As we near the end of 2011, I would like to take a few moments to reflect on what has been a significant year in BC politics then look to 2012. This year, both major parties elected new leaders, a referendum driven by the people overturned a highly unpopular tax and the conversation about inequality became unavoidable for the elites.
Both the new premier and the leader of the official opposition have been in their posts for about nine months now, enough time for their visions to be known to most people. From Premier Clark we have seen a switch from vague sloganeering about families first to rhetoric about job creation; from Adrian Dix we have heard about fighting inequality through a poverty reduction programme, assisting students through a grants system, ensuring CLBC meets people’s needs, and committing to a truly sustainable and resilient economy.
Campbell River has been chosen as a pilot for the government’s jobs plan. I join with others in hoping that jobs are created in our community and across the North Island and will work with organisations in Campbell River to try to diversify our economy. But the government has said the plan won’t come with any money. A government usually creates jobs by injecting funds into infrastructure – for example improving highways or building schools and hospitals. Campbell River is already working hard to try to find new opportunities and working together we should be able to attract new industry and new business – with or without a government slogans. There are still many rumours around the future of the mill site, but hopefully Catalyst’s decision and the future dispensation will benefit everyone.
Likewise the ‘real’ north island, the Mount Waddington area, is looking for opportunities to diversify, to attract people to live and work there. I am very pleased that some of the core problems facing the region are being addressed – with joint work on housing, on mental health and addictions. VIHA is committed to looking at new ways of providing health care in Port Hardy and I will work with the community to ensure that commitment is honoured. Likewise I am urging the Health Authority to resolve problems with lab services in Port Alice which have left people who have no transport of their own paying $250 to get a cab to get an x-ray or waiting by the side of Highway 19 on dark, cold winter mornings for a ride down island. Health care will continue to be a priority in the coming year as I am also working with the Hospital Stakeholder group I established to ensure that VIHA moves forward on its commitments to hospitals in our communities.
Everything is interconnected and most issues take political will – and continue to be a long political fight. Firstly, our ferry system. We are awaiting the report from the Ferries Commissioner but in my many meetings with the Minister of Transportation I have repeatedly stated that people in ferry dependent communities – which includes all of Vancouver Island – will accept nothing less than fares being rolled back.
Secondly is the question of internet access. In this age of instant mass communication we have people on wait lists for internet access in certain communities, because there is not the band width to accommodate them. What is high speed for the lower mainland is unimaginable on a crowded cable connection. However, Telus and both levels of government have been promising high speed access for everyone and one of the projects I will be working on in the 2012 is a constituency-wide push for improved internet access. High speed internet access is, for the early 21st Century, what electrification was to the early 20th Century.
Also in the New Year I will be working with the Opposition Forestry Critics and another opposition MLA whose riding is forestry dependent, as part of a Forestry Working Group. We will be travelling the province talking with people about the needs and opportunities within communities to ensure a strong and healthy forestry sector for our future.
I have been taking on a variety of issues with a variety of ministers recently, some of which include: developing parks on Quadra Island with the Minister of Environment; trying to prevent conflicts in a number of communities between those who want to log and residents and tourism operators with the Minister of Jobs and the Minister of Natural Resource Operations; and the huge problems facing developmentally disabled with the Minister of Social Development.
As critic for Children and Family Development I have been on the road quite a lot since the Legislature rose at the end of November with meetings in the Okanagan and the lower mainland as well as giving speeches on priorities and visiting MCFD facilities. Social workers, care workers, foster families and specialists are amazing in their work and their commitment: but we all must remember that children are our future and we have to do everything we can to protect and nurture them.
I will be taking some time off around Christmas and into the New Year. However you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena. The Campbell River office number is 1 250 287 5100 and our Port Hardy office – which will be open Wednesday and Thursday from the beginning of January can be reached on 1 250 949 9473
I hope that everyone has a very good Christmas, and that as we go into the new year we all commit to continuing to work for our neighbours and our communities to build a better tomorrow.