The Cariboo North riding is larger than Vancouver Island. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

The Cariboo North riding is larger than Vancouver Island. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Cariboo North MLA set to take stand for rural ridings in B.C. legislature speech

Coralee Oakes says in her speech reducing northern ridings could see poorer services for residents

Coralee Oakes is set to sound the alarm on potential changes to electoral boundaries in the province at the BC Legislature today.

The Cariboo-North MLA, who represents a riding bigger than Vancouver Island — with six First Nations spread over 38,000 square km — says proposed changes to B.C. election laws could add six seats and remove a 2014 restriction preventing the elimination of already huge rural ridings.

Her speech, during the debate on the second reading of the updated bill, comes after Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad said on May 10 the area north of 100 Mile House could see the number of seats in the legislature drop from 10 to six with new legislation. Electoral boundary reviews take place every six years, led by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

READ MORE: B.C. election law could add 6 seats, remove rural protection

“This bill as it stands suggests that government does not understand the disparity that currently exists between people living in different parts of this province or that it just does not care,” Oakes says in her speech. “Why has the government not recognized in this bill that there are inequalities between regions? And why has it not included the need exists of special circumstance in rural ridings?”

In her speech, Oakes says she was told by a BC Wildfire Service commander in the 2017 wildfires that her riding could “lose it all,” and she is still worried about further fires and flooding. She adds representing ridings with large areas with no cell service, internet and transit is also a huge challenge, leading to 15-16 hour days to set up mobile offices in some cases.

“To be a successful rural MLA you need to travel to these communities,” she says. “Until the government ensures that every British Columbian has cell service, internet and reliable roads and landlines, they need to take into consideration that a rural MLA must travel out into their riding in order to effectively represent them. This was part of the understanding in the previous piece of legislation that is absent in this piece of legislation before the house.”

Oakes shares more than a dozen stories of communities and individuals rallying in times of crisis to support one another in her speech.

“I feel a responsibility to share my experience of representing a riding that has and continues to face catastrophic trauma and impacts in hopes that we can be better prepared and that our people’s voices are heard during challenging times,” she says. “I pray and hope that you never feel the impacts that Cariboo North has felt.”

One of the stories Oakes relayed was having to tell the members of Lhoosk’uz Dene Nation to get in a boat and go in the lake for safety when threatened by fire in 2017, as there was no fire egress road. Oakes says the opening of that road was one of her proudest days as an MLA.

READ MORE: New road will provide emergency exit route for Kluskus Nation settlement

She calls on the electoral boundary commission to visit communities off the beaten path like Wells, Horsefly, Narcosli and Nazko, and for her fellow MLAs to consider Cariboo North residents when voting on the legislation.

“What happens if the rural ridings become so large that it is, realistically, no longer possible for an MLA to get out and effectively listen to their constituents?” she says, questioning how constituents’ voices will continue to be heard. “Are you willing to vote on a piece of legislation that will effectively alienate so many fellow British Columbians?

“I ask each of you when you truly talk about addressing inequalities in this province, will you place action with your words? Please remember the hardworking men and women of Cariboo North. Please help us rebuild and recovery. Please do not be a part of the people losing their voices, they have already lost so much.”

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 legislatureCariboo Regional DistrictQuesnelWilliams Lake

Just Posted

Graduate Belle Riding is congratulated by Lake City Secondary School learning support teacher Gail Gardner as she makes her way across the stage to receive her diploma. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
2021 Lake City Secondary School grads take centre stage at Williams Lake campus ceremonies

Ceremonies took place over two days, with COVID-19 restrictions in place for second year in a row

BGC Williams Lake Sprockids participants get ready to hit the trails on Fox Mountain May 27 in Williams Lake. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Sprockids mountain biking program at BGC Williams Lake provides positive, outdoor outlet for youth

Sprockids aims to give youth the opportunity to saddle up on mountain bikes and hit the trails

Paradise Cinemas is ready to welcome back movie viewers once the province gives movie theatres the go-ahead. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
VIDEO: Williams Lake’s Paradise Cinemas eyes June 18 re-opening if COVID-19 restrictions allow

Managing partner Munraj Hothi is looking forward to showing movies again

The Williams Lake Tourism Discovery Centre (Photo submitted)
Bike wash station now available at Tourism Discovery Centre

The project was a long-time goal of the Williams Lake Cycling Club

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

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

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Most Read