Local MLA Adam Olsen says comments from former Sidney mayor Steve Price calling for his resignation and accusing him of law breaking contributes to the current climate of political polarization.
“This kind of divisive language that unfortunately I am being asked to respond [to] is exactly the kind of divisive language that has got us to where we are today and we owe it to our future generations that they inherit a different kind of language and a more functional relationship, one that is inclusive and not divisive and angry,” he said.
Olsen made these comments after Price commented on a Monday morning protest outside of Swartz Bay that delayed BC Ferries sailings. Protesters demanded “respect for Wet’suwet’en sovereignty” in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing plans by Coastal GasLink to build a 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast.
Olsen, who is also the interim leader of the BC Green Party, had visited the area over the weekend, along with federal Green MP Paul Manly, after accepting an invitation from the hereditary chiefs. The pair met with the chiefs and other locals, including local RCMP officials.
The situation in the Wet’suwet’en territory and the #CoastalGasLink pipeline is our colonial legacy and the #IndianAct in our country and province. We all have a responsibility to write our new legacy together. #Wetsuweten #bcpoli pic.twitter.com/iLc1xN6SMe
— Adam Olsen (@AdamPOlsen) January 19, 2020
Price, however, appeared to interpret Olsen’s visit as inflammatory and responsible for Monday’s protest outside Swartz Bay. “This [Monday protest] is the direct result of [Olsen] fanning the flames of disrespect to the rule of law on his recent trip north,” said Price in a tweet. “He needs to resign his seat. We can not allow fanatics to control our Government. Green Party has lost its way.”
Adam Olsen needs to resign his seat now, his role as an MLA is that of a law maker, not a law breaker. He needs to decide who he represents and he has clearly shown its not the general population of BC @AdamPOlsen #YYJ #YVR Olsen needs to go !
— Steve Price (@MayorPrice) January 20, 2020
Price later repeated his call for Olsen’s resignation in a second tweet writing that his role as an “MLA is that of a law maker, not a law breaker. He needs to decide who he represents and he has clearly shown its [sic] is not the general population of BC. Olsen needs to go!”
This is the direct result of @AdamPOlsen fanning the flames of disrespect to the rule of law on his recent trip north, he needs to resign his seat. We can not allow fanatics to control our Government. Green Party has lost its way #YYJ #SIDNEY #YVR
— Steve Price (@MayorPrice) January 20, 2020
Olsen said he “fundamentally” rejects Price’s characterizations in every aspect.
“I break no laws, and when we got the invite to go to the Wet’suwet’en territory in fact met with the RCMP at the same time,” he said. “When we approached the control access point of the RCMP with the hereditary chief Na’ moks, they took our names us let us through. There were absolutely no laws broken in part of the trip at all and I had very good conversation with them [RCMP] on Sunday. I actually fundamentally believe that I am doing my job as an MLA to become informed and understand the various aspects of the situation.”
Olsen added later he believes more elected officials should take the time to learn about the complexities of Canada.
“It is the job of MLAs to understand the situations that are the results of our decisions,” he said. “Let us be clear. These confrontations … are happening because politicians have not been doing their whole job. This is on us. It is on us to get this right.”
When asked later why Premier John Horgan did not take up the invitation that Olsen accepted, he said “we need to make our own way.”
The premier and the premier’s office make their own decisions, said Olsen. “It was abundantly clear what my decision was, and that’s all I can speak to. It’s up to the government to speak to their response.”
Commenting on the Wet’suwet’en protest, as well as the protesters outside the ferry terminal, Olsen defended their right to peaceful protest.
“The right of British Columbians and Canadians to peacefully demonstrate is constitutionally protected,” said Olsen. “It is a foundational part of our democracy. We have our democracy today, because people have the ability to express their discomfort and their concern about decisions their government makes. To suggest that there is something fanatical about that is to not understand the history of how we got where we are. Indeed, how is this being said that the neighbours to the south are celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day?”
The Peninsula News Review has reached to Price for additional comment.
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