COLUMN: A busy summer

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Midway through summer, the common conversation starter is “how’s your summer going?” People often stop to ask me that and my response is “Busy.”

In my last column, I shared with you some of the concerns and questions I heard during my annual Bend the MLA’s Ear Tour. Stopping in 11 communities, and speaking with dozens of residents, I’ve since been following up and addressing issues raised by those I represent. For example, my staff and I have been researching government procurement policies, past ferry schedules and the full process should government move forward with a landing change for Kootenay Lake Ferry. We then provide that information to the public and work with the community on choosing Balfour.

I’ve also been out at special events that come with summer. Canada Day events in Nelson and Salmo were fun celebrations as always. Later in the month, Yaqan Nukiy, Lower Kootenay Band, of the Ktunaxa Nation hosted the Nation’s Annual General Assembly. I was honoured to attend along with my newest MLA colleague, the first First Nations woman elected to BC’s Legislature, Melanie Mark. Touring the new Roundhouse, built at the site of traditional Ktunaxa meeting grounds, and the new school, we were left excited for the future that these spaces will grow.

Kaslo Jazz, etc. Fest is always a blast, but this year was very special. 3000 people, 300 volunteers and 25 years of great music. A week later, I am still talking about the amazing Friday night show with Michael Franti and Spearhead. Thanks to all who make this event so spectacular! It is a cornerstone in our tourism economy.

When we least expected it, the Legislature was called back for a special summer session. I was thrilled that after introducing legislation four times to include transgender people’s rights in BC’s Human Rights Code, my BCNDP MLA colleague Spencer Chandra Herbert’s work became reality. So many people were a part of making this happen, and finally our Trans neighbours, friends and loved ones have their rights specifically written into BC law.

Also part of this summer session was a bill to finally address Vancouver’s affordable housing crisis with a new 15% tax on foreign buyers. I say Vancouver because the legislation specifically gives the City of Vancouver the ability to levy this tax. Solutions for the rest of BC, including right here in the Kootenays, were simply not a part of this urgent legislation.

Other aspects of this bill were problematic too. It leaves large loopholes while taxing people’s citizenship rather than the actual money that is inflating the housing market. In March, BCNDP Leader John Horgan introduced two bills to address the province-wide affordability crisis. Under our plan, money, not people’s citizenship, would be taxed because experts agree that capital speculation is the issue rather than a buyers’ nationality. Our plan also targets taxation revenue into a specialized fund for new affordable housing units. This increases housing stock, reducing part of the demand pressure that drives up prices for both rentals and ownership.

Experts agree that our plan is one that will work, while Christy Clark’s plan is one that hasn’t worked or has meagre results in other jurisdictions. Unfortunately, Ms. Clark’s partisan politics and big donor relations have caused her to ignore our proposals. With such a major affordability crisis in BC, we deserve better than that.

As the summer heats up, I don’t slow down that much. There’s a lot happening in our province and a lot that needs addressing. And I truly believe that together, we can build a better BC.