Meet your MLA!

A lot of people thought the British Columbia Liberal Party led by Christy Clark wouldn’t win the last Provincial election, but they did.

My Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Dr. Doug Bing, is one of those Liberals. Last Friday I had my first formal meeting with him to tell him about Hammond Forever House.

Have you ever met with one of your government representatives? I recommend it. I met with former Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin a couple of times and with all of the last batch of Maple Ridge Councillors, too. I’ve never had a formal meeting with my Member of Parliament, but I hope to soon.

I think the Provincial Government should be involved in the Hammond Forever House project because we’re doing something that will benefit our community, the province and the country.

Dr. Doug Bing, MLA and James Rowley, Eco-Warrior
Dr. Doug Bing, MLA and James Rowley, Eco-Warrior

Although the BC Liberals made a great leap forward by bringing in a Carbon Tax I am critical of their emphasis on Liquified Natural Gas and, ehem, a few other things.

But what was I going to say in my meeting? What would you say if you had a meeting with your MLA? Would it start with, “now you listen here, you work for me and…”?

I think most people don’t request a meeting because things seem basically okay. Maybe those who do have an issue don’t think a meeting will do any good. I can understand that sentiment. My MLA is one member of a┬áteam. It’s not like he’s going to go back to Victoria and bang on the table until Premier Clark agrees to fund putting solar panels on the roofs of low-income homes (like they are doing in California). That’s not how it works. So how does it work?

Time for meetings is running out.

Come July, the house will be in turmoil. Now is the time to reach out. I bit the bullet and made an appointment for the last Friday Dr. Bing was in his office before the Legislature went back in session for a final 10 days before the summer.

Leanne asked me if I had a specific “ask”, putting name to my fear of not knowing what I was going to say.

I had been mulling it over and replied, “no.”

I had some ideas, but I realised it doesn’t help to simply demand action. As a citizen, it is important for me to explain my situation and be open to accepting whatever help Dr. Bing can offer. Maybe we can come up with some ideas together. I don’t think average citizens should feel they have to know how to make things happen in Victoria before they meet their MLA.

So I told him the story of our renovation that grew and the frustration that grew as well. I told him about the beautiful but stalled community retrofit project. I showed him plans and charts and booklets.

It wasn’t easy, but I managed to reduce my theme to one central question which was this:

given that we know we must stop burning fossil fuels and, in BC, switching to electrical power means renewable hydro-electric power now and homes generating their own electricity with solar panels in the future, are the home energy efficiency incentives we have now doing enough?

To my mind, the incentives are flawed, unreliable and inadequate.

In fact the BC government recently got out of the incentives business. The LiveSmartBC grants have been transferred to the utilities: BC Hydro (electricity) and Fortis BC (natural gas).

One problem is that homes which burn oil or wood for heat are not eligible for the BC Hydro grants. On the surface, this seems crazy because switching from these fuels reduces greenhouse gases so much. However, from BC Hydro’s perspective, replacing an oil furnace with a heat pump means higher electricity consumption, not lower, and does not meet their goals.

BC Hydro has targets that have everything to do with lowering residential electricity consumption. Higher consumption means more powerlines, etc. and more demand at peak times. If everyone switched from gas, oil or wood to electrically powered heat pumps tomorrow, that would be a huge challenge for the electrical utility.

However, electricity can be generated in our communities using the sun and the wind, to name two sources. Done right, switching to electricity is the way to go, but our governments cannot sit on the sidelines for this to happen. The utilities will look out for themselves, not us.

Natural gas is a more efficient fuel than oil or wood, of course, but it is still a fossil fuel and you know what that means: dragging the carbon that has been trapped in the ground for millions of years and pumping it into the atmosphere to contribute to the greenhouse effect. And of course you have heard about fracking. No thank you.

This is an instance where government leadership is needed to keep our eyes on long-term sustainability which means renewable energies, not fossil fuels. Unfortunately, governments are subject to elections every four years and the tried and true programs make way for the untested but flashy latest thing. It seems the Livesmart BC funding found another home. Remember, we have a ruling party that knows what is required to get elected.

With governments sitting on the fence (perhaps waiting for the public to demand action) it seems it’s up to people like us to lead by example. My answer is to push toward net-zero homes. Help homeowners retrofit their homes until they need so little power that they can produce enough themselves.

No new infrastructure needed!

Odette on the fence
Odette on the fence

Dr. Bing and I had a good discussion. He pointed out the photo of a polar bear hanging on the wall behind us in our photo. It was taken on his recent trip to Churchill, Manitoba, on the shores of Hudson Bay. I asked him if they are concerned up there about melting sea ice and he said yes. The polar bears rely on the ice to hunt. He told me a big part of his job was to listen and he did that very well.

I told him we will be having tours of the house in June and he said he may be able to bring the Housing Minister along with him. I said that would be great (and now I’m stressing out about getting the house ready for tours).

When I got home I looked up the BC Housing Minister–except I couldn’t because there isn’t one. What we have in BC is a “Minister of Natural Gas Development and also Responsible for Housing.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

Another reason people don’t meet with their representatives may be that they are afraid they will become human. I mean, it’s a lot easier (and more fun) to criticise someone angrily on social media if you haven’t met them in person.

I am so angry with the federal government of Stephen Harper most of the time that I have trouble imagining meeting my MP Randy Kamp who is a member of his party. However, I have swallowed my feelings and requested a meeting with Mr. Kamp by e-mail. After all, he is my representative in Ottawa. Maybe he can help us with our project.

Stranger things have happened.

The more of my elected representatives I meet, the more I realise that each and every one of them has stepped up to help their community. I may disagree with them, but they deserve a word of thanks.


They are only human and can’t represent us properly if they don’t know what we need. You don’t have to set up a meeting today, but find a way to share your story and concerns. You can bet those multi-national oil and gas corporations are having a lot of meetings with MLAs, MPs and Mayors all the time.

Published by

James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

3 thoughts on “Meet your MLA!”

  1. It’s hard to meet a politician. I’ve meet Christy Clark face to face, a few times, she liked to shop in the store I worked in, and there made a very bad impression (so did Joy MacPhail, btw), I can’t imagine keeping my cool with a representative of her government, so I can see why a meeting with Kamp would be so hard. Good for you for biting the bullet and meeting with Bing.

    I’m also interested in the solar panels in California. But for that, I’ll have to ask my husband’s uncle… a politician. Assemblyman (uncle) Ken Cooley, I’ve some curiosity questions for you.

    1. I don’t think it’s so hard. Of course, you have to try not to give in to that impulse to scream, “do something!” at them because you know it won’t help.

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