While the Cariboo region had economic challenges in 2014 people came together to find solutions, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said as she reflected on the past year.
“The Mount Polley disaster was an absolute devastation, but it is turning around,” Barnett said. “The beauty of the area is still there. When it first hit the television they said the ‘Cariboo’ disaster so naturally everybody figured the whole Cariboo was wiped out.”
Her government has spent extra dollars to work with tourism operators, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Assoc., the City of Williams Lake and the United Steelworkers Union to promote the area’s beauty, she said.
The mine spill came on the heels of the cancellation of the Route 40 ferry, servicing the Discovery Coast.
“We do have the smaller ferry which is being utilized, but there is a strong group in the West Chilcotin working together to come up with solutions, promotions and long-term solutions,” Barnett said.
One of those ideas is to improve the port in Bella Coola in hopes the private sector could possibly bring a bigger ferry back on the route, Barnett said.
If the port was expanded, opportunities could also open up for the forest industry ventures of the Ulkatcho First Nation (Anahim Lake) or for shipping, she added.
“There doesn’t appear to be any big projects on the horizon via mining or forestry,” Barnett said. “If we don’t get to yes on our resource industries then we all know we are in big trouble in this province.”
Routinely Barnett’s office receives transportation complaints from local seniors she said are warranted.
“You have a lot of seniors who would love to stay here, but when it comes for them to attend appointments with specialists for health care issues, other than the Northern Health bus, if they cannot drive it’s very difficult to get there.”
Many local ranchers have told Barnett they are enjoying some of the highest cattle prices in years.
“So there’s an industry that’s improving and hopefully continues to improve.”