On Monday, March 15, Merritt residents and neighbouring communities gathered at the Best Western Plus hotel in Merritt for a highly anticipated town hall meeting, which featured Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart alongside other representatives from the BC United party – Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson, Peace River North MLA Dan Davies and Delta South MLA Ian Paton.

The event provided a platform for community members to voice their concerns, ask questions and engage in dialogue with their elected representative.

One of the focal points of the meeting was the discussion on the healthcare crisis. Concerns over the repeated ER closures in Merritt and access to essential services were passionately raised by several attendees.

Tegart assured of the ongoing efforts to address these issues.

“Mike (Goetz) and council have been working very hard on making sure that the government is very aware, every time there’s a closure,” she added. “Anytime we know about it, we have lobbied and have a strong partnership in ensuring that the NDP know every time the ER is closed.”

She added that the repeated closures are a “critical issue in a community.”

“When you look at what a healthy community looks like, health services are very important. Also the fact that Merritt is the hub of so many highways coming together. We’re working hard with the mayor and council to get that message across to the government,” she added.

Another big concern among attendees was natural disasters, such as wildfires, atmospheric rivers and floods.

Merritt Mayor Mike Goetz was present in the town hall and raised his concerns regarding flood mitigation and how the party would look into it.

“One of the things that we’re concerned about as we go through the flood mitigation is a provincial diking input, we don’t have that. We’ve asked several times what that would look like for a proper person to inspect the dikes every year, rather than having somebody from the Ministry of Forestry to decide whether the dike is good or not,” said Mayor Goetz.

Lorne Doerkson, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA, commented that BC United doesn’t have a formal policy on that just yet but understands that dikes and dams need a different mechanism.

“Now, the problem is the way they (NDP) set up as far as having inspections done. They used to be $10,000 to do an inspection on a dam. Today, they’re $145,000 and you can’t find somebody to do it,” MLA Doerkson added.

Other topics such as education, senior care and transportation were also up to debate during the town hall meeting, which allowed residents and representatives to engage in an open dialogue.

Tegart and the other MLA present addressed these concerns, outlining initiatives on the work to address any gaps in the current government.

As the town hall ended, Tegart highlighted the importance of hosting events like this.

“It’s the part of the work that I really love. It’s the getting out in the community and hearing from the community,” she added. “I think that people need to be actively involved in politics. I always say that politics is not a spectator sport, we need to become informed and we need to get out and ask the hard questions and make a good decision about who you want to vote for.”