Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett is on a roll.
After two long years of lobbying her government, Barnett was with Premier Christy Clark last week to announce the return of a first class ferry service to Bella Coola.
That good news story was quickly followed up by word that 70 much needed residential care beds will be developed for seniors in Williams Lake in the near future.
Rounding out the week Saturday, Barnett confirmed to the Williams Lake Tribune she has decided, at 73, to run again in the next election.
“I feel great. I am in good health and I have so much more to give,” Barnett said in an interview at the Dog ‘n Suds Restaurant Saturday, in between opening the Tour de Cariboo and taking in the Williams Lake Harvest Fair.
“I treat every day of my life as an election campaign. Work ethic and habit is what a person should be elected on.”
Barnett has been a tireless advocate for the Bella Coola ferry service since her own Liberal government abruptly pulled the Discovery Coast ferry and replaced it with the smaller, non-direct MV Nimpkish.
“It was not suitable for a first class tourism product,” Barnett said of the Nimpkish.
“I was angry (about the decision), but I decided to get over it and work collaboratively to move forward.”
For Barnett, the first step in moving forward was attending a meeting with stakeholders in Anahim Lake in 2014.
“It was a very negative meeting, let’s put it that way. People were angry and rightfully so.”
The loss of the service was deeply felt by tourism operators and businesses throughout the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, Barnett said.
From that first difficult meeting, however, the Mid-Coast Working Group (MCWG) was formed.
Made up of stakeholders from across the region — including First Nations leaders, politicians, tourism operators and business owners — the MCWG, with Barnett as their advocate, pressured government for an improved ferry service for the region and were on hand for last week’s announcement.
“That was the best news that we’ve had in a long time,” Barnett said of the decision which will see a first class seasonal direct ferry service return for the 2018 season between Port Hardy and Bella Coola, resurrecting the ability to market a circle tour encompassing the Cariboo Chilcotin and Vancouver Island.
“This gives us a chance to diversify our economy,” Barnett said.
“The opportunities will be amazing, and the whole province will benefit. This is not just a ferry, it’s a tourism product. It will offer this beautiful, scenic drive through our province and be an access point to the Great Bear Rainforest which is a world class ecosystem right at our doorstep.”
Barnett noted that aboriginal tourism is highly sought after by international travellers and the renewal of the first class service will benefit everyone.
“I’m ecstatic — you always hope when you’re working on projects like this that you will have success. It’s really easy to give up but (outcomes like this) make it all worth while. Hopefully this ferry is so busy we’ll have to get another one.”
Barnett said the working group will stay on to give the government input on the type of ferry needed for the Bella Coast route, meanwhile, she will refocus her efforts on another project.
“The approval for the new Williams Lake hospital. I want to see that happen before I leave this world. We need it.”