General News · 3rd December 2012
It is hard to believe that we are already in December; like so many others I am wondering where the year went. With just 48 days in the Legislature this year, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in the constituency and on my opposition role as critic for the Minister of Children and Family Development. Unfortunately I have not been able to challenge the government in Victoria on the many concerns raised because the BC Liberals refuse to reconvene the Legislature. Instead, they are ploughing ahead, spending millions of dollars of public money without any scrutiny: the most obvious instance being the $15 million advertising spree they launched this fall. That amount of money could be spent far better on our most important resource: the people of BC.
In the past month I have been visiting many communities in the constituency and dealing with common problems such as highways - marine, paved and gravel, health care, education and economic opportunities.
I attended the consultations on the future of BC Ferries on Quadra and Cortes, and like those held in Alert Bay, Sointula and Port Hardy they were packed. People who live and work in ferry dependent communities know that this process is a sham. The premise of these pseudo-consultations is that BC Ferries must make savings so it is going to communities asking: where shall we cut service and how shall you pay more in the future? The resounding response from all the meetings was that these questions are misguided. The basic issue is not about service cuts and more fare increases, it is that the whole structure of BC Ferries needs to change. People want a ferry service that is treated as a highway, integrated into the highways and operated for the benefit of the people of BC.
The issue of roads was central to meetings in which I took part in Zeballos and Tahsis. Both communities are struggling to attract residents, tourists and new businesses but know their access roads are major obstacles. The budget for all the forest service roads in the Campbell River district is $226,000 - and the 42 km stretch of road to Zeballos alone could devour more than the budget. I applaud the mayor for bringing together all the communities and levels of government for a further meeting, to discuss possibilities. The road to Tahsis is partly paved, but is longer and it too is regarded as a major impediment to opportunity for the community.
I will be meeting with the Ministry of Transportation’s Vancouver Island director early in the new year to discuss some of these problems, as well as the continued deterioration of Highway 19 north of Sayward, Highway 28 to Gold River and the condition of roads on some of our islands.
Healthcare consumes a significant percentage of the provincial budget and not surprisingly is a central concern for many constituents. The hospital stakeholders group I convene has been analyzing the plans for the new hospital. With Campbell River’s current facility often overflowing, I wrote to the Health Authority asking for an increase in the number of beds in the new hospital. There has been real concern voiced, particularly by First Nations, that the Health Authority’s population estimates are far too low for our area and that low number has been reflected in plans for the new facility.
I have also raised with the Minister of Health the problem of the continuing closure of the Port Hardy hospital emergency. This is a significant concern for the community, a number of whom do not have vehicles to make the 43km journey to Port McNeill. Fears of a disaster waiting to happen are heightened because of a recent centralization of the ambulance service dispatch: this is now done out of Vancouver and often with no understanding of our geography or communities.
I have been talking with a number of teachers recently about the composition of their classrooms. A couple were in tears because they know they are unable to the best possible education for all the kids in the classroom. Because of a lack of resources, teachers have to deal with a significant number of special needs students and that comes at a cost to the time available to work with other students. Everyone wants to see all our kids working together in classrooms and getting a good education. But that can only become a reality with classroom help for teachers. In addition, teachers in smaller schools are trying to juggle multi-grade classrooms with the widely different needs of the different age groups.
Education is the great equalizer and a high quality public education should be provided to give everyone an equal start in life.
I’ve been meeting with corporations, community groups, economic development organizations, Chambers of Commerce and councils recently and all are working on how to make the North Island an economically sustainable area. After years of attrition we need to work together to create the framework to allow our communities to survive and thrive. I am looking forward to continuing those conversations in the new year.
This week I will be presenting the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medals to four people nominated by an independent North Island panel. My congratulations go to Jacquie Gordon and Chief Robert Joseph, who will be presented with their medals at Campbell River Museum on Monday evening, and to Alexandra Morton and Wa Wasden Jr who will receive their medals on Thursday afternoon at U’Mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay.
I would like to wish everyone a very good Christmas and my best for the New Year. My office will be closed between Christmas and New Year. At other times you can contact me at phone on 1 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 1 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy or 1 866 387 5100 toll free, by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or feel free to friend me on Facebook or follow me clairetrevena on Twitter.