The first planeload of mail arrived in Bella Coola last Monday via chartered plane after over three weeks of waiting. Fires across the Chilcotin Plateau and the Cariboo made delivery impossible, as mail for the Bella Coola Valley is sorted in Williams Lake, which was evacuated over a week ago.
Jennifer Rice, North Coast MLA and newly minted Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, said it was “difficult” to explain the geographical challenges to Canada Post.
“It’s a federal issue obviously, but I did manage to get in touch and speak with Canada Post directly,” she explained. “They prioritized government cheques, which arrived on Pacific Coastal, and we did manage to explain the unique position of the Bella Coola Valley in this situation.”
Right now all mail is being re-routed through Prince George, which is neither a practical or realistic location for any resident to pick up their mail. Rice wasn’t able to answer if mail would be continued by air for any length of time yet, but did ask for a long-term solution should the wildfire situation continue. However, there is “considerable” effort going into re-opening the depot in Williams Lake.
“I’m not sure what alternative routes they are considering if the fires continue to interfere with the highway,” she said. “Nothing is set in stone yet.”
Rice said she is enjoying her new role as Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, in which she makes recommendations to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, on pressing issues within the Emergency Preparedness file.
“It’s not a cabinet post but it’s a file I was really interested in and I feel very honoured,” she said. “The geography of my riding is so vast and challenging, it’s been making for a fascinating learning experience and I’m ecstatic to take it on.”
There is still one more load waiting in Prince George and Canada Post is working on transporting that to Bella Coola.