Shannon Rerie is a secondary school teacher in Williams Lake and an active member of the teachers’ union. She lives with her partner, who is a rancher, and her son in 150 Mile House.
What do you think are the top issues for your CRD area?
Area F is one of the larger areas in the region and encompasses several very diverse communities, so I believe there are several issues facing my area. The one that seems to encompass them all would be the issue of communication. Not having the access to fast, reliable internet and cell phone service is much more than just an inconvenience. In life and death matters such as our wildfires two years ago, it is imperative that we have access to reliable information sources, and that can only be achieved in today’s world through the internet and through reliable cell service. Other issues would be having an emergency response plan in place. Whether it was the Mount Polley disaster or the wildfires, residents don’t feel that they were properly prepared to respond to the events nor were there plans in place to deal with the events.
Why do you want to be a CRD director?
First, I am thrilled that there are three people running in my area. I think democracy is something that too many people are apathetic about and take for granted. I think local politics is the grass roots of democracy, it is where people are the most honest and the most connected with their communities because they live in the communities that they serve. I have always been a strong political voice, whether it was in my union or with family and friends, and so I thought with Joan Sorely retiring, a personal mentor of mine, now was the time to step up. I’m young still, but believe passionately in the area that I live in and would love the chance to represent my communities.
What previous experience do you bring to the table?
I have been vocal and involved in politics for a number of years. I have always held the student vote in my school, with the help of a few other Socials teachers, because I believe that young people need to be taught the importance of democracy. I held the position of Vice President of our local teachers union, which gave me the opportunity to speak out on the issues that affect our teachers at a provincial level and with various politicians in the area. Before teaching, I was a journalist, and as such I believe I know where to direct our concerns and have the ability to speak and to write in a way in which our concerns, issues and needs will be heard in the province.
What would you do to attract and retain doctors in the Cariboo Regional District?
This is a huge issue, but not just in attracting and retaining doctors. I believe we need to attract various professions to the area. Currently we have two classes at the high school which do not yet have a full time teacher in place. I believe that this area has so much to offer, but I feel it is not adequately showcased. Better incentives to come to the Cariboo, better and more global advertising of the Cariboo, and implementation of various activities would help convince people to move here. One of the activities I think is being too quickly dismissed would be the Mt. Timothy Ski Hill. I think as local leaders, we need to look at a more creative way to keep our local ski hill up and operational. Losing recreational activities does not make an area inviting for families. We need to support the activities we have and to get creative or find creative solutions to help them to remain open and viable.
What are your ideas to keep rural communities thriving with strong economies?
I think we need to look at balancing strong economic activities with locally developed community plans. There are always creative ways to improve and add to an area’s economy, but they need to be decided upon with the input of the communities they will impact. I am not a business leader or owner, but I believe that with research and discussion we could come up with innovative economic ideas that are not solely resource based, and will help to attract professionals and their families to the area.
What role does the Cariboo Regional District play in relationship to all other levels of government, including First Nations governments, federal, provincial and municipal government?
I believe the CRD plays a vital role. Local government is the entry level in to discuss any issue an area is having. Local politicians are often your most approachable, and most in touch with the needs of an area. I believe that local politicians need to work closely with all levels of government in order to ensure that their area is being heard, represented, and given input. I also believe that without relationships throughout all levels, from First Nations to Federal government, nothing will get done. Government is stronger when there is communication at all levels, and it is always better for an area when there are strong and open lines of communication.
How has your area moved forward since the 2017 wildfires?
Unfortunately, I think there is still a lot of hurt, anger, and fear related to the wildfires. Communities are not convinced their voices were heard, that their concerns were not just shelved and ignored. There have been no answers forth coming, for example, as to the cause of the Spokin Lake wildfire and what actions were taken. There is no clear emergency plan in place to deal with these events in the future, and I think residents in my area are worried that when this happens again, not if, nothing will be different. Ranchers had no guidance as to how to best protect and manage their livestock while on evacuation, provisions were not in place to deal with areas being cut off, but not actually evacuated, and the community members aren’t convinced that in two years, anything has changed. My area also had the emergency of the Mount Polley spill, and I know that residents are concerned about the fact that there is not a clear emergency plan in place to deal with that. I think it is imperative that, moving forward, there be clear community discussions and input to create and implement an Emergency plan.