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Comment: Don't ignore the policy ideas offered by B.C. Greens

SONIA FURSTENAU A commentary by the leader of the B.C. Green Party.
A couple are dwarfed by old growth tress as they walk in Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew, B.C. Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. A letter signed by more than 100 scientists is urging the Canadian government to take action to stop the degradation of its previously undisturbed forests through large-scale industrial logging. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A commentary by the leader of the B.C. Green Party.

The April 20 editorial “In this election, Eby should be put to the test,” notes that the official Opposition “has an obligation, a responsibility, to provide cohesive policy alternatives in the next election” and then laments that “this is not happening in British Columbia today.”

While this critique rings true for much of British Columbia’s political sphere, it overlooks the robust and consistent efforts of the B.C. Green Party.

As British Columbians grapple with complex challenges, the B.C. Greens stand alone presenting actionable policies that address the core needs of our communities.

Take, for example, the persistent shortage of family doctors — a critical issue for a million British Columbians.

B.C. Greens have been championing community health centres as a way to build an actual primary health-care system.

Rather than insisting that family doctors operate as business owners, paying for their leasing, staffing, and overhead costs, a community health centre model would see the province provide the physical spaces and relieve doctors of burdensome operating costs, and then support health-care professionals to build the teams that meet the needs of their communities.

This model, exemplified by the Victoria Cool Aid Society Community Health Centre and Whistler 360 Health, demonstrates a scalable approach to fundamentally improving primary health care in our province.

Yet, the NDP government’s policies have led to a bloated bureaucracy, frustrating many in the health-care sector, and excluding the health-care professionals who are best suited to implement these solutions.

Mental health is another area where the B.C. Greens have taken decisive action. Since 2020, we’ve championed the inclusion of six annual psychologist visits under the Medical Services Plan.

We have also introduced private members legislation that would extend regulation to counsellors and other mental health practitioners — a step that we see as essential for both recognizing the professional skills of counsellors and the need for protection of the public who access mental health services.

We have also repeatedly called for the regulation of addictions treatment in B.C. It is essential that there be oversight and regulation of this growing industry, given the vulnerability of the people accessing treatment and the amount of public money that is going to addiction treatment providers.

On housing, Green MLA Adam Olsen has effectively debated the minister on the legislation that has been brought forward, with the minister conceding that the raft of legislative changes is not guaranteed to deliver affordable housing.

Our proposal to amend Bill 44, which sought to restrict Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) from acquiring single-family homes, was regrettably defeated by NDP MLAs — a decision favouring investor profits over public need.

Additionally, the NDP’s reliance on private developers for public land projects has undermined potential for non-market housing solutions such as social and co-op housing.

We have also highlighted that the NDP’s plan to use public land for housing is weakened by their willingness to let for-profit private developers use that land. This is looking more and more like a public land giveaway.

Instead, we must ensure that housing on public land is designated for much-needed non-market housing, including social housing and co-op housing.

The slow pace of rebuilding Lytton after the devastating 2021 fire, exacerbated by climate change, also reflects poorly on the government’s environmental commitments.

Despite clear links between climate change and increasingly destructive wildfire seasons, including the deadly heat dome of 2021, the NDP has continued to support LNG projects, ignoring the urgent need for a transition to a clean energy economy.

Not unlike their willingness to allow investors to continue to profit from our housing affordability crisis, the NDP are willing to allow multinational oil and gas companies to profit from the extraction and export of fracked gas, with no end in sight.

One of our best defences against climate change is protection of the last remaining old growth forests in this province, yet the NDP has dragged its feet on implementing the Old Growth Review Panel’s recommendations.

We saw an increase in the logging of old growth in 2021 — despite all the rhetoric from this government, the destruction of these ancient forests has continued.

People are growing weary of a government that says one thing but does another.

The times that we are in put us in need of a new approach to political discourse and decision-making.

Cheap rhyming slogans, distracting culture war politics, and criticism without offering cohesive policy solutions only polarize and anger people.

The Greens have been showing for over a decade that evidence-based solutions are the foundation of how we approach politics and governance.

It’s time for new leadership that not only challenges our business as usual but also actively contributes practical, innovative solutions to the pressing issues of our time.