We've asked candidates in the top ten ridings (by membership population) to answer questions on the issues members raised in January. Below you will find responses from Adam Olsen (Saanich North and the Islands), Donovan Cavers (Kamloops-South Thompson) and Kalen Harris (Victoria-Beacon Hill).
In a progressive society, labour and business interests work together. The Green Party understands that decades of evidence show that a society with a strong labour movement is healthier, has less income disparity, and a stronger middle class. The Green Party believes in the rights of workers to organize, and we believe in the free collective bargaining process. We strongly support pay equity for women in the workplace, in the equal treatment of both organized and non-organized workers, and in workers’ rights to fair wages, healthy and safe working conditions, and working hours compatible with a good quality of life. (Adam Olsen)
My mother raised my sister and I on a CUPE salary. I know the importance of organized labour and value their past, present and ongoing contributions to our society. Replacing one BC liberal rep is a tangible way I am working to ease the strife of organized labour in our province. (Donovan Cavers)
The BC Green Party has yet to articulate a specific policy on unions, we have acknowledged the important role unions play in protecting and promoting the rights of workers to fair, safe, and healthy workplaces. I believe government employment standards can be used to support the objectives of unions and to increase membership. The decline in union density noted in the question is, in my opinion, the result of many global, regional, and local factors, not to mention a broad shift of modes of work. I think reexamining the way in which unions interact with workers and employers such that the benefits of unions are easily communicated will go a long way to supporting unions, increasing membership, and reinvigorating the ecosystem of unions in BC. (Kalen Harris)
Under the BC Liberals, the Province of BC has regressed horribly on the issue of climate change. The Province’s Climate Leadership Team (CLT) acknowledges that BC will not meet its 2020 reductions targets. Of Canada’s four most populous provinces, only British Columbia is projected to increase its emissions by 2030. The Liberals do not seem to understand that climate action is not just an environmental issue – acting on climate change is also about positioning BC to succeed in the emerging economy of the future and the world that we will leave our children.
The BC Greens would take bold action on climate change that will also position BC to be a leader in the low carbon economy. The CLT recommended an interim target of a 40% reduction below 2007 levels by 2030. The Greens believe that this is a realistic target that can be met with immediate and decisive action.
With respect to reducing emissions, the BC Green Party would:
The BC Greens have also identified many examples of actions that could be taken in order to reduce BC greenhouse gas emissions. Four pathways to reducing emissions are:
The BC Greens environmental planks:
Finally the BC Greens will invest $29 million over 4 years to enhance the scientific understanding of the effects of climate change in BC, and support forest carbon management initiatives as part of the GHG emissions reduction strategy. (Adam Olsen)
The economy only exists within a functional society and a functional society only exists within a health, stable environment. The party I am running with, our leader Andrew Weaver, and I all understand this and will act accordingly when making any decisions as MLAs whether that's as government, opposition or if holding the balance of power between the two other entrenched parties. In 2008, the now leader of the BC greens, Andrew Weaver, published a book titled Keeping Our Cool about climate change and the steps needed to avoid going over any sort of irreversible tipping points. Our party has the strongest platform, best policies and most knowledgeable leader on this topic to ensure BC becomes a world renowned leader in limiting climate change. (Donovan Cavers)
The BC Greens have a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. We’ve been planning this fight since the 1980s. The rest of the parties have finally come around to understanding the threat climate change poses, but none are showing leadership on the issue. We will accept the recent climate leadership panel’s recommendations and begin a steady annual increase of the provincial carbon tax by $10 a tonne to $70 a tonne by 2021. We will use the increased carbon tax revenues to offset costs for lower-income British Columbians, and to invest in developing sustainable clean energy industries and infrastructure. We will depoliticize BC Hydro and revisit its mandate so that it acts as an innovator, and not a hindrance, to the expansion of clean energy sources and the alternative energy sector. We will partner with postsecondary institutions to ensure British Columbians are prepared for the economic transition from traditional resource intensive employment to environmentally and climate conscious, and more human resource based industries. I am excited about this part of our platform and we have many more details about how we will strengthen the environment and climate change online at www.bcgreens.ca/platform (Kalen Harris)
While the incumbent government touts B.C.’s apparent economic success based on the province’s increase in GDP, many British Columbians are struggling to make ends meet. There are many concerning trends such as growing income inequality, increasing numbers of children living in poverty, increased homelessness, more working poor and increased reliance on food banks.
Over the past 25 years, many well-paying jobs in manufacturing and the resource industries have been automated. New jobs are often part-time, pay minimum wage and are not evenly distributed throughout the province.
Studies predict that 42% of Canadian jobs are at high risk of being replaced by technology or computers over the course of the next two decades. Due to globalization and highly mobile capital markets, corporations that do require labour are able to move to jurisdictions with lower wages, poorer working conditions and lower environmental standards.
Without government action, this will lead to unprecedented levels of under-employment and unemployment, and an even greater concentration of wealth in the hands of the privileged few. We must modernize the social supports of the 20th century to better suit the emerging economy. This includes promoting long-term, good-paying jobs in British Columbia with a new approach to support people and families when they are between jobs, on low incomes or experiencing other life transitions.
The B.C. Green Party Strategy for Covering the Basics will:
See also the responses to questions 4, 5 and 6 below. (Adam Olsen)
As a city councillor I've championed the Living Wage concept with the City of Kamloops as a floor for all workers and contracted workers. Our party supporters a pilot program, as Ontario is doing, to assess the concept of "mincome" (also known as the GLI or Guaranteed Livable Income) to ensure every member of society has the basic needs met without the demoralizing processes currently in place within a very complex social welfare system. (Donovan Cavers)
The BC Green Party continues to release our platform planks on this matter, but if I were elected I would look to European examples for intelligent solutions to reduce the cost of living. Quality healthcare, increasing public transit, and ensuring a diversity of housing options for people living and working in our cities are vital. As will be outlined in detail in our platform, the BC Greens will begin eliminating and reducing user fees that equate to a head tax, from MSP to BC Hydro and ICBC. These fees disproportionately burden lower income British Columbians - and the NDP’s $10/day Child Care plan is more of the same. (Kalen Harris)
The issues with respect to affordable housing are complex and multi-faceted, and include at least three key components:
The BC Greens would implement a series of measures as part of comprehensive affordable housing strategy, including:
Increasing Housing of all types reduces stress points throughout the housing spectrum right from emergency shelters, to temporary supported housing to afford rental, to affordable ownership. I was very proud to support the innovative "Kamloops Rent Bank" to help people in desperate situations avoid eviction. (Donovan Cavers)
The BC Green Party has recently released our housing strategy. Our platform shows how we will provide all British Columbians with access to quality and sustainable housing. We will stop the commodification of our housing stock. We propose to double the foreign buyers tax to 30% and create a progressive sliding scale Property Transfer Tax (PTT) rates so that the majority of British Columbians would not be affected by the PPT increase. Those who can afford it and who are buying homes in the luxury price range will pay more. We are committed to a diverse housing market that provides access for, and protects, all British Columbians regardless of whether they are renters or homeowners. I will do my part to encourage cities to plan new housing developments around transit hubs to increase viability of transit and decrease the dependence on personal vehicles. (Kalen Harris)
One of the first things the BC Greens would do is to address the issue of MSP premiums. These are a terrible burden for those who can afford them least. BC is the only province in the country that charges monthly MSP premiums – a flat rate tax for health care. Regardless of annual income, an individual gets charged the same premium. This contributes to BC having one of the highest poverty rates in Canada, and it is simply wrong for low and fixed income BC residents to have to pay the same flat rate for health care as wealthy residents of the province.
A BC Green government would eliminate the severe MSP premium system and shift the cost of our health care system into a fair and equitable tiered income tax system where everyone contributes based on their ability to pay. The progressive solution is to pay for health care through your annual income tax return as is done in every other province in Canada.
A BC Green government would also:
The BC Green Party released the Healthy Living Platform today, and I'm very proud of the new approach it is taking to address some critical issues in health care. For one, a BC Green government would create two new ministries, one for Mental Health and Addiction, and another for health promotion, disease prevention and active living. These new ministries will ensure a priority focus on strategies to help people stay healthy in the first place, and intervene early before physical and mental health issues become acute. Accompanying these new ministries will be new funding allocations. We will invest $100 million to support health workers like physiotherapists, nurse practitioners, and midwives, taking much of the burden off physicians and helping to alleviate the doctor shortage. We will also allocate $80 million towards early intervention youth mental health initiatives, supervised injection sites, and community based centres for mental health and rehabilitation. (Donovan Cavers)
The BC Greens are committed to investing in areas that will actually make a difference for British Columbians. We will invest in long-term care by creating a ministry of healthy living, wellness and preventative medicine, as well as a ministry of mental health and addictions. We are separating these two areas of health to guarantee they are appropriately funded and managed. Focussing on preventative care will keep us healthier longer, and reduce our overall dependency on the health care system. By separating out mental health and addictions we can commit to appropriately funding these issues early, and provide treatment before greater harm comes to individuals and families. We are committed to addressing the costs of health care by rolling MSP into the tax structure where it belongs so that families making $50,000/yr are not paying the same as a family making $150,000/yr. We will also develop an essential drugs program to reduce the costs of vital medicines for British Columbians. (Kalen Harris)
Across the province, British Columbians are feeling the effects of a changing economy. In many places, the cost of living has become so high that many families are struggling to make ends meet. In other parts of the province, job growth is negative or stagnant. At the same time, employers are predicting a shortfall of 514,000 skilled workers over the course of the next decade. Clearly there is an affordability crises and an education gap in BC.
The BC Greens see the need to:
The BC Greens have developed a strategy to help alleviate the burden of post-secondary student debt:
The BC Green Party has committed to creating a task force on post-secondary education with a mandate to identify ways to make post-secondary education more relevant, accessible and affordable. The task force will present its report by July 2018. We have also committed to measures to make post-secondary education more accessible and to help alleviate the student debt burden though new needs based grants and tax forgiveness of up to $2000/year for up to 5 years for new graduates with student debt. As the MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, I will be advocating for more equitable provincial funding for Thompson Rivers University, which by all measures receives significantly less per student funding than most other universities in BC. TRU is important to this riding not only as a university, but as a community asset and major economic driver in the region, and I want to help it grow to its full potential with proper provincial backing. (Donovan Cavers)
The BC Greens have committed to implement needs-based grants for post-secondary students. We will offer tax forgiveness of up to $2,000/year for up to 5 years to assist graduates in repaying debt from tuition fees. We will set up a Post-Secondary Education Task Force to identify ways to make post-secondary education more relevant, accessible and affordable. We will also invest $65 million over 4 years to support co-op and work experience programs for high school and undergraduate students. Personally, I will work toward tuition-free post-secondary education so that British Columbians have the skills and training to meet the job requirements of the emerging knowledge economy. (Kalen Harris)
Since 2001, more than 25 per cent of licensed science officer positions in BC’s public service have been eliminated.
The BC Greens recognize that this is a significant problem, unlike the current government. Prior to the Liberals assuming power, the Province would use its own staff to assess the environmental risks of proposed development. The use of qualified professionals is creating a huge mistrust in the process. Whenever the government hands over the environmental assessment to these consultants hired by the proponent/applicant, it ultimately results in a situation where industry polices itself. The practice results in conflicts of interest that government often ignores and encourages, and an erosion of expertise in the professional public service. An extensive review of professional reliance by UVic’s Environmental Law Center found that professional reliance was undermining the public interest and frequently becomes a rationale for less scrutiny by government of material submitted by proponents. The BC Ombudsperson reviewed the model in 2014 and concluded that “the potential for administrative unfairness arises when there is inadequate government oversight of private professionals and project proponents, and the level of public accountability for their actions and decisions falls below acceptable standards”. One only has to look to examples such as the Shawnigan Lake contaminated soil deposit site, the Mt. Polley copper mine and the Stanhope Dairy Farm composting facility.
Unlike the BC Liberals, the BC Greens have recognized the professional reliance model is completely inadequate for environmental protection and community safety, and is a broken system. (Adam Olsen)
While our platform on this issue has not yet been released and I can therefore not offer specifics right now, the BC Green Party and our leader Andrew Weaver have been consistent in our emphasis on evidence-based decision making and ending the professional reliance model.
In response to the Auditor General's audit report on compliance & enforcement of the mining sector (May 2016), Andrew Weaver issued the following statement:
“This report provides further evidence that the government has got the balance wrong between protecting the interests of British Columbians and advancing the interests of corporations,” said Weaver. “That the Auditor General would suggest that a Ministry within the government is at risk of regulatory capture is very concerning.”
“It’s hypocritical and frankly paradoxical for the government to dismiss the Auditor General’s concerns that we have become too reliant on experts hired by companies to provide regulatory oversight. On the one hand the government says that qualified professionals have played a role in mining for decades; on the other hand the government also notes that the status quo cannot continue,” said Weaver. “Instead of trying to have it both ways they should be asking the very serious question of whether sufficiently independent reviews, with the resources to the job correctly, are actually taking place. I would suggest they are not.”
“This report emphasizes the need for a review of both Ministry of Energy and Mines and Ministry of Environment permitting processes and enforcement measures.” said Weaver “There is a huge gap in public trust between government and permit holders as is highlighted now in the on-going dispute over the Shawnigan Lake contaminated soil dump site. This issue has forced residents and local governments to use the court system to get results from government. It is imperative that the Auditor General’s recommendations are adopted immediately to begin to repair this relationship.”
I agree with our leader on this. (Donovan Cavers)
The BC Greens are committed to restoring evidence-based decision-making in the province. Under the BC Liberals, partisan appointments, an over reliance on expensive consultants, and systematic cuts to science and technical capacity in the public service, have all eroded public confidence in government. As well, there are too many scientists that work in the public service who are muzzled and can no longer speak truth to power for fear of political reprisals. The Greens will restore funding for science and technical officers so that government cannot meddle with evidence, and draws from the best advice available when making decisions. (Kalen Harris)