Gerald Kirby has lived in the Chilcotin for 15 years where he owns a motel with his wife. He is president of West Chilcotin Search and Rescue and Tatla Lake Community Association and director of the West Chilcotin Tourism Association.
What do you think are the top issues for your CRD area?
We need updated ways of ensuring better communication takes place between the public and the decision makers. This was really evident during the fires of 2017, when in Williams, there were three different radio frequencies in use between RCMP, firefighters and other emergency personnel.
They couldn’t talk to each other in real time. Police out here can’t talk to Search and Rescue people for instance when there’s an emergency, there’s no shared frequency and a lack of communication equipment.
So a two fold problem – new technology required and more regular attempts to consult, connect and communicate between the local communities with each other, as well as with the CRD in Williams Lake.
We also need to work on improving our tourism plans. Many resorts and other tourism businesses from restaurants to tour companies are hamstrung because of lack of knowledge of what each other offers, and ways they can work together, as well as big ticket items like a better, more frequently running ferry.
Then there is affordable housing, jobs and keeping our schools running, they are interconnected, and a bit of a chicken and egg question but economic development would really help.
I’d like to see some sort of community plans developed. I’d like to see a plan go forward that would actually consult local businesses, ranches etc. on what there is, how effective it is and what needs improvement.
Right now we have a lot of anecdotal evidence. Let’s get some statistics out, that would require questionnaires that could be done by economic development consultants, so we know what people are actually dealing with on a daily basis.
Why do you want to be a CRD director?
My present duties with local organizations and living in a central area have deepened my awareness of the width and breadth of Chilcotin problems.
To me, I have accomplished all I can at a lower level. It make sense to me to try to tackle things at an advanced level, meaning a directorship in the CRD.
Being able to access directly people and information, and have current correct information, is of great importantance to our communities. I think I can make a difference there, as I am a good communicator and I think it’s important to reach out to our various communities and listen to their concerns.
What previous experience do you bring to the table?
I have been a business owner/operator for most of my life. I am currently President of the West Chilcotin Search and Rescue, President of the Tatla Lake Area Community Association and Director of the West Chilcotin Tourism Association. I am already very committed and connected to Area J, and feel that my experience has given me a lot of insight into where to find people and information on the local level, and I’d like to be able to carry that up the next level of decision-making.
What would you do to attract and retain doctors in the Cariboo Regional District?
I am already a member of the West Chilcotin Health Care Society and I would continue to work together with them.
This group has done amazing things in attracting and securing not only a doctor but medical staff and equipment as well. We have established a program of getting young medical people out to do short-term internships with us, hoping that by showing them the area and all that it offers (beautiful recreational areas and a close small town atmosphere, as well as the rewards/challenges of doing medicine out here) that we will encourage people to consider a different path than automatically choosing a city practice.
We recently held our first eye exam clinic locally…very successful and made possible by our fundraising purchase of a very special light that is just as good quality as optometrists use in Williams Lake. We not only have a permanent doctor who lives in the area, but two nurse practitioners as well. Because of our small size, this has translated to non-emergency medical treatment that equals any in Williams Lake.
What are your ideas to keep rural communities thriving with strong economies?
I refer you back to some of the information I gave in question number one. As a director of the West Chilcotin Tourism Association I will continue to work hard to promote our area.
Affordable housing will bring jobs, build the economy and fill the schools, but we need to first get the information in an organized fashion from the communities out there, analyse the data, and then put community plans for economic development in place.
Our communities are not all the same, so a one-size-fits-all plan will not address all needs. In terms of technology, cell phone service would be a bonus.
Without it, we are hamstrung communication-wise for emergencies right now, as the 2017 fires proved.
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?
The CRD is the co-ordinating and communicating body for people working together with other governing bodies like the BC gov’t, Interior Health, Interior Roads, even the dederal gov’t. to name just a few. It receives information from above and develops policy and transmits information and policy to those below at local levels.
They’re responsible for taxation implications of decisions, service delivery from libraries to streets lights to recreational facilities and spans both regional and municipal boundaries.
How has your area moved forward since the 2017 wildfires?
Area J really pulled together during the fires, local people started talking to each and working as groups wherever they thought they could be effective.
The area has only grown stronger in working together. Many communities have come together in not only communication, but have come together and taken part in Emergency Operation Center Training from EMBC, like First Nations communities at Anaham, Redstone, Anahim and Algatcho.
Tatla Lake now has a small core of trained volunteers with those courses as well. People are better prepared now, but a lot of work still needs to be done.
I’d like to able to carry those needs forward to the CRD and advocate for continued development in understanding, training and implementation.
There are logging contracts let out now for charred timber, and we (in Tatla area and others) are busy getting community protection rings cut around communities, but this will take time, so a lot more work to do.