Since his election in May, Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen has been busy in the legislature on a number of files, and he spoke to the Peninsula News Review about local and provincial issues that he and the Green caucus have been focused on.
TECHNOLOGY AND THE EMERGING ECONOMY
Olsen will host a dialogue on Dec. 6 at his constituency office on technology and innovation, following a previous dialogue on housing. He said that the Peninsula hosts some of the few remaining industrial areas in the region at the Keating Business Park, the Sidney/North Saanich Business Park and at the airport. Olsen will act as a facilitator in a discussion between community members to hear their thoughts.
“The future of manufacturing and light industrial activity is happening in Saanich North and the Islands, and with that comes a host of challenges around skilled trade and labour force issues as well as housing and transportation,” said Olsen.
“We’ve historically, and continue to have a resource-based economy, but that is changing and disruptive technologies are taking hold,” said Olsen, so his caucus proposed an Innovation Commissioner to identify ways for government to support high-tech businesses.
There will also be a task force established on the emerging economy and innovation.
Both initiatives are in the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the parties and in the September budget update, but there are no further specifics.
Another dialogue on transportation will be scheduled in the new year.
In 2011, BC Transit unveiled a transit master plan but were unsuccessful in getting the former government to invest in it. Olsen said he’s interested in implementing it. He said he has advocated government for more transit funding as promised.
“Many of the people on the Saanich Peninsula live elsewhere and it’s important to reduce congestion by providing more options for them on transit. There is a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality on transit. Yes, we don’t want empty buses running around but people aren’t going to use transit if it doesn’t exist.”
He said that an upfront investment was needed to change behaviours.
Olsen said that since the Pat Bay is a provincial highway, it would be quite feasible to create a rapid transit system from the ferries to Uptown, and then from Uptown to downtown by using large buses for the highway and community buses that fan out from the highway into places like Brentwood Bay.
Olsen himself went home by bus this week and he said it took him an hour and a half, whereas a car trip would have taken 25 minutes.
“I’ll be squawking pretty loud if we don’t see investments in that Transit Master Plan.
“You can’t make the public go through the planning process, get their feedback, write the report and then seven years later still not have major aspects of that plan implemented.”
Olsen said the Green caucus has submitted a range of policy proposals to the government to deal with the cost of housing, but he was not ready to give specifics on those yet.
“None of it is a surprise. There are literally only seven or eight tools that would affect the cost of housing,” he said, citing options like taxing foreign buyers, empty homes, speculators, or homebuyers who do not pay Canadian income tax.
He said while empty homes are not a major problem in this riding, empty homes in other areas cause a knock on effect that raise the prices here.
During the election the Greens proposed a foreign-buyer’s tax across the province of 30 per cent, along with additional taxes on capital gains from home sales and property transfer taxes.
“Frankly, it’s more important that rather than taxing the foreign capital, that perhaps we’re making sure that those in the housing market are contributing to the Canadian economy so we can attach it to income tax statements.”
Bill 6, which outlines the rules and regulations for a referendum on proportional representation next fall, is currently being debated in the Legislature. Olsen has not planned a town hall on proportional representation yet, but expects to do so in the spring.
The government is also deciding the fate of the Site C dam, which the Greens are vehemently against. They believe that one potential solution is relying on independent power producers (IPP), which could use geothermal, wind, solar, or battery storage. Olsen said that instead of making rate payers responsible for the largest capital project in the province’s history, IPPs would put the burden on private entrepreneurs.
“What ends up happening is that it drives creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit that the big government is killing. I want to encourage it.”
When asked about a potential rate increase of 10 per cent, Olsen said the BC Liberals did not do the proper reviews before starting. It will cost an estimated $4 billion to remediate the site, and $12 billion if continued.
“Yes, we can amortize the cost over a longer period of time than if we stop it, that’s true, but the question I ask is: do we want to throw good money after bad? Do we want to saddle our kids and grandkids with huge amounts of debt when it’s unnecessary? Do we want to build 1950s technology in the 21st century? Or do we want to embrace the opportunities of today and into the future?”
Olsen said that though he has only been in the Legislature for a comparatively short time, he “loves the work” and is thankful for the opportunity to serve. With the holidays approaching he wanted to wish everyone in the riding, “regardless of their faith or belief, a safe and happy holiday season.”