(by Margot Grant)
What is the most pressing issue in this riding?
In this riding, I would say representation. It feels like our riding has been left behind. Industry is developing across Northern British Columbia, Vancouver and the Island have many opportunities. Somebody needs to step up and be the advocate for the Coast in Victoria.
I see the rest of our province prospering. There is a lot of provincial money for transportation, for health care. But if you’re not at the table in Victoria, making sure these dollars come to your riding, they end up somewhere else.
The present MLA [Nicholas Simons] is a nice guy but he just hasn’t been able to be effective for the community. We’ve had continuous issues with the ferries, we need to address that. It affects not only commuters—I was one, for six years—but also the tourism-based industry and small businesses. And there are many more issues.
We just have not had effective representation. Look at the highway infrastructure, the funding for hospitals. We need education funding for our community. It just hasn’t been there.
We need somebody who understands how government works, who worked federally for fifteen years, who understands how to get results in government. My dad [Gordon Wilson] has been a good mentor for me. He was the leader of the Liberal party, and then served as an effective MLA here from 1991 to 2001. I think I can give people that representation.
Again, I’d say the most pressing issue in this riding is who is going to represent you, your family and your community in Victoria.
“This is a significant issue. It is not specifically about low income housing, it cuts across the board. People want to be able to get into the market. Young people look to me and say ‘We want to be able to purchase our first home.’ We have a program in the budget 2017 to help young people do that, which is great.
Our government and Minister Coleman of Housing have been strong advocates for affordable housing. Who has the best record, probably Canada wide, on affordable housing? The investments we’ve made across British Columbia on affordable housing have been significant.
“Our government has put
lots of money
into affordable housing”
We put $100,000 into affordable housing with Habitat for Humanity in Wilson Creek, putting housing in place for one new family. I had a number of chats with Kory Lyn who is the executive director there. We have supported the other two developments that are coming along as well.
You need someone who is going to be a strong vocal advocate for affordable housing on the Sunshine Coast.
People are ready to invest in our community, but if we don’t have an investment environment, people will go other places.
We don’t have enough rental facilities on the Coast so you need someone who is going to advocate regularly. The NDP have proposed a new rental subsidy which is fine if you’re a low income individual who is renting. But the problem is it does not help people find a rental unit. If you do not increase the number of rental units you can supply all the rental subsidies you want but it is not going to do much.
Our government has put lots of money into affordable housing and we will continue to make that a priority for British Columbians.
Homelessness is an issue for sure. I think part of it is the lack of an adequate shelter here. And there is a need for transitional housing, something that helps people move from emergency housing into something more stable and permanent. This is especially important for families with young children.
You need to have a program of social support at the basis of it all. The only way to do that, in my opinion, is to have a really strong economy which affords a strong tax base. This allows you to reinvest in social programs to support people and the housing program.
I read the article ‘Temporary homes on clearcuts’ in The Coast Clarion. My position on that is twofold. One: there are people who choose to live in very temporary housing accommodations. I don’t have an issue with that. I think we should support them. But we have to make sure there are no issues with sewage and wastewater.
What is more concerning to me is that there are people who are pushed in that direction because of economics. They may be families with small children or people with health or mental health issues. Given the choice, they’d rather be in a more traditional housing market. How can we make sure people have the choice?
That’s where our government’s affordable housing strategy comes into play. We are making sure we rethink the style of housing we build, we look at the affordability of design and we promote using BC timber for wood frame building. It was our government that changed the building code to allow for more wood frame developments. That is not only great for the forest industry but it also helps to bring down the cost of housing. That’s a win-win for us.
I grew up here and lived here on and off for roughly 40 years of my life. The ferries have been a problem the whole way through. Back in the 70s we had ferries that ran more frequently and later into the night so you could get back to the Coast at 11 pm. But we moved away from that.
So we need to address the ferry issue. People like the sailings every hour. How do we build on that? And the fares need to come down so people don’t get gouged.
‘The bypass needs to be completed
before we can think
about a bridge or the ferries’
We need to get the crew size down to a reasonable size. People’s safety obviously comes first but we need to talk with Transport Canada about the regulations. The ferries in Washington and Alaska run on similar routes with significant less crew on board without any impact on safety.
But again, we need someone who is hyper-focused on getting it done because it is not going to resolve itself. I should be the loudest voice in Victoria to fix the ferry issues.
We need to make a significant investment in the ferries but we have to be careful because these investments span 40 years. There are alternatives like a bridge or an overland road to Squamish.
I think time will tell which way we go. I would argue that the first thing is to protect our communities, making sure that our neighbourhoods are safe for our children, that we protect the beauty of our communities.
In order to do that, the bypass needs to be completed. We need a straight freeway from Langdale past Gibsons and past Davis Bay. That allows municipal governments to think about opportunities for growth in a sustainable manner. They can invest in bike lanes and have a smaller vehicle footprint. It will make our communities more attractive to live in.
There is no reason why that bypass has not been completed. We need to do that first and then we can talk about a bridge and/or ferries.”
LNG and Woodfibre
This relatively small Woodfibre export terminal will provide upwards of 600 jobs. We need to make sure that British Columbians have job opportunities.
We have had natural gas in British Columbia for years. It is a good transition fuel to move people away from heavy crude and oil. We need to think about how we fit into the global environmental focus. We must try to provide an alternative for China which is burning a lot of coal and oil as well as for the US which now seems to be walking back into the coal world.
‘BC natural gas
is the cleanest
in the world’
British Columbia natural gas is by far the cleanest in the world in terms of the way it is extracted. It has to do with geology and clay layers. That’s why I don’t have a problem with fracking here. And we have great labour standards, we have environmental standards. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be world leader in the development of the natural gas industry.
So I support natural gas. It has been proven to be a green energy alternative. And I support Woodfibre in this community because not only is it going to provide opportunities for gas in the community but it will also afford good paying jobs.
I know people are concerned about the increased tanker traffic. But you know, when the federal government was looking at the vision for Kinder Morgan, the Northern Gateway and a couple of similar projects our premier Christy Clark said ‘Look, there are five conditions.’ And one of them was ocean protection. She insisted on protecting large segments of our coastal communities, preserving the nature and beauty of the coast. I was at the federal table at the time.
Had those conditions not been put in place we wouldn’t have had the significant investment our government has made in ocean protection. It is not only about vessel safety. They looked at increased Coast Guard presence and engaging First Nations communities in monitoring and responding. That’s fantastic because they are already on the water and they desperately need and want that part of the solution.
Obviously we are not going to have an LNG industry in a way that affects our coastal communities. I have two girls who grow up here and we love going down to the beach. We surely don’t want the natural and aesthetic beauty here destroyed.
My father has been called a fulltime lobbyist for LNG. That is incorrect, he is a civil servant promoting LNG. I would rather call him an LNG ambassador. But the best thing to call him is an ambassador for British Columbia.
From when he was first elected, it has always been about putting British Columbians first. I have learned from that. It is what I want to embody as well.
My dad has had great success in many First Nations communities and that’s a record I’m sure he is proud of. It’s something I want.
“You have to look at how political parties are funded. They need to operate on their own, independent of government, and find their own donors.
I agree with the way the donation system is currently structured. Do we have to look at capping? Do we need to bring contributions down a little bit? I think so. I mean, we saw the steelworkers donate $600,000 to the NDP over the last year. There is a problem there, right?
We have to make sure that this is capped at an appropriate level. And we need to consider foreign donations. The optics of that are problematic. Whether there is influence or not, people perceive it that way.
So we need to look at those foreign donations and figure out what British Columbians are comfortable with.
Honestly, I don’t have a personal opinion about it. I don’t know what the government will do. But the process is transparant. We stand by those donations.
Site C is going to give us a hundred years of clean energy. The power is needed for electric vehicles and electric bikes as those industries start to develop. I think that’s a good direction to go in. So yes, I’m a supporter of Site C.
Luckily, we have a premier who is forward thinking. She looks beyond the next election cycle. Sometimes you take a bit of a hit for that. When W.A.C. Bennett built the predecessors of Site C there was opposition, too. But in hindsight, they were really good investments in British Columbia. We benefitted from them over the years and we will benefit from Site C.
No less than 2,200 people will be working at Site C. We’re prepared to complete that project. If the NDP were to close it, that’s 2,200 people laid off. Those are good paying jobs in the North. People depend on that.
Water issues on the Sunshine Coast
“We have abundant water on the Sunshine Coast. Chapman lake has some limitations in terms of drawdown levels and capacity to hold water and the SCRD has plans to fix that.
There is also Ruby Lake in Pender Harbour. Infrastructure could be put in place to supply Pender Harbour, Halfmoon Bay and West Sechelt with water from Ruby Lake. That’s a viable option. As the community grows, we can’t go through years of water restrictions. We need to have a plan for the Sunshine Coast.
Jobs, precarious work, youth employment opportunities
Many of my friends who grew up here would love to come back. But there just isn’t the stable economy to be able to support that. So we need to make sure the Sunshine Coast has a strong economy.
My position is that the government does not create jobs, we create an environment in which jobs can develop. Large companies need to come in, we need to make sure the Sunshine Coast is an investment friendly community.
We also need to support Howe Sound Pulp and Paper. That company has been at the heart of the Sunshine Coast economy for years and you don’t want to jeopardize that. There are opportunities to expand there a little bit.
We need to show young people that forestry is still a viable industry. It is sustainable and renewable and it has come a long way from the large clearcuts in the past and the damage that did. Foresters are land managers, they want to protect the integrity of the land and the watersheds.
Lots of things can be done, it’s just a matter of having the vision. That’s where you need someone who is going to get up every morning thinking ‘How am I going to get more opportunities for this community.’
“I have been working with Brian Smith for quite awhile on Persephone. Actually, I had a chat with him just yesterday about the hops program in our platform. It recognizes hops as a viable agricultural product and promotes a hops industry in British Columbia. This allows Persephone to become compliant with the regulations.
We’re working hard with Brian because Persephone has become a social attraction and an economic driver. Community Futures has people there who would otherwise have a challenge entering the work force. Those are the kind of models we want for our communities.
So I’m a hundred per cent behind Persephone.
Seniors’ health care
Shorncliffe and Totem are no longer able to provide the level of care that seniors deserve. I am also concerned about the working conditions for nurses and care aides in those facilities. I’m concerned about the good paying jobs in Shorncliffe and Totem. I want to see those unionized jobs maintained in our community.
I’ve had discussions with Mary McDougall of Trellis and she is absolutely happy to have conversations to bring on unionized employment.
There is a place for both private and public facilities. Remember that Trellis is a private facility with publicly funded beds. They are regulated the same way as other publicly funded facilities. There are standards across British Columbia for longterm care. We have to make sure that those standards are maintained.
Right from the beginning, the community was divided about the plans for a private healthcare facility in Sechelt. I sat down with Coastal Health and I said ‘We need to make sure that Shorncliffe and Totem remain open.’
There is money in the 2017 budget to renovate, repurpose and rebuild, we just need somebody who steps up and gets that money, brings it to our community. If elected, those dollars will come to renovate Totem and Shorncliffe. Those facilities will stay open. And we’ll expand the number of nurses on the Sunshine Coast. That’s the commitment from them, that those facilities stay open.
I was very clear in my conversations with the Ministry of Health about the need for these facilities to stay open. As I said, they will stay open for the health care needs of the community.
I could negotiate all this because first of all, I am a concerned citizen, and the nominated Liberal candidate. I spoke with doctors and stakeholders and I pushed that message back to Coastal Health saying ‘Look, this is what the community is asking for, let’s get a commitment to make sure that those facilities remain open.’
I don’t think it is inappropriate for somebody who cares about the community, who aspires to be in a leadership role, to sit down and advocate for the needs of our community.
We need somebody who picks up the phone, has a meeting, and says ‘Look, this is what I’m hearing, this is what we need, this is the direction you need to go.’
Ultimately, the decision will sit with Vancouver Coastal Health and the ministry in terms of funding.
Is there anything that is close to your heart?
People feel that our community really needs that advocate, that person who can bring people together, who can negotiate deals, gets results. That’s the message I want to put out there. That’s the vision I have for the Coast.
On April 10, four days before this interview with Mathew Wilson on April 14, incumbent MLA Nicholas Simons received a letter from Clay Adams, vice-president of Communications at Vancouver Coastal Health:
A person shared your question regarding Totem and Shorncliffe and I thought I should respond and reassure you that you are not out of the loop of what the future might look like for these two facilities.
As you know, we remain committed to our agreement with Trellis for a new residential care centre although we recognize that this still needs to go through the various municipal processes.
In terms of Totem and Shorncliffe we remain open to what the future holds for these two sites once Silverstone is built. However, we have been clear that while we are open to repurposing them to support the health needs of the community, they will not stay as they currently are.
There appears to be confusion in some circles that was likely generated by some physician’s comments that VCH is going to keep Totem and Shorncliffe “open” as in finding a functional use for them, not “open” as in staying as they are now.
This led to assumptions and interpretations by others about what is planned for the future. While I was not aware of the advertisement you shared, I understand a communications officer spoke with Mathew to clarify the situation.
I can also assure you that we will seek your input and perspective as MLA on the future of the site as we move to the community consultation process.
Right now, we are arranging dialogue sessions over the coming weeks with stakeholders to sollicit their thoughts, ideas and concerns. We will certainly do the same with you although we are sensitive to the timing realities and situations in the next few weeks.”
“They may use these facilities for storage, they may use them for mental health drop-in centers, they may use them for other things connected to health needs in the community. They’re on public land, they’re owned by the public,” Simons said. “VCH has its hands tied. The government is closing these facilities as centers for long term care.”
Mathew Wilson, 40, grew up in Middlepoint, near Madeira Park. He graduated from Chatelech Secondary School and studied Political Science and Economics at the University of Victoria. For fifteen years, he worked for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada settling residential school claims. Mathew Wilson has family on both the lower and the upper Sunshine Coast. He lives in Roberts Creek.