When NDP Minister of Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims visited the Williams Lake area Wednesday she said it was nice to see new growth but devastating to see the impacts of the wildfires.
“We spent a lot of time talking with people today and saw how the community really came together,” Sims said at the end of her tour.
During her visit she went to Pioneer Log Homes of B.C. in Williams Lake and met with First Nations leaders.
She also toured a new broadband communication site put in by ABC Communications this year near Dugan Lake on the Horsefly Road that is slated to go live later in November.
“Earl Thomas from CP Electronics and I met with the minister to talk about broadband connectivity in rural communities,” said ABC Communications vice-president Falko Kadenbach. “Then I took her to Pioneer Log Homes and met with Bryan Reid Jr. to talk about how they grew their business.”
On the way to Dugan Lake, Kadenbach also stopped at the Pioneer site on the Horsefly Likely Road so Sims could see the losses from the wildfires.
Sims also met with Horsefly realtor Victor Khong, who Kadenbach said talked about the importance of having internet access.
“Connectivity infrastructure and the ability to communicate is critical,” Kadenbach said. “It was an important component to a lot of people while we were under states of alert through the wildfires this summer. Part of that was the discussion we had with Victor.”
Sims said in the old days, railroads were built to move goods and people whereas today with the knowledge industry it is fibre optics that are the highway and byways.
The challenge, she added, is giving people access to fibre optics when they live in more remote places and getting connectivity to their homes.
“It’s major because of affordability,” Sims said. “You are not going to get Telus to do a lot of that work because it isn’t a good business deal, so companies like ABC Communications are a God-send because they go in and connect and provide internet services to smaller communities.”
First Nations leaders shared their challenges with Sims and the fact connectivity is essential for economic growth, she said.
Her ministry provides front-line services through Service BC centres but it is also the Ministry of IT and holds B.C.’s real estate, freedom of information, protection of privacy and procurement.
“Those are all big issues,” Sims said. “We are really focused on bringing about changes so we can help to support rural communities through our procurement supporting small and medium sized businesses to do business with government.”
Sims said so far the internet is providing Telehealth services to people living in remote communities, as well as educational support for students from K-12, but her ministry is also interested in making it possible for people in the trades to take exams, such as their Red Seal, in more places.
“It is really about giving communities the tools they need,” she added.
Sims also spent time with the staff at Service B.C. and said she was impressed with their dedication to the community.
“This is a staff that has strong roots in the community and they take the provision of the service they provide very seriously,” Sims said.