Coralee Oakes won 48.42 per cent of ballots in the district, en route to winning a third term as MLA during the 2020 provincial election. (Photo Submitted)

Coralee Oakes won 48.42 per cent of ballots in the district, en route to winning a third term as MLA during the 2020 provincial election. (Photo Submitted)

Cariboo North MLA reflects on hectic 2020

Coralee Oakes dealt with flooding, a pandemic and an election in this crazy year

Coralee Oakes had a busy 2020.

The Cariboo North MLA started the year with historic flooding, had to manage representing an area during a global pandemic and was re-elected in the fall.

She capped off the year by pushing the Legislature during an abbreviated session before the holiday break to better protect roads in the area from washouts.

“[Road work] was my focus every opportunity I had to stand in the House,” she said. “[It] was a call to action on the necessary resources we will need for spring freshet. We can’t expect to do the same thing year after year … Our ground is absolutely saturated.”

More intense spring flooding could become a normal occurrence in the Cariboo.

“Coming out of the 2017 wildfires, there was a lot of extraordinary research that was shared with us from other jurisdictions,” Oakes said. “Look at the trees we lost. That water has got to go somewhere. We have to rethink how we are doing things.”

Oakes said as the climate changes, more money will need to be invested in road washouts and flood protection, and politicians in the Lower Mainland don’t get it. She recalled a back and forth where instead of talking about road improvements, the ruling MLA spoke about car charging stations in the region.

“It was an interesting back and forth about the disconnect that often happens between the urban communities and rural communities,” Oakes said. “If we don’t have roads to drive on, having two charging stations isn’t going to be a strong advantage for us.”

Oakes said previous governments, including when the B.C. Liberals were in power, haven’t invested enough into preventative work, which could end up saving millions down the road. She said an $11-million program might have prevented the over $100 million needed to fix West Fraser Road.

“It’s harder to sell to the public, ‘hey, you’re getting a new culvert,’” she said. “But at the end of the day, if we don’t make those critical investments with taxpayer dollars … we’re going to continue to have the challenges that we have.”

Oakes said the pandemic offered an opportunity for governments to bring forward big ideas and changes. She reiterated a complete change in how infrastructure dollars are spent, with preventative maintenance taking priority.

“How do all of us, from the local government level to the provincial to the federal, all advocate together on the necessary investments that need to happen?” Oakes asked. “If I was to have a year-end wish, it would be that collaborative work that needs to happen at all levels of government.”

Oakes was re-elected in 2020 during a fall election and was subsequently named the opposition critic for advanced education, skills training and sport, a role she requested.

READ MORE: Coralee Oakes named as advanced education, skills training critic in B.C. Liberals’ Cabinet

“I know how important the North Cariboo Campus is and will continue to be,” she said. “It’s one thing for governments to announce, for example, 700 additional health care workers into the system, but unless we have people trained — for communities like ours, we need to look at training in the north because it’s hard to attract and retain people.”

Oakes said the COVID-19 pandemic made her appreciate frontline workers even more, and she credits people for stepping up in trying times.

“We sometimes take people and institutions for granted,” she said. “This past year has reminded us to take a moment and appreciate people a little bit more. It also identifies where our vulnerabilities are.”

While the pandemic is something everyone will remember about 2020, Oakes said she hoped everyone remembers the good parts of the year too.

“The generosity and kindness I’ve seen — I’m hoping when we get through this year, those are the things we remember about 2020.”

READ MORE: Long-time CRD director Mary Glassford being remembered as strong advocate, community leader

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com


@GimliJetsMan
cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Williams Lake Community Policing Chair Baldish Singh Sunner. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake Community Policing request for increased funding denied

Council voted 4 to 3 in favour to keep it at $15,000 for one-year agreement

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Interior Health is reporting the COVID-19 outbreak at Cariboo Memorial Hospital is now up to 13 staff. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
46 more COVID-19 cases linked to Cariboo Chilcotin community cluster: Interior Health

Cariboo Memorial Hospital outbreak now at 13 staff members

Canim Lake Band remains in lockdown. (Martina Dopf photo)
Canim Lake Band grieves loss of second Elder due to COVID-19

Elder, who lived away from home, was ‘matriarch, a fierce protector’, Chief says.

50 Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were provided to Williams Lake First Nation elders and members with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems Tuesday, Jan. 26. (Williams Lake First Nation Facebook photo)
UPDATE: Moderna vaccine arrives at Williams Lake First Nation community of Sugar Cane

Vaccination clinics this week at Elizabeth Grouse Gymnasium

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

SAR crews worked late into the night Tuesday to rescue an injured snowboarder in North Vancouver. (Facebook/North Shore Rescue)
Complicated, dangerous rescue saves man in avalanche near Cypress Mountain

North Shore SAR team braves considerable conditions to reach injured snowboarder

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
UPDATE: No sign of small plane that went down in waters south of Vancouver Island

Searchers out on both sides of border between Victoria and Port Angeles

In this undated image made from a video taken by the Duke of Sussex and posted on @SaveChildrenUK by the Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, shows the Duchess of Sussex reading the book “Duck! Rabbit!” to their son Archie who celebrates his first birthday on Wednesday May 6, 2020. The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth. (Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK)
Canadian Paediatric Society says raising a reader starts from birth

CPS says literacy is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to a question during a news conference Thursday August 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Easing rules for parental benefits created inequities among parents, documents say

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office says the government will make any necessary changes

People walk along a pedestrianized zone of Sainte-Catherine street in Montreal, Monday, May 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Newly released statistics point to a major drop in police-recorded crime during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Crime down in first 8 months of pandemic, but mental health calls rise: StatCan

The agency says violent crimes such as assault dropped significantly

Cowichan Tribes chief Squtxulenhuw (William Seymour) confirmed the first death in the First Nations community from COVID-19. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes confirms 1st death amid growing COVID-19 outbreak

Shelter-in-place order has been extended to Feb. 5

(Pixabay)
B.C. teacher gets 1 day suspension after ‘aggressively’ throwing dumbbell at student

Documents show the weight would have hit the student if they didn’t catch it

Most Read