It is a pleasure to pen the first piece in what will be a regular “MLA column” in the Saanich News.
I look forward to communicating with you about important provincial issues that are directly relevant to our community.
Believe it or not, I have on several occasions been asked if “MLA” is some kind of fancy real estate title – so I thought I would begin this series by describing what MLAs are and what we do.
The province is carved up into 85 constituencies, each with approximately 50,000 people. Every four years, residents of each constituency elect one person to represent them in the B.C. Legislature.
Once elected, a “Member of the Legislative Assembly” (MLA) of B.C. is expected to represent all constituents, regardless of differences such as age, social standing, political views or income. In my opinion the job of the MLA is to advance projects that improve our shared quality of life.
I was elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2013.
Provinces have power under the Canadian Constitution to make laws that govern everything from health care to agriculture, education, business and the environment. (Other matters such as immigration, criminal law and national defence are the responsibility of the federal government.) Legislation is created through a public process requiring MLAs to present, debate and vote.
As a member of the Official Opposition, I also have a responsibility to oppose government actions which in my view are wrong, and expose failures and misdeeds by the governing majority. I am also the opposition spokesperson for agriculture and food. As a former farmer, agriculture is my passion and one of the main reasons I entered politics. I work to strengthen the agriculture sector in the constituency and throughout the province.
A big part of my job is advancing solutions for widespread problems that exist in the constituency. For example, I worked hard to improve safety at the intersection of Pat Bay Highway and Sayward Road. It was once one of the most dangerous highway intersections on the South Island but after community-driven safety improvements ($3 million, Ministry of Transportation), the most recent data shows a marked decrease in the accident rate. I also regularly put on free community events such as one last year that brought rarely seen treasures from the Royal B.C. Museum to Cordova Bay.
Another important part of my job is helping people who are struggling with issues governed by the province. For example, in the last few months I have helped a young person with a severe disability access much-needed services; helped a senior regain a driver’s licence that had been unnecessarily cancelled; helped a family secure residential complex care for an aging parent; and helped secure housing for a family at-risk of homelessness.
If you have not been well-served by the operations of a provincial government agency, contact me and I will do my best to assist you. The office can also help navigate the ever-changing maze of government services to make sure you are accessing the best provincial programmes available. Your dignity and privacy will always be respected.
I welcome your feedback on any provincial matter. Your insights and opinions helps me better represent the community and determine my priorities.
Contact me at 250-479-4154 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lana Popham is a Saanich resident and the MLA for Saanich South.