Merritt MLA looking for substance in B.C. budget

By on February 19, 2018
Finance minister Carole James in the B.C. legislature last year. (Black Press photo).


When B.C. finance minister Carole James delivers the budget speech on Feb. 20, Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart will be watching closely to see what the NDP government has in mind for development in rural communities.

The Liberal MLA said she was left with more questions than answers following last week’s speech from the throne.

“When I listen to the throne speech, I try to filter through what it will mean for the riding and the people in our riding. [The] throne speech was pretty vague — not a lot of detail in there, lots of platitudes,” said Tegart.

A lack of in-depth information on policy isn’t unusual for the throne speech, which is used to signal the provincial government’s priorities in the upcoming legislative session. But Tegart would had liked to see more details about pressing issues in the Fraser-Nicola riding, such as the Trans Mountain expansion project.

“They talk about supporting resource industries, but my question is always ‘How are we going to do that,’ and how much money is put towards that?’” said Tegart. “They talk about the fires and floods and things, so what does that mean in dollars and actual action on the ground?”

The budget speech is expected to be delivered at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 20.

NDP government looks to put its own stamp on rural development

One thing that the government has already started to work on is a comprehensive review of the province’s rural development strategy, which got underway on Jan. 29. The government is seeking input from the public through face-to-face meetings and an online engagement process with the goal of creating a new rural development strategy, stated a press release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

“Coming from a rural community, I know first-hand the challenges facing rural B.C.,” stated minister Doug Donaldson. “I look forward to people’s ideas and input, as we build a long-term rural development strategy that will work for all rural British Columbians by building resilient Indigenous and rural communities.”

Asked if she was concerned that the review process could mean the government has plans to change the rural dividend fund program which was created by the BC Liberals, Tegart expressed confidence that the grant program would continue under an NDP government.

“I’m extremely confident it will be. I think it’s common for governments to put their own stamp on programs that have been successful,” said Tegart. “The rural dividend fund was extremely important to communities in our riding.”

The rural dividend fund is a $25 million per year grant program which provides financial assistance to First Nations, local governments and not-for-profit organizations in communities with less than 25,000 people.

Those looking to weigh in during the government’s engagement process can head over to to share their views.

Tegart throws support behind Wilkinson

After stepping onto the sidelines to remain neutral during the leadership race, Tegart said she’s looking forward to reuniting the party under the leadership of Andrew Wilkinson.

“Leadership choice is always exciting,” said Tegart. “We were so lucky to have six excellent candidates interested in leading our party.”

In her second term in the BC legislature, the Fraser-Nicola MLA said she’s looking forward to working with Wilkinson on issues concerning rural B.C.

“I am thrilled, Andrew has experience — he grew up in Kamloops, he has experience in rural areas being a doctor,” said Tegart. “He is a listener. He’s willing to consult and listen to all of our MLAs and I think he’s going to do an excellent job on our behalf.”

Wilkinson bested five other candidates en route to winning the leadership race, including Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone.

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