Economic Options that Could Rescue B.C.

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“The NDP position is to decriminalize [marijuana], which I support…Personally, I’d like to tax the marijuana industry, however this would require legalization and I am not sure if British Columbians are ready for that”.  
– Jessica Van der Veen (current member at large of the Oak Bay-Gordon Head Constituency Association
and Regional Representative for the South Island on the Provincial Executive).

egret is a common emotion in Oak Bay these days; which will be even more pronounced at the Penny Farthing when frequenters learn they will not be exempt from Gordo’s tax attack. Oh. What we could have had!  
What is Jessica up to now?

If you’re disgruntled about the state of affairs in B.C. and are looking for somewhere to air your concerns – more so – wanting to be able to focus on what future political road we could be taking, then you should read on:

Diane Walsh: What is your formal involvement with the NDP at this time?

Jessica Van der Veen:  I am a member at large of the Oak Bay-Gordon Head Constituency Association.  I serve as Regional Representative for the South Island on the Provincial Executive.

DW: Ah, so that’s where to reach you then.  

Tell me now that some months have passed, give us your take on what happened in the election (specifically: the impact of the Green vote in Oak Bay)?

JVDV:  No question that the Green vote cost us in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.  We lost by 561 votes and the Greens got a couple of thousand.  Now British Columbia has to face the tragic environmental and economic consequences of the election result.  It’s a pity, because New Democrats have always been engaged and committed to environmental, social and economic sustainability.    
DW: Are you (or would you be) in favour of a coalition with Green, ever?

JVDV:  I am open to discussing solutions with people who bring good ideas to the table.  I have concerns about the Greens’ positions regarding both labour and business.  It is unclear to me whether they understand the importance of working gradually and respectfully to create more sustainable economic models.

DW: In some ways do you think “coalescence” with the Greens is already happening in the community?  Say, for instance: The Land Conservancy or the Madrona Farm mobilization initiative(s) (where you might see the joining of hands between libs/greens & ndp’ers/greens).

JVDV:  I see New Democrats doing what they have always done – mobilizing and organizing on these projects.  It is nice to have new people work with us – whether on environmental conservation, food security, social justice, children-at-risk or what have you.  I wish I saw more new faces.  The more the merrier.  

DW: If you would, please talk a bit about the worker/eco creative-projects-approach going on in town – generally?

JVDV: Labour’s commitments to projects are too numerous to mention.  Labour is beyond the call in their commitment to environmental and justice issues – whether they impact labour issues or not.  They were very supportive when I was organizing the rally to stop the sale of public school lands.  These folks show up.

DW:  In your view, what are the key issues Victoria faces at the moment?

JVDV:  The same issues as the rest of the province:  the privatization and sell-off of our public assets and services and resources to foreign corporations.  Fresh water and sewage treatment will be one big and very important focus.  Public Education and Health Care, especially seniors’ care will be another.  

DW:  Big question. What’s your take on the movement in Victoria toward the decriminalization of marijuana?

JVDV:  The NDP position is to decriminalize, which I support.  It’s outrageous that BC businesses are paying taxes and contributing to health care, education and a host of other public goods while the marijuana industry is being given a free ride by the right wing governments.  Personally, I’d like to tax the marijuana industry, however this would require legalization and I am not sure if British Columbians are ready for that.
 “The hemp plant has over 1,000 uses. Medicine, insulation, paper making, food and textiles are the most important. The oldest piece of fabric found by archaeologists is over 8,000 years old and is hemp. The Chinese invented paper using hemp as the medium. Today creating clothing that is less harmful to the depletion of earth’s resources means utilizing hemp. It is a plant that requires little or no agricultural chemicals and can be grown in most climatic zones”.
- Bill Finley (Victoria local business owner, Hemp & Co.
(chic clothing store at Fort & Government)

DW: Are you in favour of supporting a Hemp Economy in British Columbia (i.e. textiles; make-up and creams, etc.)?  

JVDV:  Sure.  Hemp is a useful fiber that can grow on land that is not otherwise arable.  The plants are hardy and require little or no chemicals and pesticides from what I understand.  I would not like to see hemp take up good quality food-producing farm land – the same way I don’t like to see arable land used for growing fuel.  (The idea of burning food makes me want to weep.)  If a hemp industry is on marginal land, it’s fine by me.  

DW:  Are you working/mobilizing with Lana Popham today?

JVDV:  Haven’t seen Lana since swearing-in day.  My Mum has been my main focus since the election (she is 92 and making the transition out of her home and into care.).  As for Lana:  What a fantastic MLA!!!  Don’t get me started on how highly I think of Lana.  
DW:  Can you comment on media in Victoria?  News coverage of the election and NDP issues in general?

JVDV:  I think the Times Colonist is being pretty valiant about trying to report on the issues.  I don’t always agree with them, but they are light years ahead of the Sun, which blatantly ignored stories about the Liberals.  I often saw stories on the front page of the TC which would be on A23 of the Sun.  Big stories, like the BC Rail e-mails, just buried until the election was over.

A-Channel did a good job with the resources they had and I was impressed, as ever, with CFAX and the number of people and issues they managed to get on the air.   The Lower Island News prints issues and ideas that no one else is printing, and is an important part of the dialogue.

DW:  The mainstream media has reported more than once that people are leaving James’ administration.  What do you make of this?

JVDV:  After so many Federal and Provincial elections this is the first window where people can make changes without interrupting at a crucial time.  This is a natural time for renewal and for those who are tired to take a well-deserved break.

DW:  Where do you see the NDP going, from here-on in?

Barring unforeseen circumstances, we will make government in 2013.  Meanwhile, it is a race against time to try to stop the privatization and selloff of BC’s assets, services and resources to foreign multi-national corporations.  We will have to dig deep and work hard to stop this and I invite everyone to pick a cause, be it fresh water, or health care or public education or the arts or hydro or senior’s care and do two things:  

1. Get out your chequebook.  2.  Volunteer and protest.  

I will be working as hard as I can for the next four years – stopping the sale of public school lands and protecting urban green spaces.  Even the hospitals, colleges and universities are selling land to make ends meet.  This is not sustainable.

DW:  What would it take to revive its fortunes?

JVDV:  NDP fortunes are revived!  We came close in the last election and we will continue to build for the next.  What will it take to win in 2013?  Hard work and money!  And votes!

DW:  Do you plan to run again?

JVDV:  Barring unforeseen circumstances I would be delighted to run again.

DW:  The Liberal Party is settled in providing the “perception” it’s the only government and the only way.  Digging a little deeper, the deficit budget is far in excess of its own forecast.  Yet we hear little of this dangerous trend.  Why is the NDP not able to get the message across forcefully and frequently? Some voters have suggested (albeit, rather harshly) that it seems the NDP message was stronger when there were only 2 MLA’s? (Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kuan).

JVDV:  The Liberals talk about deficits and taxes to create short-term fear, while the long term dangers are ignored.  The Liberals have destabilized the society through their cuts and the economic consequences are terrible.

Take BC Hydro for example.  The privatization of Hydro is driving rates through the roof.  We have always used our low energy costs to attract businesses here to BC.  The Liberals are driving jobs away and destroying our rivers and streams in the process:  Run of River Dams are an environmental and economic disaster.

The strongest economies in the world have healthy, educated populations, good transportation systems and cheap, clean energy.
An economy is only as strong as the society it is rooted in.  A society is only as stable as we make it.  Healthcare, public education, social services and environmental and health protections are the true foundation for a healthy economy.

[This article was originally published in the Lower Island News, August/September 2009 edition Volume 26, Issue 4]  

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