Friday, November 30, 2018

Community Office Holiday Open House!

I hope you'll be able to join my staff and I at our annual Holiday Open House! It's taking place on December 10 from 5-7 pm at my community office (4243 Glanford Avenue, Unit 260). I look forward to seeing you there!


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Collecting Donations for Anawim House

My community office and Carole James' office are collecting donations for Victoria’s Anawim House! In case you’re not familiar, this amazing organization provides healthy meals, showers, laundry facilities, clothing and more to men and women in our region.

Donations will gratefully be accepted any time my community office is open – 9-4 Monday-Thursday! It’s located at 4243 Glanford Avenue, Unit 260

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Over 400 new child care spaces on the South Island!

Great news for families on the South Island: our government just announced 439 new licensed child care spaces that will be located at six elementary schools in SD 61!
These new spaces are just the first to be announced under the ChildCare BC New Spaces Fund, and will be delivered in partnership by the Greater Victoria School District and non-profit organizations! Several of the locations will also offer “wraparound” services including counselling, healthy food and clothing to support vulnerable families, and programming for francophone families and those who are new to Canada.

Monday, November 26, 2018

BC Budget Remains on Track, Growth Stable

There’s always so much happening down at the Legislature, but here’s a piece of good news that shouldn’t be missed: BC is operating debt-free for the first time in more than 40 years!
Even as we’ve made record-level capital investments in affordable housing, schools and hospitals, the province’s debt-to-GDP ratio is at its lowest point since the 2008 financial crisis. Private sector economists are also projecting our province to lead Canada in GDP growth in 2019!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Education Savings Week

Did you know that November 18-24 is Education Savings Week in BC?

Many folks that I talk to are surprised by the amount of funding that's available to help save for you, or your child's education! Here are just a few examples: 

Receive $1,200 toward a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) for children between six and nine years old.

There are no additional fees or financial contributions needed to receive the $1,200 B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant through one of 56 banks or financial institutions in Canada. This allows parents and families who cannot currently afford to put money aside to start a RESP. Even the smallest investment can grow over time and make it easier to pursue post-secondary education and training.
Receive up to $2,000 to invest in a RESP
Eligible families with modest incomes can receive up to $2,000 for each child’s RESP from the Canada Learning Bond. There are no fees and parents can receive this grant without making any additional financial contributions: For more information, visit: http://Canada.Ca/education-savings 
Have personal RESP contributions matched by the Canadian government
The Canada Education Savings Grant will match parents' contributions up to a maximum of $7,200 per child: http://Canada.Ca/education-savings 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

ALR is for farming, not mega-homes or construction waste

When it comes to protecting farmland, the choice is obvious and the rationale is simple: the best farmland in our province should be used to grow food, not for mega-mansions and illegal garbage dumps.
Over the last 15 years, pressures on our farmland were allowed to grow, driving the cost of land out of reach for farmers, discouraging people from joining the profession and investing in food production, and allowing our valuable farmland to be damaged or lost, often permanently. We’re fixing that.
On Nov. 5, I introduced legislation that protects the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and makes it clear that farmland in the ALR is meant for farming. The legislation addresses mega-mansions and speculation in the ALR so farmers can get onto the land and bring it into production. It cracks down on dumping construction waste and fill to protect our valuable, arable soil, and it reinstates one zone for all ALR land in British Columbia to make it clear that the entire ALR benefits from the same strong protection.
The number of mansions and lifestyle estates on ALR land in urban areas has steadily increased in recent years, inflating farmland prices and preventing new, often younger farmers from growing food. In April 2018, it was reported that after a new mega mansion was built on a nearly 20 acre lot assessed at $85,000, it was sold for $9.2 million. That’s more than $465,000 per acre, putting that land far out of reach for farmers.
By setting a maximum house size of 500 square metres (approximately 5,400 square feet) throughout the ALR, our government is putting a stop to the speculation and building of mega-mansions on our most valuable farmland.
The change does not affect existing houses. Multi-generational farming families who live together and work their land will also still be able to build larger homes if needed through application to the ALC. Mega-mansions on the ALR were one of the main concerns we’ve heard from British Columbians expressed to an independent committee tasked with reviewing how we could revitalize the ALR and the ALC, and it is one on which the government is delivering.
British Columbians are also concerned about the illegal dumping of construction waste on the ALR. The damage of truckload after truckload of waste is often permanent, putting land out of production. This year alone, the ALC has dealt with 191 cases related to fill — 45% of all their compliance and enforcement files. Fill dumping can range from anywhere from eight truckloads to hundreds of thousands of truckloads on a single piece of land. At between $50 and $200 per truckload, you can see why some people find it more lucrative to farm fill rather than food.
Under the new bill, dumping construction waste and other damaging substances on farmland will be prohibited, with strong penalties and new tools for enforcement. New offences for illegal fill and soil removal have been created under the new act with maximum penalties of $1 million or six months imprisonment for a first offence.
The return to one zone throughout the ALR will result in all land in the reserve being protected equally, with one set of decision-making criteria focused on preserving the ALR and encouraging farming and ranching. Farmers who wish to supplement their income through non-farming activities on their land will still be able to apply to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to do so. British Columbians support this approach, and so do B.C. farmers, with both the B.C. Agriculture Council and family farms championing a one-zone system in which all land in the ALR receives the same protection.
There’s more work to come. This is all part of our government's ongoing commitment to revitalize the ALR and the ALC to protect farmland and farming in British Columbia. The old government allowed pressures on our farmland to grow.  For too long, people have used the ALR for mega-mansion estate-living and as illegal garbage dumps, but we're changing that.
Our government is making it clear that farmland in the ALR is for British Columbians who farm it and support prosperity in our communities, and whose hard work will let us all put fresh, local food on our tables for years to come.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Monthly Micro-Actions: The Last Plastic Straw

*MLA’s note* I’m so happy to introduce Laska Paré! Laska is one of our amazing constituents in Saanich South, and is also a monthly guest blogger on my website! She writes about tips on small changes we can make in our day-to-day lives to encourage us to live more sustainably. Read on below to find out more! -Lana  

Some things in life have become the norm; being handed a paper receipt upon making a purchase or getting a plastic straw when you order a drink at a restaurant. But what are all of these ubiquitous norms leading too? Millions of gallons of oil and trees and billions of gallons of water being consumed.. And for what? A small piece of paper most people don’t want and a bendy plastic tube used for an average of 20 minutes (or less). Just because it’s become “the norm” doesn’t mean it’s free from major hidden consequences.

The Plastic Drinking Straw

Humans have been using “drinking tubes” for over 7,000 years[1].  In the 1880s, gentlemen sipped their whiskey through long tubes made of natural rye that lent a grassy flavor to whatever drink they plopped in. In the 1900’s when polio was rampant, soda fountains offered paper straws to prevent contact with shared glasses.[2] But then came the 1950’s. With the popularization of cars, the quick-meal revolution emerged which included the creation of low-cost disposable packaging: Long and behold the plastic straw was born!

Disposable plastic straws are not recyclable. One study published earlier this year estimated as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world's beaches[3], and none of the commonly used plastics are biodegradable. As a result, they accumulate, rather than decompose, in landfills or the natural environment.

The environment is not just one little piece of the world’s puzzle. It's what every single thing in our life depends upon!

Maybe you’ve heard of food vendors and restaurants offering compostable plastics, such as straws and cutlery.. Within the market of consumer plastics is the growing industry of bioplastics – plastics made from plant biomass, such as corn. As marketable as biodegradable and compostable plastics are, there’s often more to these claims than meets the eye. Consumers often mistakenly assume these plastics will decompose in a reasonable time frame but for this to happen the bioplastics require the ‘right’ environment for them to decompose, e.g. the infrastructure. As well, this solution assumes that all the bioplastics actually find their way to the industrial facility which is unlikely.

Biodegradable plastics don’t make all that much sense in a long-term context. Plastic is a complex, highly refined synthetic material — why create something that requires a significant amount of energy to manufacture, only to have it disappear forever into the soil? Seems like a large consumption of resources for a short-term gain.

Micro-Actions For November

We can all vote with how we choose to spend our dollars, but some companies will always have more dollars than you. I encourage you to vote with your voice! Ask for “no straw” wherever straws are served, and don’t be afraid to tell restaurants and bars you frequent to only serve straws upon request. Very likely, you’ve been hearing more and more about cities and companies banning plastic straws, and Vancouver is going to be the first major city in Canada to ban plastic straws[4]. This is because awareness of the wastefulness of plastic straws has increased thanks to people taking a stand and saying “no” to using plastic straws. While we wait for city hall to declare Victoria as the second city to ban plastic straws in Canada, Mayor Lisa Helps encourages citizens to take a ban in their own lives on single-use items because it’s pretty easy to do if you just give it a little bit of thought[5].