Michele Babchuk is no stranger to the local political scene having sat on board of school trustees between 2005 and 2014 and then on city council for three terms beginning 2014.
She’s always had an interest in provincial politics and now is pursuing the MLA seat for North Island in the Oct. 24 election as a New Democrat.
“I’ve been interested in provincial politics for a long, long time,” Babchuk said.
In her role as a school trustee, city councillor and as chair of the Strathcona Regional District Board, a position she currently holds, Babchuk has worked her way around provincial ministries for years now. But despite her interest, there hadn’t been an opportunity to get involved at a higher level as outgoing MLA and Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena has held the position since 2005. Trevena announced Sept. 20 she would be stepping down, a day before Premier John Horgan called a snap election.
Later that same day, it was announced that Babchuk had been nominated as the NDP candidate.
“It is something I have been dabbling in for quite a while,” Babchuk said, “but I didn’t know I was going to get the opportunity until quite recently.”
Babchuk sees the top issues for the North Island going into the election campaign are the COVID-19 pandemic and the province’s handling of the crisis, economic recovery, community resilience and connectivity.
Babchuk says she is “extremely happy” with the way the COVID-19 emergency has been handled by the provincial government.
“The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be top of mind for North Islanders for the foreseeable future and I am extremely happy with the way the emergency has been handled by Premier Horgan and his government,” Babchuk said.
But out of that, economic recovery and jobs are going to be an issue moving forward, Babchuk said. Resiliency refers to the community’s ability to keep jobs in the community re-start the local economy.
Community resiliency and the environment are going to be big issues as well. Another issue of importance is connectivity
“I also believe that connectivity is going to be on the list,” Babchuk said. “That’s what people on the North Island keep telling me are important.”
Connectivity more so than ever has become “absolutely imperative” for rural and remote communities because we are finding through the COVID-19 pandemic that people are even more isolated and so we have to do things differently, Babchuk said. The Strathcona Regional District and the Connected Coast project has been developing plans for improving community broadband Internet plans for rural communities like Kyuqyot, Quadra Island, Sayward, Tahsis and Zeballos.
The BC Recovery Plan has contributed $90 million into connectivity and to be able to start delivering the connectivity that those communities and the regional district have been pursuing is “amazing,” Babchuk said.
Homelessness has been a big issue for the City of Campbell River and Babchuk has been in the thick of that as a city councillor. It is technically a provincial responsibility and Babchuk will continue to advocate for housing issues.
She points out that the province has been investing heavily in social housing in Campbell River with a number of housing projects coming online through BC Housing. She referenced the Makola housing project, the purchase of the Heritage River Inn to provide housing for victims of an apartment fire, the acquisition of the Rose Bowl Restaurant to be converted into transitional housing and also the announcement last month about the construction of a supportive housing facility on Dogwood Street. In addition, Linda’s Place was brought onstream through the Head Injury Support Society and soon we will see an expansion to Rose Harbour, the supportive housing facility for women.
“I am really happy and really excited to take up this challenge to run as the NDP candidate in the North Island,” Babchuk said. “We need to do the policy and relationship building. We don’t do this in silos. It takes the whole community and it takes a whole bunch of collaboration and relationship-building to make all of this happen. So I am excited to be part of that team I am excited to work in caucus with a great premier, Premier Horgan, and I hope the people will consider me on Oct. 24.”