Adam Olsen, the interim leader of the BC Green Party, was in Bella Coola last week as part of a meet-and-greet tour of the Cariboo-Chilcotin and the Central Coast.
Residing in Victoria, BC, Olsen made the trip with his wife, Emily, and two young children, five-year-old Silas and two-year-old Ella. “It’s our first time in Bella Coola and we are thrilled,” said Olsen. “We are trying to get out to as many parts of the province as possible, and it’s been a great trip so far.”
A former Central Saanich city councilor, Olsen came in third in the riding but the margin was small, only 379 votes. The close result proved Mr. Olsen’s credibility among the Green ranks, resulting in the offer of the leadership position after the resignation of former leader Jane Sterk last summer.
While he is still considering a run for the top job, he said he’s enjoying the position so far. “My primary goal is to win my riding in Saanich North in the 2017 election,” he said. “In 2013 Andrew Weaver won the first Green seat in the legislature and I was a close second, so that remains my focus right now.”
A member of the Tsartlip First Nation, Olsen is involved in two family businesses, runs his own consulting firm and is now the voice for the Green Party in BC. His approach seems simple: talking with British Columbians face-to-face.
“We’re interested in giving everyone a chance to vote Green,” he said. “While our strength is certainly rooted in Southern Vancouver Island, we want to ensure there are candidates in every riding in BC.”
Out of BC’s 85 ridings, the party ran about 60 candidates in the last election. Olsen wants this to change, and this tour is partly about finding those local representatives. “I don’t believe in parachuting candidates in,” he explained. “We would much rather see a local representative for the party, someone who understands the local issues and knows the community.”
Despite the fact that the Green Party still doesn’t enjoy official party status (it needs four seats in the legislature, at present it has one), Olsen remains confident in the power of one. “One MLA can do a lot,” he said. “All you need to do is look at Elizabeth May and everything she’s accomplished at the federal level, or Andrew Weaver in Victoria. The difference is the courage these people exhibit, you have to be courageous and stand up for what you believe in.”
While many people may think of the Greens as being pro-environmental, not everyone is familiar with their position on First Nations issues. “We completely recognize Aboriginal Rights and Title,” said Olsen. “The Supreme Court has already confirmed this, and for us as a party it’s not a question.”
Growing up on reserve, Olsen ‘lived the debate,’ and believes it’s time to address First Nation’s issues head on. “The government is always trying to sidetrack the discussion, to kick the problem down the road,” he said. “It’s not working.”
While Olsen said the Green Party fully supports self-government for First Nations people, he concedes that at present there is no practiced model to follow, and it cannot be implemented as a whole on individual communities. “It really has be a community-based decision,” he said. “One community cannot tell another what to do or how to do it; it’s something that has to evolve organically.”
As far as the future of the Party, Olsen remains confident that the Green approach is relevant, and, essential. “The reality is that we are all facing the same problems,” said Olsen. “We need to come together to fix it.”