After many years sitting in the audience at UBCM as a Councillor from the District of Central Saanich, I am both honoured and humbled to be standing on this stage presenting to you today as the Leader of the BC Green Party.
As I only have five minutes of your time and want to be respectful of this opportunity and your time for lunch, I just want to say that I echo the greetings and the sentiments of my colleague John Horgan in thanking the executive, staff and members of the UBCM.
I am grateful to my relatives in here in Squamish and Lil Wat, my First Nations relatives who have lived and worked and played in these mountains for thousands of years.
Every day, I am driven by the love and support of my wife Emily and my children Silas Wolf and Ella Rose. Last night at the hospitality events, I saw a few young kids hanging around the edges of the room, just like my children who many of you around the Capital Region will know. When I was a Councillor, my little boy would sit under the table and inspire my colleagues to make long-term decisions. Now, Ella can be seen running through the halls of the legislature reminding us all that the decisions we make are not only about us - but they are about them.
The BC Green Party takes this convention and the work of the UBCM and your regional associations very seriously. That is why we have our team here for the whole week - for the first time - and I am grateful that so many of you have taken me up on the offer to meet.
I have met with Mayors and Councillors and Regional District Directors from all over our incredible province. I am thankful to you for sharing your stories and expertise with me and allowing me to introduce to you the B.C. Green Party.
There are many issues that I am not going to be able to address here today. From education to health care to laying the groundwork for a new and modern economy, the B.C. Greens are more than a one-trick pony; we are a multi-faceted forward-looking party. We address all of these issues on our blogs and websites and I invite you to engage and participate with us in the discussion there.
We hope that the work we do at UBCM is worth something. And more than just talk the usual partisan rhetoric, we hope the provincial government will act. Your report “Strong Fiscal Futures” was last year’s news - and I - like you - have been frustrated that nothing substantive has been done to change the regressive way our communities are financed.
In 2013, I left local government and entered provincial politics and I stand here today, as Leader of the Greens, in large part because of an unwillingness on both sides of the aisle to truly address the regressive funding formula for our communities. The silence from Premier Christy Clark in Vancouver last year and the inactivity of the government over the past 12 months is more than disappointing.
This week started with Hon. Rich Coleman outlining the opportunities and challenges of LNG in BC. Minister Coleman was emphatic that LNG is good for the whole provincial economy. Just as the government argues LNG is a provincial economic opportunity, so are the BC Ferries.
Last winter I stood on the lawns of the legislature with community leaders and British Columbians from across the province. When I spoke to the crowd, I challenged Minister Todd Stone and the government to back up their decisions with evidence, and they ignored that demand.
Instead Minister Stone pressed forward, continuing the coastal death spiral started by his predecessors of fare increases, service cuts and user decline. There were no numbers, no socioeconomic impact analyses.
Today I stand with you, elected officials from all over the province, to call on the government to change course. Minister Stone attacked the report as well as the credibility of the report’s author, Peter Larose. And again I ask the Minister, to either show us your evidence or reverse course.
B.C. Ferries are marine highways and should be part of the Ministry of Transportation. They connect one third of the provincial economy. It is time to set politics aside and do what is right.
What can one MLA do?
In the past, Greens have been criticized by our political opponents who ask “what can one MLA really do?”
Over the past 15 months, Dr. Andrew Weaver and I have showed you what one MLA and a work-from-home dad and party leader can do. Amidst the changing of diapers and making of bottles, not only have we grown the BC Green Party, we have shown that we can do politics differently and still be effective.
Andrew has shown that we can respectfully address the issues, identify the jiggery-pokery and offer solutions.
It is time to change politics as usual in British Columbia, it is no longer serving our interests. It is time that we recognize local governments for the powerful voice that you are for your constituents. It is time that we recognize your unique ability to act when other levels of government are imprisoned by partisanship.
The B.C. Greens are a vote of choice, we are problem solvers and we believe the answers are probably already in your community. We stand with you, and when you are not getting the answers you need we are another point of access into the legislature. Please do not hesitate to call me and together we will work with Andrew and his incredible team to find the answers you need.
We take a pragmatic evidence-based approach to politics. We strive for a non-partisan and cross-partisan approach for keeping British Columbia the best place on earth. We are committed to working with our colleagues on both sides of the legislature and in local government to relentlessly seek out the best solutions to the problems that we face.
I encourage you to get to know the Greens. We are a lot more than what you have been told.
Finally, I would like to thank all of you for your hard work and dedication to the regional districts, districts, villages, townships, towns and cities of Supernatural British Columbia.
For those of you retiring from politics and moving into a new chapter of your lives, I raise my hands to you. For those of you who will stand for re-election, I thank you for continuing to engage democracy with passion.
Thank you. HYCHKA.