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.
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.
Today the BC Government announced a moratorium on the hunting of Grizzly bears in British Columbia. As you can see from our media release reproduced below, we are delighted with the BC NDP announcement.
B.C. Green caucus responds to the end of the grizzly bear hunt
For immediate release
December 18th, 2017
VICTORIA, B.C. – “After years of work on this file, my colleagues and I are absolutely overjoyed this decision has finally been made. The results of the government’s consultation were clear and government has listened – we couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands and B.C. Green Party spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
“A focus on protecting grizzlies has been a constant throughout my time at the legislature, and I am proud to have been able to help advance this issue,” said Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Leader of the B.C. Green Party.
“Andrew has been a strong advocate for the long term wellbeing of grizzlies since his election in 2013,” said MLA Olsen. “He tabled the Wildlife Amendment Act multiple times and stood as a lone voice in the legislature against the B.C. Liberals who actively supported grizzly trophy hunting and the B.C. NDP who would not take a position. This legislation was intended to give the BC Liberal government a feasible path forward to protecting Grizzly Bears.
“Now we have a very different political landscape in B.C. and our office shifted its efforts accordingly,” said MLA Olsen, who became lead on this file after the May election. “The minority government and a governing agreement signed by the B.C. NDP and B.C. Greens have allowed us to take a stronger position and we commend the government’s bold announcement today.
“Ending the grizzly hunt is a momentous accomplishment, but there is still work to be done to protect this species. If we fail to also consider habitat and food supply – especially with climate change further threatening essential salmon and huckleberry stocks – conflicts with humans, roadkill rates, or poaching incidents, we will fail to protect grizzlies in the long term.
“We hope that this announcement will be followed with a comprehensive ecosystem based approach to wildlife management because we cannot continue to perpetuate the slow, methodical extirpation of native species in BC. We will celebrate progress along the way and work to ensure species like grizzly bears and wild pacific salmon have the resilient ecosystems they need to thrive into the future.
“This breakthrough would not have happened without the efforts of many – thank you and congratulations to everyone involved.”
Sarah Miller, Acting Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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.”
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | email@example.com
Despite today’s announcement that $150 million will be invested in reforestation, a wave of unemployment is sweeping across rural B.C. because of government policies that have devastated the province’s once-great forest resource.
Premier Christy Clark now says the appropriate response is to put forest industry people to work building roads and bridges. B.C. really needs a bigger vision than that – especially since the provincial government is complicit in the sector’s mismanagement in the first place.
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, a pine beetle infestation erupted. The pandemic was exacerbated by successive B.C. NDP and Liberal governments who pursued policies that created largely monoculture forests. Pine trees grow fast and the government encouraged their use as the “preferred” species for replanting huge swaths of land that had been clear-cut. At the same time, the government’s shortsighted forest fire suppression policies snuffed out fires that would have naturally created a more diversified landscape. (Forest fires play a vital ecological role and, where possible, should be monitored closely but left to safely burn.)
The result: huge plantations of pine trees flourished. As climate change reduced the severity of B.C. winters, they became perfect breeding grounds for pine beetles and the largest beetle attack ever seen in North America was unleashed destroying millions of trees over a massive area. As the epidemic spread, and the health of B.C.’s forests deteriorated, the government was forced to dramatically increasing the allowable cut.
In recent years, the decline of the province’s forests has been masked by the increased cutting of dead trees in so-called salvage logging – but there is no hiding the fact that nearly 60% of the merchantable pine has been destroyed by the beetle invasion. Today, even the dead trees are running out and across rural B.C. forest industry jobs have entered a period of rapid, devastating decline.
Recent labor force statistics show that while the number of jobs in Metro Vancouver are up, there has been a drop in rural B.C. The unemployment rate in Mainland/Southwest B.C. is at 5%, but it is 8.2% in Thompson-Okanagan and 10.5% in North Coast/Nechako. In December, Tolko Industries shut down its Nicola Valley sawmill, taking 203 high-paying jobs out of a small community that will struggle without them.
And that’s just the start of it.
Because of the declining timber supply, the province’s chief forester has been forced to reduce the allowable annual cut (AAC). In Prince George, the AAC is being reduced by 50%. In Quesnel the AAC is dropping to 1.6 million cubic metres from 4 million cubic metres. Last March, in the Merritt Timber Supply Area, the AAC was cut to 1.5 million from 2.4 million cubic metres.
If you reduce the number of trees being cut, there will be a corresponding drop in the number of loggers, truck drivers and mill workers who have jobs. The Truck Loggers Association recently heard at its annual convention that five or six pulp and paper mills will close in the next two to six years. Thousands of jobs will be lost.
Over the past 25 years, NDP and Liberal governments’ have tried to position themselves as defenders of the forest industry, by setting the AAC at unsustainable levels, instead of concentrating on value added and diversification. The consequences of this are now coming home to roost. Premier Clark’s plan to increase spending on infrastructure projects to address the economic divide between rural and urban B.C. may deliver much needed infrastructure but will not create a long term solution.
What rural B.C. really needs are healthy forests and a vibrant small/medium family business culture that can provide sustainable logging, support local economies and provide environmental diversity over the long term. That’s how communities grow and prosper.
We need to rethink our forest management in the context of the realities of the 21st century – global warming; technological change; international competition; not to mention the immediate issues of growing protectionism, and the soft wood lumber dispute. Our tenure structures date back to the 19th century, and our mills have been starved of investment over recent years. The investment that has taken place, has usually replaced people with machines.
Rather than manage our forests, the BC Liberals have toyed with privatizing them. It is worth remembering that in 2001, Mike De Jong, then Minister of Forests, told a meeting of silviculturalists that BC’s Crown forests would be “unrecognizable” when he and the Liberals were finished with them.
Our forests are our collective asset, and we need to ensure that first and foremost, British Columbians are fully benefiting from them, not just corporations and vested interests.
We need to start a new conversation about our forests. We need to ask:
A redesign of our forest management is long overdue and would be priority of a BC Green Government. We need to truly end the war in the woods, and ensure that our forests work for all of us.
Question period in the legislature today was surreal. I left the chamber wondering whether I should quit politics altogether. I was absolutely appalled by the behaviour of official opposition and government members. It was shocking — truly shocking.
Personal attacks, vitriol, abuse, obnoxious heckling and utter disrespect was on display for all to see. This place needs to change. It needs a complete shake up.
That won’t happen, it seems, unless the general public rises up to vote out those politicians on both sides of the house who are more interested in hurling abuse than dealing with issues facing British Columbians. There was no excuse for the behaviour today. No excuse at all.
I was up on question period today and had planned to ask the relevant Minister two questions. The Minister was not at Question Period so I had to be nimble and ask a completely different question (see next post).
The question I had planned to ask is reproduced below. It was meant to coincide with an announcement on the need for widespread protection of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.
We have lost over 90% of our biggest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forests. The government is continuing to allow the harvesting of our old-growth forests on Vancouver Island based on a plan created in the 1990s. It’s time to create a plan for this century.
The reality is, the government will say they are ‘protecting’ old-growth forests when in reality they have largely protected the steep, high mountain slopes or wet bogs. Yes it’s technically old-growth, but it’s the valley bottom, low-elevation, highly productive old-growth forests with the massive thousand-year-old trees that are at greatest risk.
In 2013 the UVic Environmental Law Centre proposed an “Old Growth Protection Act”. Part of this science-based plan was to immediately end old-growth logging in critically endangered forests and to quickly phase out old-growth logging where there is a high risk to biological diversity and ecosystem integrity. I believe the idea has merit.
Aside from ensuring habitat and biodiversity integrity, protecting our old-growth forests in British Columbia should be a part of our province’s climate plan. On Vancouver Island, apart from reducing our emissions, one of the most significant things we can do to for the climate is to leave our old-growth forests intact. It is also the responsible thing to do for our eco-tourism industry and follows the wishes of local communities across this island.
In April the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities passed R11 – a resolution calling for increased protection of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.
The Walbran Valley is the one of the most concerning productive old-growth forests but there are a number of old-growth areas that are or could be logged any day including: Nootka Island, East Creek, Edinburgh Grove, Tsitika Valley, Nahmint Valley, Southwest Nimpkish, Echo Valley, Maclaughlin Ridge, Horne Mountain, and the Cameron Valley Fire Break. In my view there is no compelling reason to justify the logging the last of our productive old-growth forests.
“be it further resolved that AVICC send a letter to the provincial government—Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations—as well as relevant government organizations requesting that the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan be amended to protect all of Vancouver Island’s remaining old growth forest on provincial Crown land.”
While I’m pleased with government’s announcement today that they’re going to protect 186,198 hectares of already-protected old growth forest on the mainland, on Vancouver Island, our old growth forests are in dire need of protection. The Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club have called what’s happening here an ecological emergency.
Putting this in context, over 90% of the grandest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forests on Vancouver Island have already been logged. Only about 3% of the original high productivity, valley bottom old-growth forests are protected in parks and Old Growth Management Areas on BC’s Southern Coast. Several species are also on the brink of disappearing and biodiversity is being affected.
The Walbran Valley is one of a rapidly dwindling number of contiguous prime ancient forests left on Southern Vancouver Island large enough to provide habitat for healthy populations of a number of endangered species. Yet a 486-hectare core area of the valley is unprotected — a portion of it is slated for logging right now.
Is the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations open to implementing an alternative science-based forest management system for Vancouver Island’s remaining intact old-growth forest?
Old growth forests are not only fundamental to the ecological integrity of Vancouver Island, they are also a major eco-tourism draw and many island communities have recognized this.
For example, Chambers of commerce and city councils from Tofino to Victoria have passed motions opposing the continued old-growth logging in the Walbran Valley.
Two weeks ago the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities endorsed a motion calling on the government to amend the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan to protect all of Vancouver Island’s remaining old growth forest found on provincial Crown Land. This land use plan was created in the 1990s and logging of old-growth forest has continued for the last two decades.
Will the government recognize that a plan formed in the 1990s is no longer adequate for today, listen to wishes of local communities and amend the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan to protect all remaining old-growth forests on crown land?