Charlotte Views: The coast is watching closely

Coastal voters expect NDP-Greens to make good on campaign pledges.

By Tom Kertes

Jennifer Rice told this paper last week that priorities for the NDP government are “making life more affordable for people, bringing back the services people count on, and creating a sustainable economy for everyone.”

These goals sound good to me, but what matters are details and outcomes. Part of governing is communicating and so far, the NDP and Greens are sending the right messages. Rather than pitting themselves against certain regions or economic sectors, the newly formed government is signalling a willingness to work on behalf of the entire province.

Hopefully this will alleviate the fears of centrist BC Liberal voters that the NDP, once in power, will rip apart what’s already working for British Columbia. By focusing on affordability, public services, and an economy that is sustainable for everyone, the NDP can reach beyond its base. With discipline and determination, the NDP and Greens can use their turn in power to prove that progressive values benefit society as a whole.

It’s Jennifer Rice’s job to reach out, widen support, and move forward on her party’s election promises. It’s our job to make sure that our priorities get delivered.

We must therefore be clear and focused in letting government know what’s most important to our region. Take a look at the electoral map — it was orange and green down the coast. This makes our continued support, as a core regional base, essential to the new government under its power-sharing arrangement.

Contrary to B.C. Liberal claims that progressive voters don’t “get it” when it comes to resources and the economy, the orange and green band now running from Haida Gwaii to Oak Bay, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, is made up of mostly rural communities that depend on resources. Given the importance of the land and sea to our region, it’s no wonder that we understand the importance of a sustainable economy. That’s why our region opposes salmon-destroying practices, supports alternatives to a carbon-intensive economy, and seeks a respectful relationship between First Nations and the province.

What priorities stand out for our region? Obviously, it’s time to improve ferry services to the islands. But we need more than schedule changes. The mandate and mindset of BC Ferries must also change. Marine highways are essential to every aspect of our lives, setting prices for the food we eat, driving economic development across the board, and connecting us to the rest of the world. The province’s marine highway system should be structured to work for all coastal communities, as it’s integral to the whole province.

Education, healthcare, and childcare also require strong commitments. We should insist on the resources and flexibility required to ensure equitable service levels across the province. It’s not enough to fund programs equally, as costs are higher in certain parts of the province. Service outcomes, not budget inputs, should drive policy. This also requires local control to meet provincial standards.

As part of supporting public education, I’d like to see more provincial funding for school trips, given that it costs considerably more for Haida Gwaii students to attend regional and provincial sports tournaments, theatre festivals, debate contests, leadership conferences, and other extracurricular programs.

Finally, the NDP must deliver on its promise to work with First Nations on the basis of respect.

This requires leadership. The more closely we all work together, the more modern British Columbia can benefit from thousands of years of knowledge and wisdom that First Nations have to offer.

Working with First Nations means being influenced by First Nations, recognizing not only the inherent power that First Nations have to their territory, but also the power of traditional ways of knowing. This above all is required for Jennifer Rice and the rest of the NDP to live up to their promises.

Charlotte Views