particularly electoral reform that would bring in a form of proportional representation – would deliver more minority governments to BC.

And some may try to convince you that’s a terrible thing – but I ask, is working across party lines a terrible thing? Is collaboration on policies and legislation a terrible thing? Is having more minds engaged on solving problems a terrible thing?
Or could this change in our electoral infrastructure actually bring us politics that contribute to more sociability – the one factor that Charles Montgomery said was paramount to our happiness.

Premier Horgan mentioned in his address that there has been conflict between our two parties.

There has indeed – and the media will always focus on these points of tension – but if you look at how much legislation was passed in the fall, how many initiatives have moved forward over the past nine months and then consider the ratio of collaboration to conflict, you’ll recognize that – much like at your own council tables – when you work from a place of shared values, it’s possible to almost always find a path forward.

Our current electoral model has its origins in the Middle Ages, and it has undergone significant change over the centuries.
It was only 100 years ago that women were given the right to vote in BC, and as we discuss and debate extending that right to 16 and 17 year olds, let us remember that the world around us changes continuously, and it’s up to us to ensure our institutions – particularly our democratic institutions – adapt to meet the needs of our society.

Happy cities, happy communities, happy politics. Let’s dream big.

Thank you.

Responding to the Changes in the Government’s Speculation Tax

Earlier this month I was very critical, of the government’s ill thought through attempts to curb speculation in the housing market. In fact, I was entirely unsure as to what outcomes the government was seeking with the introduction of their so-called “speculation tax”. To the government’s credit, the Minister of Finance declared that she was willing to listen to British Columbians and make adjustments to her proposed policies. This was the opening that we were looking for.

Over the last few weeks we worked hard to solicit, listen to, and respond to the concerns of British Columbians about this tax. We brought these concerns directly to the table with the NDP and worked closely with them to identify and offer solutions to many of the unforeseen consequences that had arisen. In particular,

  • We wanted to ensure the tax did not unfairly impact British Columbians, including people with vacation homes, who are not speculating in our market.
  • We wanted to ensure the tax did not apply to rural or vacation areas, where there are many part-time residents and they are significant to the local economy.
  • We wanted to ensure that this tax truly targets speculators – people who park their money in our real estate market as if it’s the stock market – and that it effectively deals with satellite families and offshore money.
  • We wanted to ensure adequate flexibility for rentals, allowing people to avoid the tax by renting their home out part of the year, and stay there the other part of the year.
  • We wanted to ensure that people who can’t rent their place out, through restrictive zoning or strata bylaws, aren’t hit with the tax.
  • We wanted to ensure that the tax actually reduces speculation, and does not provide a revenue windfall for government.

Yesterday Carole James, the Minister of Finance, announced revisions to the proposed speculation tax that will be introduced this fall. While the BC Greens would have taken much more aggressive action focused largely on foreign capital through a New Zealand style offshore buyers ban, as well as targetting speculation through a flipping tax and closing the bare trust loophole on residential sales, the government’s proposed changes go a long way to dealing with a number of concerns with the tax.

Below I reproduce the Media Statement that we released in response to the proposed government changes.

 


Media Release


B.C. Green Caucus responds to government’s speculation tax changes
For immediate release
March 26, 2018

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, issued the following statement in response to the government’s announced changes to the speculation tax.

“It’s a positive sign that this government is willing to listen to British Columbians and to make adjustments to policies,” said Weaver.

“In a minority government, we have an opportunity to do things differently by collaborating to improve public policy. We worked hard to champion British Columbians’ concerns and bring forth evidence-based solutions to this policy’s shortcomings. We agree with the B.C. NDP that we need to take action to address speculation in our real estate market. However, we have been clear that we needed to see changes to this tax in order to support the forthcoming legislation. In particular, the government’s policy must target speculation and empty homes in our urban centres without undue adverse effects on rural areas and on British Columbians who aren’t speculators.

“These changes go a long way to dealing with our initial concerns with the tax – they make it much more targeted and limit the effects on British Columbians with vacation homes. We look forward to the full details of the legislation to ensure it truly limits unintended consequences. We will continue to advocate for bolder policies to address speculation, including a flipping tax, the closing of the bare trust loophole and a New Zealand-style ban on foreign capital.”

Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands added that he was pleased that many of his constituents’ concerns were addressed.

“I heard from many concerned Gulf Islanders who were worried about how the speculation tax might impact them and we kept pressure on the government to address these issues,” said Olsen.

“I’m glad that the government has recognized that this tax doesn’t make sense for rural areas like the Gulf Islands. The diversity of concerns in my riding demonstrates the need for a nuanced approach to the housing crisis. We have serious housing challenges in the Gulf Islands that need to be addressed, while recognizing that seasonal residents are valuable members of the community who contribute to the local economy. I will continue to work closely with the communities in my riding to bring locally-appropriate solutions to the table.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Introducing two bills to protect gender identity and expression privacy rights

Yesterday in the legislature I had the pleasure of introducing five remarkable youth: Megan Walker, Grayson Threlfall, Astrid Nielson-Miller, Alex Bradley and Avery Williams. They, together with 20 other British Columbia youth, are working with Dr. Lindsay Harriet at the University of Victoria on writing a book about what it’s like to grow up as a transgender person in 2018. Their project is called The Transgender Tipping Point.

But their good work goes far beyond the book that they are writing. A few weeks ago I met with youth working on this project. One of them raised the important notion that two key bills, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection Act did not protect gender identity and expression or contained gendered language that did not instill confidence in the transgender community concerning the interpretation of the act.

I agreed and so worked with them, together with a legislative intern Kayla Phillips, to draft amendments to these bills. Today I introduced both the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2018 and the Personal Information Protection Amendment Act, 2018.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the introductions as well as our accompanying press release. I look forward to work with my colleague Spencer Chandra Hebert in the BC NDP to see if we cant get these bills passed in a timely fashion.


Video of Bill Introductions



Text of Bill Introductions


BILL M208 — FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND PROTECTION OF PRIVACY AMENDMENT ACT, 2018

A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2018, of which notice has been given in my name on the order paper, be introduced and read a first time now.

The right to privacy is well established in British Columbia, as is the right to be free from discrimination because of gender identity and expression. Under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, however, gender identity and expression is not recognized as a category of personal information that must be protected when its disclosure may harm a third party.

In addition to proposed changes to ensure the protection of gender identity and expression in freedom-of-information releases, the bill also proposes a move to gender-inclusive language. This would demonstrate a commitment to protect the personal information of gender identity and expression in the legislation to an even larger extent and provide the act with an update making it more representative of the people it is meant to protect.

I wish to recognize the young members in the gallery today, who have been quite instrumental in bringing this to my attention, as well as the good work done by the member for Vancouver–West End, whose championing of this in the Legislature over many years has also informed me and others as to the importance of acts like these.

Mr. Speaker: The question is first reading of the bill.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M208, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2018, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

BILL M209 — PERSONAL INFORMATION PROTECTION AMENDMENT ACT, 2018

A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Personal Information Protection Amendment Act, 2018, of which notice has been given in my name on the order paper, be introduced and read a first time now.

The protection of people’s private and personal information is essential, especially when the information could have negative impacts or when its release was not consented to. Too often, personal information regarding gender identity or expression is revealed.

This amendment would replace 16 instances of gendered language throughout the act with gender-neutral language. By explicitly making a point of doing this, it reinforces to those who may rely on the act that gender identity and expression is important personal information that should not be revealed without that party’s consent. This bill will build trust between those who wish to keep their gender identity and expression private and those they seek guidance from concerning personal and confidential issues.

I would like to thank for this, as well, the youth in the gallery above, for bringing this to my attention, and once more to the member for Vancouver–West End, who was an advocate for language and issues like this over the years and has also made this an important topic of discussion in the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker: The question is first reading of the bill.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M209, Personal Information Protection Amendment Act, 2018, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Media Release


March 15, 2018
Weaver introduced private members bills to protect and acknowledge diverse gender identities
For immediate release

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, introduced two private members bills to that would further the rights of British Columbians with diverse gender identity and expression. The bills are amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act (FIPPA) and the Personal Information Protection Amendment Act (PIPA).

“Personal information such as sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and religious affiliation is already protected under FIPPA, in 2018 we should absolutely include gender identity and expression,” said Weaver.

“People with diverse gender identity and expression still face discrimination and far too often violence. It is essential that this information be protected to ensure it is not be released without their consent.”

Weaver was made aware of the need for these changes after meeting with local trans youth from The Trans Tipping Point Project, a UVic initiative organized by Dr. Lindsay Herriot and Kate Fry, with young trans people from across Canada.

“It was an amazing feeling to speak truth to power, and to be heard and listened to, and then have something done about it. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity, and to everyone who supported us in making this happen,” said Avery Williams, one of the Trans Tipping Point Project youth.

The amendment to FIPPA would ensure that information regarding an individual’s gender identity and expression cannot be revealed by the head of a public body, and that it must be redacted in Freedom of Information Requests. The amendment to PIPA would replace instances of gendered language (he and she) with gender neutral language, reinforcing the principle that gender identity is important and is personal information that should not be revealed without consent.

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Bill M210 — Family Day Amendment Act, 2018

On February 9, the BC government announced that in 2019, Family Day would move from the second to the third Monday in February. In fact, I had earlier introduced a Private Member’s Bill in 2017 to do just this and so the BC Green caucus was thrilled that the BC NDP supported this BC Green initiative.

But such an announcement needs to be coupled with either a legislative or regulatory change. In light of the fact that it is now over a month since the announcement was made and that the act had yet to be changed either way, I felt it was important to reintroduce the bill to remind government of its commitment. As such yesterday I introduced, for the second time, the Family Day Amendment Act.

Below are the video and text of the bill’s introduction.


Video of Bill Introduction



Text of Bill Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Family Day Amendment Act, 2018, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.

This is the second time that I’m introducing this bill, which, if enacted, would amend the Family Day Act to prescribe that the third Monday in February each year is observed as Family Day. This amendment would align the date of B.C.’s Family Day with family days and other public holidays across the rest of Canada and in the United States.

The purpose of Family Day is to highlight the importance of family and bring families together, not cater to corporate lobbyists in the ski industry. In B.C., we observe Family Day a week earlier than all other provinces. Families spread out beyond B.C. aren’t able to be together. Federal employees and many who work in business are forced to work Family Day, since it is a business day everywhere else.

On February 9, the Premier announced that beginning 2019, Family Day would shift as outlined in this bill. Unfortunately, that cannot occur without a change in legislation. To assist government, I’m bringing forward this bill in the hope that the ball is not dropped. I would have brought this forward earlier had I realized we had such a light legislative agenda this session.

Mr. Speaker: The question is first reading of the bill.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M210, Family Day Amendment Act, 2018, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.