Guest editorial from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice

Guest editorial from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice

Thank you to the Coast Mountain News for providing me my first opportunity to write in as your MLA. I can’t begin to express what an incredible honour it is to represent the central coast in the BC legislature.

It’s been an eventful summer, with a steep learning curve, and I really appreciate the kindness and patience that North Coasters have shown me as I get settled in to my new role. I’m looking forward to the challenge of serving rural and remote communities with the same energy and care of former MLA Gary Coons. Please feel free to call my community office toll free at 1-866-624-7734 if you need help with any provincial issues. We’ll do our best to advocate for you and help you navigate government programs and services.

Shortly after the election, MLAs were called to Victoria. I experienced my first legislative session this summer. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to speak out about important issues facing the communities of the North Coast constituency.

For example, I spoke out about the incredible challenges facing British Columbians from rural and remote communities who need to travel to access health care services, an issue I know is key on the central coast.

I was also given the opportunity to highlight the cenotaph and warrior pole dedication commemorating the Bella Bella World War II Royal Canadian Air Force Station, the airmen and local aboriginal veterans who served in the various wars and peacekeeping missions during the 20th century. It was a great honour to be part of the celebrations that were held in Shearwater.

On a lower note, I drew attention to the devastating fire that gutted Bella Bella’s only grocery store, post office and library. I led a book collecting campaign out of my community office in Prince Rupert and have stacks of books ready to donate to the new library once that’s up and running.

In my first chance to stand up in question period I asked the Minister of Justice why the government has not made good on their promise to work on establishing a shuttle service throughout the Highway of Tears.

I also called on the government to make a commitment to truly sustainable and principled resource development that respects First Nations rights and title and takes into consideration the people living adjacent to and amongst the natural resources we exploit.

As the newly appointed Rural and Northern Health Critic, I was given the opportunity to ask the Minister of Health questions about the health budget. I inquired about First Nations health care, addictions and mental health services in the North, maternity challenges in Bella Coola and other remote communities, retaining doctors and health professionals in rural areas, drug costs, and funding cuts to stop AIDS/HIV in the North, just to name a few of the topics we discussed.

On that note, please get in touch with my office and let us know if there are health issues of concern that I should be looking into. While I may not have the opportunity to closely question the health minister until next spring, I want to highlight the real life health struggles facing people in rural and remote British Columbia.

If you would like more frequent updates about the work I am doing, please subscribe to my newsletter by emailing Jennifer.Rice.MLA@leg.bc.ca with a request to be signed up.

Thanks again for the confidence you have placed in me. I look forward to continuing to raise my voice in Victoria on your behalf.