It’s the first day back to school. For my whole life – as a student, then as a teacher – September has felt like the beginning of a new year. As an MLA, I am really excited about this new era in BC politics, starting with this week’s throne speech.
A few years ago, enjoying a warm evening on our back patio with company, one friend – also a teacher – made a comment that I’ve never forgotten. “August is the Sunday of summer,” he lamented. For a teacher, Sundays – and Augusts – are the time when the mind can’t help but turn to the task that lies ahead. August is the time of transition, the time to prepare for September (the time that always feels to me like the true start of the New Year).
It has been much the same this August, although the pace and volume of preparations for September have made this month much more like the Monday of fall.
The work in my new role as MLA falls into three broad categories: issues related to the riding, issues in the Confidence and Supply Agreement, and issues connected to my role as an opposition spokesperson on several provincial files. Often, there is overlap between these categories.
With help from my Constituency staff, we started by creating a list of matters in the Cowichan Valley that fall under provincial jurisdiction, then identifying what are the top priorities that we want to work on. These priorities include a new hospital for Cowichan, a new high school in Duncan, addressing the challenges of the Cowichan River and the Shawnigan watersheds, and supporting the work already happening on housing and homelessness issues in Cowichan. While we gather information on these and other matters, riding concerns arise that need immediate attention. The first example of this was the traffic quagmire on the Malahat – I reached out to Minister Trevena, who was most willing to hear concerns and work on solutions. Over the course of the last month, several other riding-related issues have come up, and I am pleased with the responsiveness of ministers and their staff to work in solution-oriented ways.
At the same time, our constituency office has been busy with people seeking help and support on a wide variety of matters. Luke has rapidly learned the processes and procedures necessary, and he works hard to help everyone who comes through the door. Volunteers are also stepping forward to contribute, and for this we are most grateful.
The Confidence and Supply Agreement (which we call CASA for short) between the NDP and Greens requires a great deal of work to ensure that the legislative commitments proceed as planned. On the many matters found in the agreement – from electoral finance reform to review of the professional reliance system – consultation is necessary. This has meant that as the NDP government prepares its legislative agenda for the fall, we have had ongoing meetings and discussions about items within CASA – upholding the essential spirit of the agreement, that “both parties agree that the legislature works best when all MLAs are able to put forward good ideas – and come together – to support those that advance the public good.”
(One quick note of clarification, as there has been some confusion. We have not entered into a coalition with the NDP – the BC Green party remains in opposition, with the agreement in place.)
Finally, as the opposition spokesperson on several ministry files, I have been working hard to gain as much knowledge as possible on the files, and to work with MLAs in both of the other parties to find and propose solutions. I have very much appreciated the willingness on the part of ministers to meet with me to discuss the files and their readiness to work in a collaborative, cooperative manner.
As I said in my first speech in the Legislature, we can do so much better. We can govern with compassion and kindness – these are words and values that need to be far more prevalent in our political discourse in BC.
I believe that this is possible – and I believe that all 87 MLAs are motivated to do their best for their constituents and for all of BC – and I also truly believe that it’s time for a new approach to governance in BC.