Premier Christy Clark has appointed me as the chair to lead B.C.’s first Rural Caucus that will focus on opportunities and issues facing northern and rural British Columbia. This past week marked the first two stops on the newly created Rural Caucus’ tour across northern and rural British Columbia. The Rural Caucus members made stops in Smithers and Burns Lake to meet and consult with local residents.
While in Smithers we met with representatives of the town, the guide outfitters, the local tourism representative and the Chamber of Commerce. We also took the opportunity to have lunch with a seniors group and the mayor of Telkwa.
We toured the new campus of the Northwest Community College and the local hospital. Then we met with the chief of staff and a representative of Northern Health. It was a great day and an excellent opportunity for the Rural Caucus to listen to the citizens of Smithers. The next day, we were off to Burns Lake and met with local residents about problems with the overpopulation of geese and deer destroying hay crops. Then we held back-to-back meetings with the regional district and the mayor and council of Burns Lake. A lunch meeting was next with the Burns Lake Rotary Club, mayor of Vanderhoof, representatives from School District 91 and two First Nations chiefs. Then we toured the Burns Lake Hospital.
I don’t think we could have fit in any more if we tried. We left tired, but satisfied with the work we accomplished. But we’re not stopping there — we have a tour schedule this summer that includes many more rural B.C. communities where we will continue to take real action on rural issues and will avoid contemplating problems or opportunities. We will stop in Williams Lake on July 19 and I’m looking forward to finding more ways to expand on the opportunities this region and northern B.C. has to offer. This caucus understands how things are done in rural areas, so we can advocate for the important issues facing rural British Columbians when we represent them in Victoria.
Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.