When the Legislature rises at the end of May, the work for MLAs continues in our constituencies. And while summer feels like it has come early, many serious issues have not gone on vacation.
Obviously high on many people’s list in the North Island is the closure of the mill in Port Alice. In the last week of the session I again met with the minister responsible for our land base, Minister Thomson, to talk about the need for a steady supply of fibre. That is important not only for Port Alice, but also for those who have small mills and are having no success in accessing fibre when approaching the licensees. I am regularly in touch with those involved in the unfolding problems with the Port Alice mill as well as with other North Island mill operators and continue to press for solutions.
It should be remembered that Tree Farm Licences, while operated by private businesses, are working with a public resource: crown land and our trees. There has to be a fair return both in income, through stumpage, as well as access to the resource for the people and communities of the North Island. The communities of Port Alice, Port Hardy and Port McNeill also have their own community forest, the revenue from which goes back into each community. I have written to the Minister about the possibility of expanding them.
I continue to raise the very real impact the changes in ferry schedules are having on the North Island. The loss of the shoulder season by the early imposition of summer season rates is hurting many local businesses. I have discussed this with the Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce and we are looking at new ways to bring this to the forefront of the Transport Minister’s attention. Meanwhile other Island communities are very worried about how the latest fare increases will impact their tourist traffic.
Within a few days of returning at the end of the session, I joined the Speaker of the Legislature, Linda Reid, on a tour of North Island schools, bringing our provincial Parliament into the classroom. It was great to see the engagement of the students, as well as the school staff, at Eagle View Elementary and Gwa’sala Nakwaxda’xw Elementary as they learned about Parliamentary debate and procedures.
I also used the opportunity of being in Port Hardy to stop in to chat with those mental health workers doing outreach with some of the most vulnerable in the community. Often the Health Authority becomes a target because of decisions made and apparent problems created, but the work this small team is doing is extraordinary and much needed.
The coming week sees me in the southern part of the constituency and in Vancouver, where we are holding caucus meetings to discuss strategy for a possible summer session of the Legislature. There is talk that we will be called back for a couple of weeks in order to discuss the BC Liberals’ latest plans for the LNG giveaway. After more than two years of rhetoric they are desperate to have something to show before the federal election in the fall. However, it already is clear it won’t be the trillions of dollars of benefits promised during the last provincial election.
And I will be in the south part of the constituency on National Aboriginal Day. But I wish everyone the very best on this day, in the year that St. Michael’s was demolished and the work of reconciliation took another step forward.
However, I’ll be back in the ‘real North Island’ in the last week of the month to visit the wind farm and to follow up on other issues.