When asked to outline the positive and negative aspects of 2019, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett 2019 provided her own insights, saying she is proud of the resiliency of the people who live and work in the region.
Here is Barnett’s list and comments.
Positive accomplishments in 2019
1. Two major highway improvement projects were completed near Williams Lake — Highway 97 four-laning near Williams Lake Indian Band and the Toop and Carson intersection.
They were completed after what took many years from when it was first approved by then Liberal Minister Todd Stone.
2. The new Northern Seawolf ferry for Bella Coola was finally put in service and is providing a better future for the area.
3. Final approval to go ahead with Cariboo Memorial Hospital’s redevelopment planning, although she cannot wait to see shovels in the ground.
4. There were no wildfires.
5. The crime rate is down.
6. Announcement of the Indigenous Court for Williams Lake is good news. She said when she was mayor of 100 Mile House, she was involved with restorative justice and through that experience learned in some cases incarcerating people does not seem to be the answer.
7. Funding from Community Futures Cariboo Chilcotin to businesses and organizations to help with moving forward after the wildfires was a great help.
Negatives and challenges in 2019
1. With the downturn of the forest industry, Barnett said she has talked to many people who are lost.
They’ve looked into programs being offered, but for some there has not been any help. Businesses are hurting, she said and the sad part is the province has such a long way to go.
“The government is w0rking on another forestry plan but so far there seems to be no answers.”
How land use will be determined moving forward is also causing uncertainty, Barnett said.
“I am all about reconciliation but it has to be transparent and have everyone involved and engaged. We all work and live together and that includes what our landscape is going to look like in the future.”
2. Lack of nurses, care aids, home support and daycare workers is a “huge” problem for the region and Barnett said Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus needs to expand its courses to open up more seats for students.
“We have people living in Williams Lake who would take the course if they could in their hometown.”
3. Closure of Mount Polley last May was a big blow that hit through the whole region.
4. Flooding impacted ranchers in the Big Creek area and many have been left to figure it out on their own, Barnett said. “There’s been a bit of funding, but it has been inadequate.”
5. While the cost of living keeps going up, people are happy about not having to pay for MSP, but that is now being picked up by industry, businesses and local governments who have been hit hard. The cost, she added, ends up going up for consumers as a result.
Looking toward 2020, Barnett said she hopes the federal and provincial government will get back to the table to settle the softwood lumber agreement.
“It should be a high priority for both governments.”
She also hopes there will be wildfires in 2020, but instead the fire will be lit under government to look at its own taxation.
“I have to commend local governments that are holding to a zero tax increase.”