It has been nearly 100 days since I was sworn in as the MLA for Oak Bay–Gordon Head and Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation. I have been hard at work meeting the needs of constituents and the Indigenous peoples in B.C.
As MLA, I am happy to report I am near to completing my goal of meeting with every neighbourhood association in our constituency. This has been an invaluable way to understand our community’s critical concerns and how I can advocate most effectively for our residents at the provincial level.
In South Jubilee, I met a vibrant and welcoming neighbourhood association, as dynamic as it is creative. It warms my heart to see the initiative residents are undertaking in making reconciliation a central priority for their neighbourhood. The future of the Bank Street School location and Bowker Creek are two key issues that South Jubilee residents have identified; I will try to implement their proposals at the provincial level.
In Gordon Head, I had the opportunity to engage with a community I did not know as well, since Gordon Head was not part of the constituency that I represented previously as Victoria’s MP. I have learned this constituency is home to a diverse and culturally rich community consisting of new and long-term residents, students, and a vibrant Chinese-Canadian community currently celebrating the Year of the Ox. In my meeting with the Gordon Head Neighbourhood Association, I learned about issues like traffic speed and congestion that affect residents there, as well as the Association’s efforts to ensure new public developments meet residents’ needs.
In the north of our constituency, the Cadboro Bay Neighbourhood Association continues to fight against the long-time thorn in the side of so many south Island residents: derelict boats. I look forward to working toward a long-term solution to this environmental problem, by bringing the Province to the table with residents, the municipalities, the Songhees Nation, and the federal government. I commend the Dead Boats Disposal Society for its hard work over the years to keep our shores clean, safe, and accessible to all.
Meeting the neighbourhood associations of North and South Jubilee, Gordon Head, and Cadboro Bay has been a wonderful experience and has given me valuable perspectives. I hope to forge a strong relationship with these neighbourhoods in the years to come and with the other neighbourhood associations I plan to meet before my first 100 days elapse.
A common theme that has emerged when speaking with residents is the critical need for affordable housing –especially for our seniors. Access to doctors and mental health services is also of paramount concern. The future of the Oak Bay Lodge presents a key opportunity to address some of these issues: I would encourage residents to make their voices heard in the next round of consultations set for this spring. After consultations are finished, I look forward to working at the provincial level to ensure that this redevelopment is of the highest quality and meets the needs of our community. I support the work of the Oak Bay council and the CRHD on this issue, and I am excited to build upon our strong relationship to best serve the community.
I would also like to say how delighted I am with Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch’s acquisition of Tommy Douglas’s and later Tommy Shoyama’s desk. Tommy Douglas is a hero of mine: I have his picture on my office wall. It is wonderful that this priceless piece of Canadian history has found a worthy home, right in the heart of our community.
In the realm of education, I have heard parents’ concerns over issues related to catchment pressures, classroom space, and the need for high quality facilities. I want to assure parents I will continue to advocate for their concerns, and will assist the Ministry of Education, School District 61, and the Conseil Scolaire Francophone in their continued efforts to deliver high quality education in both official languages.
The University of Victoria and Camosun College are two institutions that are of central importance to Oak Bay-Gordon Head. This month I had the pleasure of meeting with the UVic Students’ Society and the Native Students Union. A core element in our discussions was the need for affordable student housing and reconciliation; these two issues are critical to my role as an MLA and Minister. I thank the students I met with for their candid and constructive suggestions and look forward to many more meetings in the future.
A key part of my mandate as Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is to work to implement the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People within the provincial legal framework. I have enjoyed meeting scores of Indigenous representatives and community leaders. Locally, there have been very positive developments on the reconciliation portfolio. On Feb. 8, the province announced its purchase of a 3.4-hectare parcel of private land along Thetis Cove to support reconciliation.
Crown land is scarce in urban areas, and this development offers a unique opportunity to the Esquimalt Nation to develop housing and commercial property, which will benefit everybody in the region while making concrete strides towards reconciliation. The province will hold this property until a reconciliation agreement is concluded and consultations have finished between the Songhees Nation, the Town of View Royal, and local residents.
In addition to my work on reconciliation, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of my priorities as a Minister and MLA. While the province remains strongly committed to a just transition to a low-carbon economy under the CleanBC program, there are environmental issues of local significance I plan to work on as MLA.
The environmental impact of commercial tanker traffic and anchorage congestion upon the Salish Sea and south Vancouver Island residents is an issue that demands action. I have already begun work on this issue, and will continue to consult with the province, the federal government, advocacy groups, and industry to reach a long-term solution to this critical problem affecting residents and the local environment.
For almost all of us, 2021 has not yet provided relief or a clean break from the woes of the previous year. The provincial government is emphasizing the delivery of vaccinations and the battle against Covid-19 and striving to deliver financial supports to individuals and businesses that are struggling. We are also trying to assist those living with the other pandemic, the mental health and addiction crisis facing so many in our community. If you think we can help, our office can always be reached for information, support, and advocacy on issues important to you. Our email address is Murray.Rankin.MLA@leg.bc.ca, and our phone number is: 250-472-8528.
– Murray Rankin is MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head