Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Black Press Media file photos)

Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Black Press Media file photos)

MLA’s CORNER: Disaster relief must be a long-term priority in B.C.

Recently, I had the great opportunity to learn from other communities and to hear about how the challenges they face are similar to the ones we encounter in our region. While I always prioritize staying local and engaging in our region directly, it’s also vital for MLAs to have a full picture of what is going on across the province, and to learn how other regions grapple with similar or unique struggles of their own.

Last week, I had the opportunity to join nine of my BC United colleagues on a short tour of Cache Creek, Merritt and Lytton, focusing specifically on the response to recent natural disasters.

As many people will remember, just last month Cache Creek experienced devastating floods. Neighbourhoods had to be evacuated, streets turned into rivers, and people lost their homes and businesses. Recovery efforts are still very much underway in the village. There is much more rebuilding that has to take place to restore Cache Creek to the way it looked just two months ago. It was so important to hear directly from local leaders and residents in both Merritt and Cache Creek about recovery efforts and what it is going to take, not just to clean up after the floods but to ensure their communities are better protected in the future.

READ MORE: MLA’S CORNER: Doing our part to prevent wildfires

We also spent time in Lytton, and it was difficult to see that nearly two full years after it burned to the ground, shovels have yet to break ground on rebuilding efforts. It is eerie and heart-wrenching to see what was once a tight-knit community reduced to rubble, and it’s beyond frustrating residents have not been able to move ahead with recovery and return to their homes. There have been numerous hold-ups at the government level and it has caused unnecessary delays.

Frankly, it’s unacceptable that bureaucracy and government delays have stopped people from being able to rebuild their lives. I simply do not understand how the NDP government has not made Lytton a priority. Residents have been through enough in the last few years; the least government can do is ensure they can go home. Hearing the frustrations and struggles of residents and local leaders in Lytton, Merritt and Cache Creek made me think about the Cariboo and the similar challenges many of us have faced over the last five years. We have become all too familiar with the challenges of getting disaster relief and financial assistance.

I think of the Dog Creek Slide area and others, along with the many residents who have suffered great loss at the hands of wildfire and flooding and have waited long periods of time for the government to come through and provide the support they desperately need.

It’s government’s responsibility to step up when disaster strikes — to provide relief for those in need and work to prevent future tragedy. And it’s high time the NDP realizes this and acts.

READ MORE: MLA’s CORNER: Housing remains a province-wide challenge

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