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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

ADAM OLSEN -- We must balance the interest of our right to benefit and enjoy our property, with the rights of our neighbours and the impact our decisions have on the broader community

This week I met with a group of passionate advocates on Salt Spring Island who are deeply concerned about the clear cutting of forests on private land.

There is a long history of logging on the Gulf Islands and, despite the Islands’ Trust mandate to “preserve and protect” the islands for the benefit of all British Columbians, there is seemingly little protection for the forests on private lands.

Of course, this brings up a whole host of property rights issues. In the past, there have been attempts to regulate tree-cutting through development permit areas but the local trust committees have been met with substantial pushback.

The provincial government provided other local governments with the ability to regulate tree cutting through the Community Charter and the Local Government Act, however, regional districts and the Islands’ Trust were excluded, leaving the forests and communities vulnerable.

This is a challenge with the “preserve and protect” mandate. While it was designed to control rampant and unsustainable development, forestry is one of the founding industries of our province and so the government of the day left it outside the mandate.

Managing fence lines

If you argue that property owners have the unlimited right to cut trees, then you cannot overlook the rights of the neighbours. This includes the confidence in their water supply and watersheds, slope stability and protection against erosion.

I was asked when I was a councillor in Central Saanich what my job is, and I responded that I manage fence lines.

Governance is about managing the relationships between countless interests of people living in close proximity. This is also the case as a provincial representative.

In the face of a growing climate emergency, there is a host of other issues we must also now address. Water, watersheds, erosion, air-quality and carbon-sequestration are just a few of the factors we need to consider in our governing.

We must balance the interest of our right to benefit and enjoy our property with the rights of our neighbours and the impact our decisions have on the broader community.

This is more complex now than it ever has been.

I respect the investment that people have made in their property and their desire to capitalize on that, but to what extent? I’d love to hear your opinion on these difficult issues.

Adam Olsen ... is a Green Party Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia for Saanich North and the Islands. Born in Victoria, BC in 1976, Adam has lived, worked and played his entire life on the Saanich Peninsula. He is a member of Tsartlip First Nation (W̱JOȽEȽP), where he and his wife, Emily, are raising their two children, Silas and Ella.


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