New Very Cool Meeting Mighty People Podcast Episode # 21

To start off the show, I was wondering if you could tell us, our listeners, a little bit about your yourself, Brittany, let’s hear a little bit about why you were interested in becoming a politician, and particularly chose Nelson and Crest. . Yeah. Thank you so much Alexis. And like I said to you earlier, I am a big fan of your podcast.

After we met at the Creston Farmer’s in, I listened to an episode and I thought that they were awesome and I’ve them with some other folks. And so I feel super grateful to be on your podcast today. How I became interested in being an mla? Well, it starts a little bit earlier, so I was always, uh, interested in politics.

I do have an undergrad in international relations and I did my Master’s in Environmental Science and Policy. Um, but I was actually, and I worked, um, at the town of Creston when I was, um, the water smart and ambassador over a decade. Um, but I was actually working at, I was, I was working in the cannabis industry and it was, um, I was working down in the States.

We were doing sustainability certification for cannabis. And this was at the time when cannabis, um, legalization was being discussed in Canada. And so one of the fears that we had was that cannabis, Potentially not going to be allowed to be grown outside and that there would be no space for small cultivators to be able to enter the marketplace.

And of course, here in the Kootenays, we have a long tradition, um, of cannabis cultivation. And so from an ec economic perspective, it’s really important that those small cultivators are able to transition. And considering it’s a plant, it’s also important that that plant is able to be grown. Side for a variety of reasons.

And my friend actually invited me, uh, to join her in Ottawa. And so we flew down to Ottawa together, you know, like I paid for it myself. We weren’t lobbyists, we were just, just people. And we ended up speaking with several different MPs and senators. And then when the discussion was back at the Senate regarding outdoor cannabis, Um, one of the people that we had met with responded to the question and actually verbatim used the, the language and the words that I had written out.

And so that to me was a, an extremely impactful moment knowing that I could change, you know, potentially the course of. Of cannabis legalization, but also how I can advocate for my community. So that sparked something in me. Um, that same friend invited me to join her, um, at Ubcm. And I was, they were doing the first cannabis reception and so I was driving down with another friend whose father was the mayor of Grand Forks, and she, I, I had kind of mentioned to her that I was potentially interested in running.

Uh, for municipal council cuz the elections were just around the corner. And so when we got to the Union of BC municipalities in Whistler and we were in this space with a bunch of people from the COOs and different people from the cannabis industry, um, she announced to everyone that I was running for council and, uh, everyone was really excited and supported.

And so I had to go home from that trip and tell my partner that I was, you know, potentially interested in running for council. And he was immediately supported. Um, of that. And so I was lucky I ran, um, I became a counselor for the City of Nelson and then also I was, um, elected by, by my peers on council immediately to be the alternate director and working at the RD c k, um, which was great cuz I had already previously worked as a staff member at the RDC case.

So I knew all of the folks and how things functioned and ran. Um, and then I. Uh, I became actually the director of the regional district, and so I really enjoyed both of those roles and the advocacy and the work that I got to do as counselor and regional district director and then Michelle Al. Um, her and I, so she was the former mla and her and I would meet up, um, every once in a while and, you know, she would help mentor me and answer my questions and support me.

And one day she reached out to me to have a meeting. And so we ended up meeting, um, at a coffee shop just around the corner for my current office. And it was, I remember it was a super hot day in August. She asked me, uh, she told me first of all that she was pregnant with her second child, um, and that she was potentially, she was in, she didn’t wanna run again as MLA

And she asked me if I would consider running as mla. And I was, you know, very honored that she would ask me. And I was excited about the idea and I said, okay, how? Started, and first of all, she told me it was extremely confidential. And I said, well, can I tell my partner and can I tell my parents? And she was like, yeah, of course you can tell your partner and your parents.

And I was like, ok. So I went home and I told my partner about my conversation with Michelle and he just looked at me and said, yeah. I don’t know why you wouldn’t do it. And then my parents were extremely supportive and actually I signed up to become a BC NDP member that night. I had always voted for the party and supported the party.

I had just never signed up for membership. And, um, within a few weeks it was announced I would, I went through the whole vetting process and it was announced that I was gonna be running for mla. I was. At Ubcm again, uh, we were doing it virtually cuz of the pandemic and we had just finished a meeting with the minister and as everyone was starting to stand up, I said, Hey, uh, do you guys wanna hear some news?

And they’re like, oh yeah, sure. And I said, actually in a few minutes that’s gonna be announced that I’m seeking the nomination for, uh, to become the BC N D P um, MLA for, for this area. And everyone was really excited and supported. And, um, we just, I kind of hit the ground running from there. The election was called, I worked super hard during the campaign and now I feel extremely grateful to be able to be the representative in a place where I grew up and I call home.

And of course I got to spend that summer in Creston, where as a Waters smart ambassador, where I met my partner. And, you know, the COOs I feel so deeply. And so if I’m. Help the people here. Um, and I get to do that every single day in my work. I feel extremely grateful for the work that I get to do. Awesome.

That’s an awesome story. Thank you.

What about you Dan How did you get into this field?

โ€ŠWell, I’m, I’ve always been interested in politics. Uh, my family has, uh, a long standing tradition of us, uh, arguing with each other around the kitchen table about politics, and so I’ve, I’ve always had an, an interest in it and I guess it. Before I even left high school, I was already putting out lawn signs, uh, to my parents, uh, chagrin cuz I used to put them out on their lawn, which they weren’t always so appreciative of.

Cause they don’t necessarily share the same political, uh, uh, uh, allegiances as I do. But, um, yeah, so it started, uh, very young for me and then I, I went into, uh, I became a millwright. So I worked in a very large, uh, saw mill in Surrey, BC and I did that for a number of years. And being a millwright means you like to fix machinery and stuff.

So that’s what I did. And then, Um, I hurt myself in an industrial accident and now I use, uh, I use a wheelchair. And so, um, after that I had to figure out what I wanted to do differently in my life. So I thought, Hey, I’ve always liked politics. I’ll go get a degree in political science. And so I went back to university and I quickly figured out that political scientists just write about politics.

They’re sort of like, um, journalists except no one reads them. So I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be part of politics. I wanted to participate in politics. And so I joined the NDP cuz I knew that, um, my values aligned with them the best. And then I got myself elected as a school trustee and, um, uh, have volunteered and worked political campaigns.

You know, ever since then and, um, put my name forward in 2020 and I was, uh, lucky enough to get elected. And so now I’m in mla. And, um, the premier has, uh, given me the, given me the honor of making me parliamentary secretary for, uh, accessibility, which I, I think is amazing. And, uh, yeah. So I’m very happy to be an MLA.

Very happy to be parliamentary secretary for accessibility and have always been very, very interested in politics. I often say it’s not just my life, it’s uh, my hobby as well. Right We often say that to all our work. Thank you for that information. Well, this, since we are introducing ourselves, I, I want you to know that I have Cerebral Palsy.

I’m curious how much you know about cerebral palsy, Dan. Um, to be honest with you, I don’t know a heck of a lot about it. Um, in particular, I had a fr a friend in when I went to, um, uh, junior high and, uh, high school. I had a friend who had cerebral palsy, but I never learned, uh, specifically. You know, too much about it.

Um, I think it’s a lot like, you know, for me, when I use a wheelchair, no one knows what it’s like, uh, to have a spinal cord injury until you really have it. I had no idea until it, until it happened to me. Right. So, but I’m, I really like to hear more about it. Yes, exactly. Did you know that there are over 10,000 people in BC who live with cerebral palsy?

It is the most common physical disability diagnosed in childhood. As I was scoping through your online bio, I discovered that you play an instrumental role in creating BC’s accessibility guidelines. Could you please tell us and our listeners about what this role is and what it consists? Well, yeah, absolutely.

In my mandate letter, the premier tasked me with, uh, two different things. One is to, um, consult widely on the, um, accessible BC act. That’s a piece of legislation we passed in, um, June of 2021. It reached Royal Ascent, um, uh, to make sure, make sure that that piece of legislation is. The most effective it can be and is well understood by British Colombians.

And the second part of my mandate letter is to work with the, um, uh, a attorney general and minister responsible for housing on, uh, making, um, BC’s building codes more accessible. We wanna have the most accessible province in Canada. And so those are the two things, and that’s sort of general. So under the accessible BC Act, it’s.

Without getting too in the weeds and too technical, it’s just a piece of legislation that gives the government the, um, authority to create standards, accessibility standards. And so, uh, now that the legislation passed, we are beginning to, uh, make accessibility standards and put into place accessibility, account accountability mechanisms, uh, such as plans and committees and, and those types of.

And then on the building codes. So far I’ve just been doing a lot of consultation and we’ll likely put out a proposed building code in the spring at some time. To me, that’s very interesting because I’m very interested in accessibility. Tell me why are these guidelines important to you? Because some people don’t know why accessibility is important to us as people with diverse abilities.

Well, accessibility is very important. Um, you know, so that people can, everyone can participate fully in their communities. And so it’s, it’s really important. I often say, you know, if you’re not making things accessible, you’re making them exclusive. Exclusive to one, uh, type of body or one type of ability, um, and you’re excluding people.

Um, and so why would we want to exclude people? We can, uh, create accessible spaces where we can all, um, participate fully in our communities. Yes, that is very much my motto for meeting ready people. I’m very interested in that.

Are there any grants or funding that can be used to update buildings so that they are fully up to code? At the moment, um, no. But, um, you know, the government puts out, um, grants and funding, um, and changes different grants and funding all the time. So that’s not to say that that will never happen, but at the moment, Um, no.

Um, and we are in the, in the process of changing the code right. Or coming up with a new code. And so we wouldn’t wanna put out grants just now to bring up buildings up to code as the code sit now cause we’re improving the code. So, um, yeah. Can I also add something, Alexis, if that’s okay? Yes. So I know for instance, in the city of Nelson, we have a building, it’s called the Civic Center, and it is the biggest building we have in the city, and it is completely unaccessible.

I think it’s only considered 20% accessible at this time, so that means it’s 80% exclusionary. And so part of the work that the city and in partnership with the theater and all the other groups that use. We’ve, um, so the city has requested grants from the province through different funding streams and through the federal government to upgrade the building and to make it more accessible.

So I think that, you know, although we might see specific, um, Specific grants in the future for accessibility and that would be great. I think a lot of municipalities and local governments and different user groups are, are really starting to see the value and that it’s totally necessary to make these spaces accessible for everyone.

And so, although we don’t have a specific grant right now for it, uh, that work is definitely underway, um, through our partnerships. Awesome. That’s good to hear. That’s what we wanna hear.

Talking about funding for individuals with diverse needs, I have heard that there is a new funding model for people living with disabilities in bc. Brittany, can you tell us a little bit about the old model versus the new model? I think this is probably a better question for Dan if I may pass it over to my colleagues since this is in his wheelhouse as parliamentary secretary.

Is that okay? Alexis? Yes. Okay. Dan, I’m just trying to guess where you’re going at here, Alexis, but I believe this is, uh, this is about the, um, changes to MCFD. Yes. And how they write, how they fund, um, um, children and youth with support needs. Yes. Yeah. So we’re going from a, um, from a model, um, you. Based on individualized funding going  to what we call Family Connection Centers.

And so those Family Connection centers, you know, instead of needing a diagnosis, Um, in to get, uh, services from the provinces for children and youth, you can do the Family Connection Center and they’ll just, they’ll just give you the service that you need and instead of, um, having people go out and find their own services and then have to do all the administration and all of that stuff, people will just be able to go to the Family Connection Centers.

Part of the, um, reason we’re doing this, Because first of all, it’s, it’s sort of a, it’s, it’s, it’s a better model for including all, um, children and youth with support needs and making sure that everyone gets what they need. Also, during Covid, we’ve found that, um, you know, it was quite a big burden on families to try and get the supports and services that their, um, children needed because, You know, all of a sudden there were service providers out there that didn’t want to, uh, go to people’s homes or didn’t want to provide services in a certain community.

Um, and so it became a real burden on, um, on families. And so that’s another, that was another kind of impetus, impetus for creating this, uh, this new system. Yeah. Thanks, Dan. Sort. And I didn’t, I didn’t actually realize that this is where you were going with this, Alexis, so my apologies and I think it. Is about, uh, inclusion and equity.

And so we’re trying to make sure that it’s, that everyone that needs that support is included, um, so that it’s more equitable and that it’s accessible to all children that need this support. So, um, you know, it’s, it, we need to include everybody. Cause right now I feel that it is mostly autism. Which isn’t fair if you, you know, we need to support everyone.

Kids with Down syndrome. Cornelia delaying, um, cerebral Palsy. Absolutely. Everyone needs to be included. I’m curious about how this new finding model plant who make community service centers accessible to everyone, especially in rural and remote communities. Yeah. So that’s definitely something that myself and my rural colleagues are making sure that, that’s really clear, that we need to ensure that we’re including all children, um, you know, in rural areas that they have access to the services, just like we provide, you know, schools for CH children and they, they, you know, in rural bc so they have access to those services and, um, I am a part, I’m one of the co.

What was it? The co-chairs of the rural caucus. And so there’s about 10 of us that get together on a regular basis to make sure that rural issues are being advocated for. And so we’ll definitely make sure that when, um, when the rollout is happening of this, that it is really clear that we need to make sure that this is accessible for everyone as part of our mandate for inclusion and.

Yes, that sounds like a fantastic goal as a person who lives with cerebral palsy, myself, who has been doing physical therapy. For 14 years, I would love to see a weekly fitness program funded by mcfd that involves a physiotherapist or kinesiologist who would oversee and run the program in schools. I feel that this is important because it gives children and youth an opportunity to get moving safely and educate all schools on the importance of safe physical.

Adaptability. Is there a program like this already out there or is this something that can be developed with the new funding model?

Oh, sorry, I’m sorry. Um, I’m not, I’m not a hundred percent sure if there is a program, uh, for in schools I know, um, uh, specifically around, uh, having a physiotherapist or kinesiologist. Um, To work with, uh, students in the schools. I know that, uh, MC f d definitely supports, um, those needs for kids in their homes or at, um, different, uh, centers.

Yes. Yeah. And I think that, yeah, I’m, I, I guess I have a similar answer to Dan in terms of, you know, I don’t know exactly, um, but I think that this is part of what, uh, with a new model, that this is something that we can advocate for. And you know, and just you talking with us on this podcast shows, you know, your advocacy and your continued advocacy.

So thank you for that. Cause it will also help us to make sure that these programs are supporting children in the best way They. Because I’d love to see a program that’s group orientated, like a physical education class that’s group orientated related to their, I love that Their, yes.

Another question has come to mind during our conversation. I’m interested in knowing how I can make my community more accessible. I. You can fight for accessibility in your community. Um, now, um, under that legislation piece of legislation I was talking about earlier, Every, um, municipality in the province will be required to, um, buy September, uh, 2023.

Uh, have a accessible, uh, community plan, an accessibility feedback mechanism, and also an accessibility committee. Um, there’s a number of ways that you could help there. You could. Inquire with your local municipality and see if they have a committee, and if there’s any spots for a community, uh, member on the committee, um, it, it would be great.

I’d love to see, um, most of the committees in the province to be made up of a majority of, uh, folks living with disabilities and also young voices I think would be very important on committees like that. As well as when your community’s developing their plan, you can, uh, hope, hopefully, and they should put it out to consultation.

And then you could have your voice heard there and feedback, uh, mechanism, you know, when you have some feedback on some kind of, um, ex uh, accessibility or inaccessibility of a service or, uh, physical, uh, infrastructure or something in your town, um, you can use that. Accessibility feedback mechanism as well.

It already sounds like you’re a pretty powerful voice on accessibility when it comes to, uh, getting what you need in schools and in other parts of your life. So I just, uh, say you, you just continue what you’re doing. Thank you. Yeah, you’re an amazing. Yeah, you’re an amazing advocate and just this podcast alone is gonna be making your community more accessible and you, we have a new mayor of Creston that was sworn in last night and counsel, and I think it would be amazing if you reached out to him directly and told him that you wanted to be a part of this process so that you can support your community because you’re an incredible advocate.

Thank you for that. I will. I just wanted to share some personal experiences with you today. When I was in kindergarten, and that was 11 years ago, I had limited access to playgrounds and buildings while there was always wood ships and stuff that would make the playground inaccessible. And to this day, I have some access, but still cannot access what I wanna do on a playground.

Getting into a building is just one piece of making a building 100% accessible. But like there’s other things that go into that, like wind, fine science elevators, larger signs for people who have low vision. These experiences have led me to be curious about how many buildings and spaces. In BC are absolutely 100% accessible.

Do you know how many buildings are 100% accessible? I honestly don’t know of a building that is percent accessible. I, um, was just, uh, visited, um, an organization called the Wavefront Center. Um, they supply, um, services to, uh, folks that are definite. Or heart of hearing their building. Um, their claim to fame for their building is it has the higher, highest, um, audit from the Rick Hanson Foundation in the entire country.

Uh, but it’s only got a, I shouldn’t say only, it’s a very impressive number actually. It has a 97% rating. There is a blind stairwell, if you will, like a dead end stairwell. You that’s inaccessible. And so, um, they lost three, three marks off a hundred percent accessibility. And so there’s a, this is a building that has the claim of being the most accessible building in, uh, Canada.

And I’ll tell you, it’s pretty darn accessible, but still isn’t 100% accessible. Yeah. And it’s interesting actually, and I think what’s, what I find interesting with accessibility is it doesn’t make it just more inviting and accessible for people that might move differently or for different bodies, but I think it makes it better for everyone.

And I noticed. When I was in Kimberly for a course a few years ago, I came back and I was telling my partner, like the incredible design of when you go into this building and it wraps around. So it’s a ramp. There’s no stairs, there’s no elevator, but there was a ramp and it wrapped around and then everyone could, could move together and.

I’m explaining this to him, and he just looks at me and he goes, well, yeah, you’re at the Paralympic Training Center, Brittany . It’s intended to be accessible, but I just loved the, the design and how everyone was together and the way that that space, um, you really felt in, in that room. And it is absolutely stunning and it is an accessible building built to be accessible, but it means that it’s a building that works for everyone.

And so I do believe. You know, with the work that Dan is doing and our government’s doing, um, that we’re gonna see a lot more of that as people become not only aware and have that intention, but are actually legally, uh, required to build buildings like that. So I’m really hopeful and excited for the future.

Yes, I love that they’re to do it cause it’s law and now makes it not a necessity. It makes law. Yeah, that’s why our jobs are so cool. We get to make laws . We get to make people’s lives better, honestly, like it is, it’s absolutely incredible and I feel super grateful to do this and so that we get to help people like you and the people that you’re helping and you know, we’re trying to make the world a better place.

So yes. At least we see you’re doing amazing job. Well, thank you. So are you, to end off the show, I would love to know what. Guys both consider qualities of a Mighty Person beer. I mean, is it typical first, Brittany? Please. Otherwise, I just cheat off of your work. Um, so what I, what I have to say is I think someone who’s tenacious doesn’t take, uh, no for an answer.

And someone who’s very passionate and, um, very direct about what they believe in. And I can see that you’re obviously a mighty person, Alexis, and you know, someone who’s also helping people. I think helping people is really important. I don’t think, um, everyone, you know, takes enough time or, or puts enough thought into that and people, you know, who are tenacious, tenacious and wanna help other people, or mighty, mighty people, in my mind anyway.

Yes, to me. Yeah, I mean, I think, I think really, Alexis, when you look in the mirror, you are an incredibly mighty person. And part of the reason why I think you’re so mighty and what mighty means to me is that you’re, you’re. You’re advocating for people. You’re using your personal lived experience to make the world a better place, not just for yourself, but for your whole community and your whole province.

Another thing I think about being mighty is I like when dad said direct and that you keep fighting. , but also that there’s kindness and compassion behind that. Because I think sometimes when we think about Mighty, it’s, you know, or we think about in a business setting or politics that you know, you gotta be cutthroat and instead, I think bringing everyone along with you and really connecting with people.

I think that that is what makes a mighty person so. You know, I really think that we have to value more of that, of that kindness and compassion. Cause it’s really easy to get angry and be rude and try to shove other people out of the way, but you’re not gonna get as far and if you’re able to bring everyone with you and make the world a better place, I think that’s really being mighty.

So I wanna thank you for being mighty, Alexis, and also Dan, you’re super mighty. Thank you. I’m super grateful that you get to be my friend, and you’ve taught me a lot both of. It’s a pleasure to teach people able bodied about people with disabilities, right? Dad? Yeah, all the time. . Yeah. Alexis, I’ve learned more in this job about accessibility than I in this last two year and actually this last year that we’re at the legislature than I had in my entire life.

And part of. My relationship with Dan and the work that he’s doing, but also as the, as the premier special advisor on youth and with my stronger BC young leaders council, two of our council members, um, they use wheelchairs and just trying to work out over two days how we were gonna move around the legislature having to think about accessibility at every point.

How are we moving between the hotel space? How are we getting in? Which areas can we. And how inaccessible that building is. And I’ve learned a lot and I’ve relied on Dan a lot on this. And so, um, just this work and conversations like with you, Alexis has taught me a lot, so I feel really grateful. Thank you.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your role as youth? Yes, I feel, I feel like I have the best job in the province as the premier special advisor on youth. Um, because youth are not just our future leaders, but they’re leaders today. And I mean, I think that when we look at you and the work you’re doing, it really shows that leadership.

And when we look, you know, At equity. Um, and we see, you know, people from my generation and people, Alexis, from your generation, when we think about everything from housing, you know, the housing crisis and how are people gonna find a rental or will they ever be able to own a home, you know, that impacts young people and their futures.

When we look at, you know, what job opportunities are gonna be, that impacts young people in their futures. When we look. Um, the environment and climate change and the fear around that. I know Alexis, last summer it was brutal. Do like not last summer, the summer before. You remember the smoke and that all of the lap and cherries, and we had people with a lack of water.

And young people, they don’t want that to be their future. And so we need to be reducing our admissions and we need to be doing all of that work. And I think that by the, um, premier really identifying that young people need to have a stronger voice in our government. And by allowing me and empowering me to have the strong, le leader, young, stronger BC Young Leaders Council, the feedback that they’re able to give to government has been absolutely incredible.

And so, Dan, I hope you will. With the work that you’re doing, tap my stronger BC young leader members on, um, to, to be a part of that. Cause I think you’re gonna find some really interesting pieces, particularly with the building code work that you might not, um, if you’re just talking to some, some, let’s call more experienced folks or, or older folks, but these young people that have some really great ideas and it’s certainly outta the box ideas.

And I think that that’s what our government needs moving forward. Yes. That’s a, that’s a great idea and thanks for the suggestion, Brittany, I’ll, I’ll follow up with you offline about, uh, getting together with your, uh, with your group. My people will talk to your people. Sounds good. Dan

Thank you, Brittany and Dan both for coming on my show to I’m sure this infor in an informative episode. S very meaningful to me and my listeners. Thank you again. Thanks for having us, Alexis. Yeah, thank you so much to Alexis, and thank you for being so mighty and such a great community advocate. You’re welcome.

Published by Alexis Folk

Hello my name is Alexis Folk, I was born premature resulting in my Cerebral Palsy. I live in a small town in BC. I am currently going into grade 10 and I love swimming and volunteering for clubs. I have been horse riding since I was three years of age for fun.

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