Town hall meetings start next week in Cowichan on electoral reform

It’s been a busy time since the Legislature’s spring session ended on May 31

By Sonia Furstenau

It’s been a busy time since the Legislature’s spring session ended on May 31, and it’s been terrific to be able to spend much more time in the Cowichan Valley. Summer in Cowichan offers an endless array of enjoyable activities, from perusing the weekly farmers’ markets to enjoying music at the many festivals.

Over the last month, I’ve been meeting with constituents, attending community events, and continuing to push for positive change for the Cowichan Valley. Recently, my work has left me feeling very hopeful.

The release of a report on professional reliance is a huge step forward for B.C. Working towards reform of this system has been one of my main focuses since the election. Moving forward, the work will now be to ensure that government adopts the recommendations of the report and begins to take the necessary steps toward restoring public trust in the decisions being made about land and resource use in our province.

We’re also beginning to see improvements in the Ministry of Children and Family Development. With a stated commitment to shift towards an emphasis to support families, we can expect to see advances towards better policy and steps away from harmful colonial tendencies. As early as next spring, we may see a new Parents Legal Centre in Cowichan. The team at the Parents Legal Centre will be able to provide families with expert legal advice, while additionally supporting parents in non-legal situations that may include issues with housing, addiction, or childcare. We’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m confident that we’re on the right path.

The Cowichan Housing Association has worked hard to find solutions to the housing crisis that is facing our region. During the past month, the CHA has held consultations across the valley, helping them to develop a strong understanding of our community needs and our ability to provide assistance. I will continue to collaborate with the CHA, and with local governments and other agencies, as they pursue projects that will help address the consequences of soaring real estate costs and a lack of affordable housing units.

There have also been some disappointments. Our caucus continues to call for bold action to protect wild salmon after Premier Horgan’s latest announcement on the status of fish farm tenures in British Columbia. There is an abundance of evidence that open-net fish farming has had negative impacts on our wild pacific salmon populations, including the transmission of sea lice and piscine reovirus. We will continue to push government to commit to a sustainable transition that would see open-net fish farms phased out, with a shift to closed containment land-based aquaculture.

I will continue to work throughout the summer on files that are so important to Cowichan, including seeing progress on a new hospital and high school. I will also continue to work with Cowichan Watershed Board and provincial ministries to see action from the province that supports the newly released Water Use Plan, which identifies the clear need for raising the weir in order to protect the Cowichan River. Looking for long-term solutions to the challenges of the Malahat highway is also an ongoing priority.

This summer is also the beginning of an exciting conversation about the future of our electoral system in B.C. We have the opportunity to modernize how we elect our representatives, and choices that allow ridings to keep their local representatives while also knowing that every vote in an election will count towards the make-up of the Legislature.

If you’re interested in hearing more about my recent work or what to expect in the future, I encourage you to attend one of my upcoming town halls. I will be at the Duncan United Church on July 3, Cowichan Lake Recreation Centre on July 10, and the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre on July 17. All of these events will be held between 7 and 9 p.m. and will present you with the opportunity to ask me about anything you’d like. I hope to see you there!

Sonia Furstenau is the MLA for the Cowichan Valley.

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