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Resource Development

Adam Olsen responds to Auditor General’s report on grizzly bear management

In response to the release of of the Auditor General’s report on grizzly bear management today, my colleague, Adam Olsen, the BC Green critic for wildlife policy released the following:


Media Release


Adam Olsen responds to Auditor General’s report on grizzly bear management, calls for moratorium by bringing hunting tags to zero
For Immediate Release
October 24, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Adam Olsen, the B.C. Green caucus spokesperson for Forestry, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), responded to the Auditor General’s report, An Independent Audit of Grizzly Bear Management, which was released earlier today.

“I am very concerned that the auditor general has found that the Ministries’ have failed to properly manage B.C.’s grizzly population,” Olsen said.

“These findings demonstrate the urgent need to develop a comprehensive approach to ensuring the health of grizzlies. We need to improve the coordination between the two ministries managing this file and prioritize transparency. Although the trophy hunt has received much high-profile attention, B.C.’s grizzlies face many other threats including habitat and food source loss due to human activity and, increasingly, the encroaching effects of climate change.

“Today, as an initial step, I am calling for a moratorium on grizzly bear by bringing hunting tags to down to zero while we take the time to review our wildlife management practices and plan for a landscape altered by climate change.

“As legislators, our job is to look for feasible solutions to the issues that matter to British Columbians. Under the previous Liberal government, which actively supported the grizzly bear trophy hunt, my colleague Andrew Weaver worked hard to advance legislation that would ban the trophy hunt while protecting rights for local sustenance hunters and First Nations traditional practices. Now, with a party in government that has opposed the grizzly bear trophy hunt supported by the B.C. Greens, we have an opportunity to move the dial even farther on measures that will protect our province’s grizzly bears.”

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

Bill 2 – Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2017

Today in the Legislature I rose to speak in support of Bill 2 – Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2017. Bill 2 introduces the legislation needed to implement the government’s budget.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my speech.

For those who read to the end, you will see that a BC Liberal MLA heckled me and claimed that the Massey Bridge cost was $2.6 billion instead of the $4.5 billion I stated. A simple Google search indicates I was correct. However, there appears to new information to suggest it would cost much, much more.


Text of Speech


A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in this debate on Bill 2, Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2017.

As we know, this bill before us is a bill that sets the stage — the measures put forward in the budget, in the required legislative changes — to implement those promises in the budget.

Now, there is some precedent here for there to be unanimity in supporting a budget measures implementation act. I take you to March 24, 2015, when the member for Abbotsford West said, after division was called: “In glorious unanimity, we move to Committee of the Whole House.” That was after the Budget Implementation Act was supported unanimously by members of opposition at the time and members of government at the time.

So there is precedent, even though a budget was voted against, to vote in support of a budget measures implementation act. I’m not so sure, actually, that the official opposition at the time meant to do that, but the reality is that there is precedent. I am interpreting that as a sign of good faith. I look forward to this government, who had the bold claim, the audacity to state, speaker after speaker after speaker, that the B.C. NDP budget is largely based on what the Liberals had already. So if they truly believe that, then I look forward to hearing them stand and speak in support of each and every one of the measures that they had in their original budget.

But as we’ve seen yesterday, as we’ve seen here in the House, it’s a game for the official opposition. This is not about the formation of good public policy. It’s about a game. It’s about the quest for power and the game of politics, not about doing what’s right for British Columbians.

This is a budget, as reflected in this Budget Measures Implementation Act, that is people-focused. It’s one that recognized that after 16 years, it’s time to take a look at what is happening to everyday British Columbians. We had — and I admit, and I support — a strong economy in British Columbia. There was a strong economy in British Columbia. Things went awry in about 2010.

It was in 2010 that members opposite, those of them who were here, decided that they would take this province down a direction and a quest for the impossible. With promises of, as I’ve said before, unicorns in each and every one of our backyards, they began the quest and journey to the unimaginable, of bringing to B.C. a $100 billion prosperity fund.

A $1 trillion increase in GDP, 100,000 jobs, elimination of the PST, debt-free B.C., thriving schools and hospitals because of an LNG industry that was going to bring wealth and prosperity to all.

I wish I had written down the quotes of the then Minister of Natural Gas. When I stood in this Legislature and questioned the logic, questioned the facts, questioned what earth they were living on to think that this was going to happen, I was told, in essence, and I paraphrase: “The member opposite doesn’t know what he’s saying. He needs to do his research. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. I meet with the companies, I know what’s going on, and I’m looking forward to the member opposite eating his words.” Well, two years later…. It’s almost three years now. I think it’s the former minister of hot air — sorry, Natural Gas — that should be eating his words.

The danger of this, which was created by going down this quest, is it sent a signal to the market — now, I’m going to use good free enterprise language — that if you want to do business in B.C., it’s LNG or nothing. I’ve had tech leader after tech leader after tech leader after tech leader after developer after business leader after CEO tell me that they were frustrated since 2010. They were frustrated because in B.C., it was all about LNG. University presidents, schools — re-engineering our education system, all for LNG.

For the members opposite, it was a big game. They knew they had no chance of winning the 2013 election, so they had to throw a Hail Mary pass, a Hail Mary pass of hope that British Columbians would hang their hats on, one they failed to deliver.

They have the gall to stand here and suggest that our economy is thriving because of their fiscal mismanagement. The reason why our economy is thriving is single. No, it’s not because of a burgeoning resource sector. Frankly, it’s ironic that members opposite suggest that they support rural B.C. Communities in rural B.C. are hurting right now precisely because of their fiscal mismanagement, because they seem to think that, in British Columbia, we’re going to compete with Indonesia in just digging dirt out of the ground. No, we’re not. We compete by being innovative, by bringing broadband to these communities, by bringing the tech sector to the resource communities, by working on the value-added — precisely the measures that are reflected in the Budget Measures Implementation Act.

It’s ironic. I say to rural British Columbia: “Take a look at what you’re doing voting in the B.C. Liberals, who have put you in precisely the position you so want to get out of because of their fiscal mismanagement.” This is an opportunity we have here today to reinvigorate rural B.C., whether it be the Cariboo, the Kootenays, the northwest, the northeast, central B.C., southeastern B.C. or southwestern B.C.

We get it over here. Resource industries are precious, but we have to compete in a modern economy. That means we have to bring together the tech and the resource sectors and work and support the value-added, which this government seemed to think didn’t need to be done. It’s all about LNG.

Hon. Speaker, you wonder why they’re sitting in a time-out. You wonder why they’re sitting in a time-out, and so many British Columbians are so delighted by the arrangement we have now. It’s because of their reckless fiscal management. They have the gall, as I say, to try to paint themselves as good managers of this economy.

Our economy is booming. We have strong GDP growth. The reason why is simple. It’s not resource. It’s because of an out-of-control speculative housing market, largely driven in Metro Vancouver, and the construction market associated with that. The members opposite bemoan the loss of construction jobs. We can’t meet construction job demand right now because of the irresponsible policies or the lack of stepping in to deal with an out-of-control real estate market. Condos being built and presold to offshore buyers before they’re even built so that…. When they’re built, they remain empty because people across the world recognize, in today’s turbulent times, that they need to find a safe haven for their capital.

There are 7½ billion people on this planet and under five million in the province of British Columbia, 7½ people of which…. If we talk about the 1 percent, it’s still an awful lot of millions of people, hundreds of millions of people.

When you’re looking for a safe haven in tumultuous times, and you see a jurisdiction, the Wild West, that has no rules, you look to park your capital in this jurisdiction. You park your capital in one of the safest investments a person could ever make — real estate, land, agricultural land.

What is the consequence of this? That British Columbians who have lived here, were born here, can’t even afford to live and work in the place where they were born. That’s not good economic management. That’s reckless mismanagement that many jurisdictions around the world have dealt with, years ago, through the introduction of policy measures to deal with foreign speculation in a market.

Today I introduced another bill. I can’t speak about it here, but today, before the House…. As we know, measures have been proposed by the B.C. Green party and by the government when they were in official opposition.

The now official opposition are sitting there in a well-earned timeout, are going to do so for a long time, because they look at this problem like deer stuck a headlight and refused to take the necessary steps. Even when they did, introducing the so-called foreign buyer tax, they botched it. They botched it by essentially taxing you if you own a passport. But agricultural land was excluded, so you could actually move speculation into the ALR.

A foreign entity wasn’t actually described as a partnership. So, in fact, you could find a loophole to get away from it there. A foreign corporation isn’t going to invest. A foreign individual can’t invest. But if a foreigner gets together with a Canadian or a British Columbian and forms a partnership, that’s exempt from the foreign buyer tax.

You can’t make this stuff up, except under a B.C. Liberal government that has no idea about managing the economy, despite the fact that they have excellent communications staff — or they did; they used to — who are able to try to convince, or frankly, con British Columbians that they are good managers of the economy.

They tried to paint the opposition, here, as fiscally reckless, based on the tired narrative of what happened in the 1990s. We talk about the fast ferry scandal, but instead we should be talking about Site C.

Just today we hear — as, again, predictable, and we’ve been saying for a long time — there will be cost overruns on Site C because the river diversion is delayed by a year because if the fissure on the north bank and the geotechnical instability there. Was that foreseeable? Yes. It’s $8.8 billion now? No way. We’re pushing over $10 billion now, and it’s going to end up closer to $15 billion. A number — $13 to $15 billion — that I’ve been saying, again, for four years.

The people of British Columbia need to take a hard look at this government’s record. A government that’s investing their money, taxpayer’s money, to build a project that’s going to produce power at something like 13 cents a kilowatt hour, which they have to do to deliver into contracts to LNG industries that don’t exist. So they’re going to have to sell it on the U.S. spot market for four cents a kilowatt hour.

What sort of business model is it, other than a B.C. Liberal business model, to invest capital — your capital, taxpayer — to develop a business plan that’s going to lose 10 cents for every kilowatt hour of energy produced.

At the same time, what are the lost opportunities? The lost opportunities involve things like the collapse of the clean energy sector in British Columbia, the partnerships with local First Nations across B.C. that wanted to get going. We’ve got Borealis wanting to get going near Valemount. We’ve got solar projects in the Kootenays. We’ve got wind projects on Vancouver Island. We’ve got a Prince Rupert wing project. But they can’t get going.

This is foreign capital, industry capital, private capital, that wants to be invested in B.C. now, where the industry takes the risk, not the taxpayer. But again, this is B.C. Liberal economics — use taxpayers’ money, put the taxpayer at risk to subsidize corporations that, in the case of LNG, don’t even exist. It’s remarkable that they have the gall to suggest that they’re good managers of the economy.

If we go through the Budget Measures Implementation Act, there are a few transitional provisions. There are a few changes that need to be made with the cancelling of tolls. And there is a fundamental change.

I must admit that there is sense of irony here. An irony that I’m delighted with is that, again, we’re going to hear speaker after speaker on the other side raie against the opposition, or the now government — it’s hard to get used to; it’s very refreshing to say, I might add, but it’s hard to get used to — about the leadership being shown on the carbon pricing.

Leadership. That’s what this budget shows. Ironically, members opposite used to have that leadership. It was their government, under a leader, somebody who had a vision, that understood the direction and the opportunity that climate change had, a leader who recognized that by putting in a carbon price, it was sending a signal to the market — there’s that free-market, free-enterprise language again — that was telling business that we want to be clean and green here and we want to show the world that we’re leaders, and it blossomed.

Again, we’re going to hear this. I’ve already heard one person say it: “Oh, the carbon tax. Oh, it’s going to kill rural communities.” Again, fear, fear, fear, when, in fact, it is precisely those rural communities that are going to benefit from the carbon tax, as they did when it was introduced the first time by the B.C. Liberals. How do I know that? Because I served on the climate action team with the B.C. Liberals then. I don’t know how many times I went to communities across the province and listened to B.C. Liberals talk about the importance of the carbon tax and how it was not going to hurt rural communities and how it was going to incentivize innovation in these communities and how First Nations across the province are going to see the opportunity with clean energy. And they did.

But now they switch their tone, because there are zero principles over there. Zero principles. It’s all about the game of politics and the quest for power. So we’re going to hear them rail about the carbon — fear to the taxpayer — when in fact what’s happening here is British Columbia is once again recognizing that mitigation of climate change is the world’s greatest economic opportunity, just like other jurisdictions in Taiwan, in China, in India, in Quebec, in Europe, across the world are recognizing. They’re not chasing LNG. They’re chasing the new economy, and this budget sends a signal to market that it’s time to do that again in B.C.

I can’t tell you the number of people who have been so excited about this development. I have a never-ending stream of clean energy folk coming to my office, dismayed with what they’ve had to deal with since 2010 and excited about the potential now. I’m sure they’re opening champagne bottles tonight as we find out that the fissure on Site C is going to create cost overruns. With 70 percent of the contingency already used up — and we’ve just got the project going — this is going to be a very, very expensive project, and the evidence we need to stop it is coming in right now. So to the clean energy industry, I’m excited that you are going to get the opportunity to actually see your projects start to move forward again.

I’m going to come to the tolls again. Now, I spoke against the tolls. We were the only party in the election to say we would not remove tolls because we thought it was bad policy. We thought it was bad policy because it sent a message that we’re not willing to toll transportation. No future infrastructure projects will be built with tolling. The Pattullo Bridge, which was supposed to be built as a toll bridge, will now have to be built by other means.

We didn’t think that was good public policy, but we understand that we were in the minority there because both the B.C. Liberals in the throne speech — the clone speech, I think it’s being called — and the B.C. NDP in this throne speech and in their election platform were consistent in promising it. So we understand what’s going on. We understand, though, and we’re pleased about the recognition that mobility pricing in British Columbia at least is going to have a conversation. The mayors in Vancouver are commissioning reports on this. The government has said they’re interested in exploring and working with the mayors.

That’s how policy is built. You gather information. You build it from the bottom up. You seek support from mayors and communities. And you move forward. That is why the Massey Tunnel cancellation, or on hold for further review, is something that we too are so excited to support. Now, the reason why, of course, is if we just flash back, oh, to 2012 — oh, that magical year, 2012, keeps coming up — we were supposed to be moving forward with a plan to twin the tunnel. But no, no. The Liberals nixed that and had the gall, once more, to tell British Columbians that somehow this government is irresponsible by saying that spending $4½ billion on a 10-lane mega-highway that’s going to put the traffic jam….

An Hon. Member: It’s $2.6.

A. Weaver: It’s $2.6? We can challenge the numbers. A member opposite is saying $2.6. I’ll go check afterwards. The number in my mind was $4.5. I will withdraw it and correct it to $2.6 if that is indeed the case.

The reality is, twinning a tunnel is a fraction of that cost — number one. Number two is it kicks the traffic jams down to the Oak Street Bridge.

Number three. Every mayor in the region said, “Let’s not do this,” except Delta. “Let’s not do this, because we have a transportation plan. This isn’t part of it.”

And the members’ opposite’s response, or at least one of their responses, was to take out some billboards, some billboards in and out of the Massey Tunnel, thinking that, somehow, the picture of my face and the Premier’s face saying…. It’s scary. I admit it’s scary. There are some good smiles there. Have you seen it? It’s pretty impressive.

And they say, “Thanks.” The members opposite have no idea how many people have written, phoned, emailed, Facebook, Twitter, that have thanked us for doing this.

I put out a Facebook post, just quickly, and I would I would look. It’s interesting. I’m glad that I got a reaction now, I’ve got a reaction now. I’m so excited.

In fact, most of them live south of the Fraser if you read the Facebook comments, because they want a twinning of the tunnel, because they’re fiscally responsible.

Interjections.

Deputy Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: The councillor Harold Steves from Richmond pointed out, through a series of social media posts yesterday, about the plan that was already approved, that was moving forward to twin the tunnel, that the B.C. Liberals nixed, which was supported by the Richmond council, which was supported by the people there because it was cost-effective.

Again, the gall of members opposite to suggest that somehow it’s fiscally irresponsible to be fiscally responsible is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable.

Coming back to the budget measures act. I wish I could look at electronic devices, because then I’d have my Facebook post here, and I could tell you that there are more than 20,000 impressions on the post that I made in 24 hours. There were more than 500 likes. There’s no boosting of posts. It was just all organic. There were more than 100 comments. It was shared I forget how many times. The overwhelming response was, “Thank you,” just like the sign said.

It’s pretty clear that since things have changed, there’s been some suffering in the communications department for the members opposite, because this has got to be one of the most hilarious failed smear campaigns I’ve ever seen. I thank the member from Delta South, I believe it was. I thank him sincerely for, I understand, his role in putting up the billboards, because it has given us enormous support from across Metro Vancouver and, in particular, those people who live in and around Richmond and Delta. Thank you, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart.

Moving forward, there are a couple of other important measures here. You know, it’s hard to actually see…. I’m very grateful to the minister and to the civil service who provided briefing opportunity on this. That’s section 15, on the homeowner grant changes, and coupled to changes later, as well, in terms of the assessment authority ability to allow some exchange of information between these organizations — the province, essentially, and Ottawa, CRA, Canada Revenue Agency — for the purpose of being able to track capital gains.

This is important, because this information was not shared. It was information requested by CRA in order to be able to track to see whether people were paying — based on the assessments, based on the homeowner grants, claiming that as your principal residence — the capital gains when they’re supposed to pay the capital gains under present federal law.

For example, if you claim the homeowner grant under the homeowner grant, and then you sell the property and claim it was suddenly an investment property and you try to write some of that capital gains off in one way or another, or if you didn’t claim the homeowner grant and you claimed that this was your primary residence, and you sell that residence, and you don’t pay any capital gains, now the CRA can get you, because now they have access to that information.

That’s important for putting a clamp on speculation. It’s the same with the assessment authority. These are really good pieces of legislation that are being added in my view.

The small increase in tax for the wealthy and the slight increase in corporate income tax to 12 percent from 11 percent, obviously, are supported by the B.C. Greens. We campaigned on precisely these things.

What it translates to is to asking those who can afford it to pay a little bit more. I’ve talked to thousands of British Columbians over the campaign, over the years, and let me tell you, this neoliberal idea that somehow “if tax, then bad,” is not supported by the vast majority of British Columbians. What they don’t like is a waste of taxpayers’ money. They don’t mind paying taxes, provided taxes are used efficiently, appropriately and for helping the better good. Not for helping your donors but for helping everyone.

People realize that we need to have people go to schools. People realize that without education, what sort of society are we? People realize that taxes going to hospitals are important. They believe in transportation. They don’t think that we should be using public money to subsidize corporate donors, though. That is why I am so very thrilled with the budget, as illustrated in some of these measures. It actually focuses on people in terms of helping them get the help they need at the stage they need.

The one thing that I caution on, but we do support, of course…. Caution not because it’s not that good policy. Caution because of what’s happening as we increase corporate and reduce small business tax. We are beginning to create a disincentive for growth. Why I say that is that we now have a step function tax change when you go from small business to corporate. I believe it’s $500,000 net earnings — correct me if I’m wrong, someone — and that jump now, from 2 percent to 12 percent, is a 10 percent increase in tax.

We have to be careful, because that says to corporations that are earning just under the threshold that you don’t necessarily want to get above the threshold — you don’t want to earn more — because then you’re going to be taxed more. So this is a caution that I think we need to start exploring. We need to start exploring about making, perhaps, a more graduated change so that we don’t disincentivize small businesses becoming bigger businesses, at the same time recognizing that something like 98 percent of businesses in British Columbia are small businesses and they need a break, as they are the engine of our economy.

Coming to some of these bizarre boutique tax credits: the child fitness tax credit, the B.C. back-to-school tax credit. Now the B.C. Liberals laud the praise of these tax credits. Let me tell what you they actually are. The back-to-school B.C. tax credit, if you claim it, is $12.65 a year per child — $12.65. You’re going back to school on $12.65. You know, with the cuts to education, you might have to take the bus, and this $12.65 might get you three round trips on the bus. That’s a great tax credit. How much was it to administer a tax credit of $12.65? I bet if you look at the numbers, it’s probably costing more to administer than you’re bringing in.

What about the B.C. children’s fitness equipment tax credit? Guess how much that was. I’ll see if anyone can guess how much a year you’d get on the B.C. children’s fitness tax credit. It’s $12.65. The member for Vancouver–West End has got incredible insight. It’s $12.65. If you buy a hockey stick, you get $12.65 back.

Now, first off, most people don’t even know that you can do this, unless you have an accountant. But the government has to actually budget as if every child is claiming it, so what we create is bizarre systems where the government’s budget is basically budgeting in a known surplus. They know that a large number of people aren’t going to collect it, but they have to have it in the budget, and you have to administer…. It’s just silly. It’s just silly, and this money could be better used elsewhere. So, obviously, I support those.

Also with the B.C. children’s fitness credit and B.C. children’s arts credit. Now, I know that those were much more than the $12.65 tax credit. They were $25.30 a year more. Those are being eliminated because they’re being eliminated federally. Again this legislation is consistent with federal legislation.

What’s interesting about the Budget Measures Implementation Act is the means and ways this is being done. They actually have it entered into legislation, so the legislation before us brings these credits into place and then removes them, because they’ve already been claimed in last year’s tax submissions.

I see that we’re winding down in time here, but please let me say that I’m absolutely thrilled with this budget. I think British Columbians are thrilled. I’ve seen it in emails. I’ve seen it on social media. I’ve seen it in phone calls. Everywhere I go across British Columbia, people come up and say thank you: “Thank you for putting us first. Thank you for working with the government to ensure that these people opposite are put in a time-out.”

They have forgotten what it means to be a hard-working person in British Columbia. They’ve forgotten what it means to try to make ends meet. They’ve lost touch with the people. They lost vision. They lost ideas. They didn’t know their direction, and here they stand in opposition, trying to suggest that somehow they were good stewards of the economy.

I think there needs to be some hard soul-searching over there. I look forward to when their true colours emerge, when we see the new leader, Ms. Watts, emerge as the new leader of the B.C. conservative party opposite. Honestly, there’s nothing liberal about the B.C. Liberals.


Video of Speech


Sonia Furstenau welcomes review of professional reliance

Today, Sonia Furstenau, BC Green MLA for Cowichan Valley, joined George Heyman, the Minister of the Environment, in announcing that the BC Government would initiate a  review of the Province’s professional reliance model. This announcement fulfills an important promise contained within our Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC NDP.

Below is our media statement accompanying the announcement.


Media Statement


Furstenau welcomes review of professional reliance
For Immediate Release
October 03, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, welcomed the government’s review of the professional reliance model announced by Environment Minister George Heyman.

“I’m thrilled to stand with Minister Heyman today as he announces that the government is launching a review of this system that has failed so many communities across British Columbia,” said Furstenau.

“Before professional reliance, government relied on independent in-house experts to conduct environmental assessments to ensure the health and safety of B.C.’s communities. Under professional reliance, the responsibility for this necessary due diligence has been shifted to industry. While qualified professionals are absolutely integral to the environmental assessment process, professional reliance as it stands lends itself to conflict of interest as proponents of projects receive no independent oversight when conducting these vital assessments.

“In Shawnigan we saw firsthand how the uncertainty created by professional reliance erodes trust. The geologists hired to assess the safety of the contaminated soil facility adjacent to our community’s drinking water had a profit-sharing deal and would have benefitted from the project going ahead.

“Resource development has been the backbone of many B.C. communities. It is essential that resource development be done with the support and confidence of the communities in which it occurs. By ensuring that people have trust in government and in industry to protect their health and safety, we can build thriving local economies that will sustain for the long-term.

“I am deeply proud that this review was prompted by its provision in the Confidence and Supply Agreement signed between the B.C. Green and the B.C. NDP caucus. This demonstrates how two parties working together in a minority government can truly put the interests of the people first. I look forward to supporting this review in any way I can.”

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

Speech at the Union of BC Municipalities 2017 Convention

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.


Video of my UBCM 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


Text of my Speech


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.

  1. The quality of life and natural environment allows us to attract and retain some of the best and brightest from around the globe —we are a destination of choice.
  2. We have a highly skilled and educated work force. Our high school students are consistently top ranked — with the OECD specifying BC as one of the smartest academic jurisdictions in the world.
  3. We have access to renewable resources — energy, water, and wood — like no other jurisdiction. We have incredible potential to create a clean, renewable energy sector to sustain our growing economy.

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:

  • Work to provide everyone with economic security,
  • Ensure our province’s resources are managed sustainably, and
  • Make equity a fundamental value of a government that operates in the best interests of this generation – and future generations.

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 Penticton, Structurlam

Talk about Prince Rupert, container port

Talk about Terrace/Burns Lake, manufacturing

Talk about Prince George, broadband

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.

 

Question Period: The influence of lobbying and corporate donations

Today in the Legislature I was up in Question Period. I questioned the Minister of Justice, Suzanne Anton, about the lobbying and donation practices of the fossil fuel industry and the effect on government decision-making. I also asked about reforms needed to regulate the lobbying industry in BC and bring it in line with federal standards.

My question follows reports in the media over this week that lobbyists are engaging in illegal donation practices on behalf of their clients, as well as a recent analysis that maps the influence of the fossil fuel industry in BC politics, highlighting extensive lobbying practices and vast amounts of political donations. Both reports can be found at the end of this article.

Below are the text and video of the exchange. I was disappointed with the Minister’s answers. She merely restated that we have a registry of lobbyists in BC. We do have a registry, but its usefulness as a tool of transparency is severely limited, since lobbyists are not required to report the meetings they hold with public office holders. Moreover, we have no code of conduct for lobbyists to regulate practices such as gift-giving to public office holders. The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists recommended both of these measures, back in 2013, as important ways to make lobbying practices more transparent in BC. Yet the government has ignored these recommendations and the Minister of Justice was unwilling to engage on this serious issue.


Question


A. Weaver: Vast amounts of money are flowing from fossil fuel companies to both the B.C. Liberals and — to a much lesser extent, mind you — the B.C. NDP.

Between 2008 and 2015, 48 fossil fuel companies and industry groups donated $5.2 million to the government and official opposition and reported more than 22,000 lobbying contacts with public officials between 2010-2016. With seven of the top donors also ranking among the most active lobbyists, there is a substantial overlap between those who give money and those who get meetings.

To further that, 28 percent of lobbying by the top-ten most active lobbyists has been directly with cabinet ministers — an unrivaled level of access — and the Minister of Natural Gas Development is the most targeted member in the entire Legislature.

In light of this, my question to the Minister of Justice is this. How does the government expect the public to trust that their interests are being protected and that these practices are not buying lobbyists and their clients special treatment?


Answer


Hon. S. Anton: It may be that the member was not here yesterday to know that we actually established the first-ever lobbyist registry in 2002 to establish transparency so British Columbians could see who is doing the lobbying. There never was a registry before that. After some years of experience with that registry, we updated it in 2009, creating one of the strongest regimes for lobbyist registration in Canada.

The updates increased the registrar’s powers and duties so the lobbyist registrar now has the power to conduct investigations, to compel testimony and to compel documents. In other words, the lobbyist registrar has the tools that he or she needs in order to make sure that the registry is conducted properly and that the lobbyists are conducting themselves in accordance with the rules, which is what I expect, which is what we expect as a government.


Supplemental Question


A. Weaver: I’m glad the minister talked about the lobbying registry, because frankly, we are one of the weaker in the country of Canada. B.C. lacks rules to regulate lobbying practices and ensure transparency.

We know that extensive lobbying is ongoing in B.C., but we have no code of conduct for lobbyists. Moreover, we have no requirement in B.C. for lobbyists to register actual meetings with public office holders. All they have to do is register who they plan to lobby. Other jurisdictions in Canada have much stricter standards.

It’s clear to me that with our rampant cash-for-access system and allegations that lobbyists are engaging in illegal donation practices on behalf of their clients — largely to the B.C. Liberals but also to the B.C. NDP — that we need much more stringent rules. We need standards against which the public can hold lobbyists and their contacts in the government to account.

My question to the Minister of Justice is: will the minister commit to transparency on lobbying practices, including requiring lobbyists to report on actual meetings held with government officials and creating a code of conduct for lobbyists?


Answer


Hon. S. Anton: The matter that the member referred to about contributions is very clearly, if that were to happen, a breach not of the lobbyists act but of the Election Act. The Election Act in section 186(2)(b) says that “an individual may make a political contribution with the money of another individual, but must disclose to the individual required to record the contribution under section 190….”

In other words, you can make a payment on behalf of a third party, but the third party must be disclosed. It must be very clear that it is that third party’s money which has gone to the payment. That is a breach of the Election Act. It is very clearly a breach if that is conducted. I think that that’s the conduct the member is referring to.

In fact, to the lobbying act itself, the 2009 updates to the act put very strict and significant penalties into that act for breaches of the act.


Video from Question Period


 

Sources

Mapping Political Influence: Political donations and lobbying by the fossil fuel industry in BC, Corporate Mapping Project, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Available at: http://www.corporatemapping.ca/bc-influence/.

Lobbying in British Columbia: The Way Forward: Report on Province-Wide Consultations and Recommendations for Reform, Elizabeth Denham, Registrar of Lobbyists. Available at: https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/handlers/DocumentHandler.ashx?ID=447.

‘Fairly limited’ transparency rules for lobbyists in B.C., deputy registrar says,  Liam Britten, CBC News. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/lobbying-lobbyists-b-c-1.4014551.

British Columbia: The ‘wild west’ of fundraising, Kathy Tomlinson, CBC News. Available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/wild-west-bc-lobbyists-breaking-one-of-provinces-few-political-donationrules/article34207677/.