Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb said he is proud of how locals have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think there’s one advantage of living in rural B.C. where we can keep our distances without much trouble,” Cobb said, noting when the state of emergency was declared by B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Cobb said his immediate reaction was dreading having to shut down businesses.
“My first thought was, ‘no bloody way, you can’t do that to us again. We were closed down in 2017, we had smoke the year later,” he said.
Cobb was one of the speakers for a tailgate event held Thursday, June 11, in the parking lot of the Tourism Discovery Centre in Williams Lake.
He said he was most proud of how everyone ‘pretty much’ adhered to the pandemic rules that were put in place.
“Nobody liked them. Nobody wanted to shut down their businesses, it’s hard to keep distances, and it’s hard to keep away from your friends. That was the hard part.”
Cobb said the community learned how to pull together during the wildfires and has done so this time around.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done and what we’ve maintained.”
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett welcomed everyone to the tailgate event.
“This has been quite an experience,” she said of the pandemic. “Our lives have changed and I don’t think they will ever be the same. Hopefully they will be better.”
Barnett said B.C. is fortunate to have rural communities such as Williams Lake where resiliency is amazing.
“If you stop and think about the past few years, the forest fires, floods, the forest industry, now the pandemic, you made it through the latter, we will make it through this.”
Jobs and business are the most important issue right now, she added.
“Fortunately because you listened to Dr. Bonnie Henry, you’ve done such a good job of self distancing and making sure if you have elderly people in your home that you are taking extra caution and care.”
She also thanked truckers and whoever else delivered groceries to communities.
Barnett is part of the select standing committee on finance and government services budget 2021 committee and has been spending 10 hours a day on Zoom for meetings where people are making presentations on what dollars they want from government for the 2021 budget.
“I can tell, you, we are only five, six days into it and I cannot believe what people are asking for. Unless we start generating revenue in the near future, our deficit is going to be shocking for many years to come,” Barnett said. “It will be up to all of us to tighten our belts and lower a lot of our expectations I believe.”
Things that cannot be forgotten are education, health care and social services to people who need help.
“It will be a very interesting time. I have [15 months more in office] so it’ll be interesting to see what happens, but we’ll be fighting to get what we can get for our region.”
Doug Clovechok, deputy chair of the standing committee said in a news statement all British Columbians are encouraged to participate and share their views.
‘Your voices, perspectives and ideas inform our discussions and deliberations, and are directly reflected in our recommendations.”
Details on all the ways to participate are available by contacting the Parliamentary Committees Office at 250 356-2933 or 1 877 428-8337 (toll-free in B.C.) or on the committee’s website: https://bcleg.ca/FGSbudget. Submissions can be done by audio, written or video or by filling out an online survey by Friday, June 26, 2020.
Other committee members include Bob D’Eith, MLA Maple Ridge, Rich Coleman, MLA Langley East, Mitzi Dean, MLA Esquimalt-Metchosin, Ronna-Rae Leanord, MLA Courtney-Comox and Nicholas Simons, MLA Power River-Sunshine Coast.
Public hearings are being conducted by video and teleconference.
The committee intends to release its report with recommendations for the next provincial budget in August 2020.
Around 26 vehicles lined the parking lot for the tailgate talks, which was organized by the Williams Lake Hiring Initiative.