With B.C.’s Legislative Assembly on recess for the past two week, members have been travelling their ridings to connect with constituents and hear concerns firsthand. Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart is not exception, conquering her rather geographically large riding one community event and meeting at a time.
Tegart told the Herald that her break weeks included a number of stops in the Nicola Valley, where a number of the riding’s key issues stem from. Merritt has seen hospital emergency room closures, forestry downturn, fires, floods, and much more. Tegart’s first appearance in the community in the previous weeks was to attend the weekly protest of Aspen Planers’ employees and contractors.
“We held a meeting before the rally, and talked to people who were in the forestry industry, and talked about some of the challenges,” said Tegart.
“It was great to be there to support, and to remind people that government has put together a process, and it is obviously not working the way that people envisioned it to work. It’s up to government to step up, and do something about that.”
Aspen Planers’ Merritt mill is currently running on reduced shifts, and has recently been closed altogether, due to what their parent company said is a delay in new provincially issued cutting permits. The Ministry of Forests said recently it is working with Aspen Planers and area First Nations around stewardship concerns before issuing the permits, and said Aspen is beginning local harvest soon on a different timber license. AP Group told the Herald in January that it would import coastal cedar logs at their own cost to keep the mill running as long as possible, but needs new permits to sustain local growth and employment.
Tegart said that Official Opposition continues to ask government for updates on pressing issues in the Nicola Valley, but communication from the province has been less than adequate. Along with her presence, Tegart also brought opposition MLAs Michael Lee and Mike Bernier to the forestry rally, and has been engaging Health Critic Shirley Bond on Merritt’s emergency room troubles. Unsurprisingly, the topic of flooding also arose when discussing the Nicola Valley.
“Things happen during an emergency, and then it’s all hands on deck, but we find that a year or two years later, that we have a lot of communities and a lot of citizens that have been left behind,” said Tegart.
“Government seems to forget that when we talk about climate change, we need to talk about mitigation, we need to talk about being proactive, and we need a government that can make decisions in a timely manner so that people can prepare.”
During her time in Merritt for legislative break week, Tegart not only attended the forestry rally, but also the Nicola Valley Women’s Fair, the Merritt Curling Club’s year end wrap up, a public town hall meeting, and a private meeting with city council.
“It was great to meet with council and talk about the issues around diking, the impact of the forestry issues, and around seniors affordability,” noted Tegart, who met Mayor Goetz and council in their official capacity for the first time this month.
Throughout the rest of the Fraser-Nicola riding, forestry, healthcare, affordability, and housing continue to be issues of importance, noted Tegart. She added that garnering a response from the provincial government has required her to fight ‘tooth and nail,’ with her efforts at reaching a minister often fruitless.
The BC Legislature will resume its spring session this week.