By Joseph Nash
During a typically cloudy, wet weekend in Bella Coola, MP Taylor Bachrach came to town to introduce himself as the new MP of the Skeena-Bulkley Valley. Having won his seat by over 3,000 votes, MP Taylor Bachrach said he is keen to get to know his riding and the members of his constituency.
MP Taylor Bachrach and I met at Freddy’s Restaurant for brunch to discuss his new role as MP and how he intends to make use of it.
Having greeted me with a beaming smile and firm handshake, we began the interview:
Q: MP Taylor Bachrach, tell me about your upbringing and how you began your political journey?
A: “I was born and raised in a little rural community of 200 people in East Central B.C., outside of a little town called McBride, in a community called Dunster. Our homestead was a long way from town it had no running water, no electricity, poor road access and no telephone. Eventually, we moved into town (McBride) and went to a two-room elementary school with about 30 students. So, places like this (Bella Coola) are very familiar to me. I feel at home in smaller communities.
There‘s something about growing up in a small community where you see people around you working together and co-operating in the interest of the community. The community I grew up in was unincorporated, had a community hall, social events and a little school. A lot of what got done was done by volunteers and by people who had to work together across their differences and would come together for the sake of the larger community. Something about that has stuck with me, this idea that we have a responsibility to be involved not just to look out for ourselves and our family but to have a broader view of responsibility, and that’s what led me to get involved in local government.
Back in 2008, I moved to Telkwa with my wife, a smaller community outside of Smithers, and that’s where I ran for the village council. This is where I cut my teeth in the local government arena.
Three years later we moved into Smithers, around the time the Enbridge oil pipeline was a big issue. One day I was sitting in my office and got a call from a former mayor who was very concerned about the oil Enbridge pipeline and had heard no one was going to run against the current mayor and was looking for someone to throw their hat in the race. I was very honoured to be asked, the kicker was, he asked me roughly four hours before the nomination deadline, I ended up cobbling together a nominating team, we marched down to the town hall and entered my nomination. We won by a considerable margin and I became the mayor which is the job I had for the past eight years. The oil pipeline was a defining issue in the nomination and the public wanted someone who would speak up regarding the pipeline.”
Q: What was it like going into parliament for the first time?
A: “To be honest it’s quite an experience, you have to pinch yourself sometimes. It reminds me of the depth of responsibility that comes with the job. That one seat in the house represents the top left third of B.C., all the communities in the region (Skeena – Bulkley Valley). Giving this region a good voice is something that’s important.”
Q: What do you feel like you can do in your position as an MP for the NDP?
A: “It’s a somewhat interesting situation, to some extent I’m still learning what that potential is. We have been clear as a party that there are things we want to work on and if the Liberals want to work with us on those things, in the best interest of Canadians, then we are all ears. If they want to do things that are contrary, to what we are hearing from Canadians, then we are not going to support those things.
It’s about clearly communicating and articulating the vision that we are hearing from Canadians and looking for opportunities to work across party lines to make things happen. A good example of that would be pharmacare, which is one of our key platform issues. Public medi-care in Canada is one of the most iconic Canadian programs, yet a huge part of our medical services is prescription medication, and for millions of Canadians who don’t have access to insurance are having to make difficult choices on what to sacrifice to afford the medication they need, which I think is profoundly unCanadian.”
Q: What is your stance on the situation with the Wets’uwet’en and the Coastal GasLink pipeline?
A: “It’s an issue that’s on the minds of many Canadians. It’s no longer a local issue it’s a national conversation. It’s become about much more than the pipeline; the conversation is about how committed Canada is to the idea of reconciliation and to what length we are willing to go to force projects against the will of Indigenous people.
On the one hand this is a project that does have broad support from people in the riding I represent. Particularly the area of north west B.C. where the pipeline runs, there are Indigenous groups that are supportive, indigenous leaders who are vocally supportive and Indigenous people working on the project. At the same time, the hereditary chiefs have been very clear for years that they do not provide their consent. And right now, there are many people who are trying to discredit their voice, or somehow devalue their position. You see it all the time. I think that has made things worse.
There are a lot of unanswered questions about how the whole concept of Indigenous consent and title come to bare with these kinds of questions. At the same time, the government and company have pushed forward despite knowing this hereditary leadership was opposed and I think it was clear for a long time that this was going to be a big issue, and here we are. Groups across Canada are demonstrating in solidarity, the RCMP are arresting people that are blocking the project itself. Canadians look at that and say, ‘this isn’t the reconciliation that we’ve heard about.’ It doesn’t add up.
My view is that the only way to move forward is for the prime minister to take this very seriously and personally engage in conversations with the chiefs to arrive at some sort of resolution. I find it all very troubling, to be honest, and if the project is eventually built, it will have come at a big cost.”
Q: Do you have a list of measurable achievements you want to achieve?
A: “Being in a minority parliament, the future is somewhat uncertain as to when we will be back in an election. So, my goal at this point is to gain an understanding of the communities in this riding. To show up and to advocate the issues that the communities are trying to make progress on. I am motivated to use the position to amplify the voices of communities and to ensure that smaller remote communities in north west B.C. have the attention they deserve; get the resources they deserve and can move forward. This is a tough era for ‘small world places,’ we need folks in Ottawa to understand that places like Bella Coola matter, they deserve the attention of the federal government, that the success of small communities requires funding and services.
Also, I would like to see the NDP capitalize on this minority government situation to get something big done for the country. I mentioned pharma care as being one of those things. The other issue that I am very motivated to work on is climate action and what has come to be called ‘the green new deal,’ which is the idea of leveraging public investment to drive towards a low carbon economy and to create employment opportunity and good jobs across the country.
In that equation we need to make sure those opportunities aren’t just created in big urban centres, but that small world communities are part of the equation too.”
MP Taylor Bachrach and I spoke for just over an hour and covered a range of issues and topics.
Unfortunately, if I were to write up all his answers and all my questions, I’d fill the newspaper.
However, if there is something you’d like to speak to your MP about specifically, please don’t hesitate to contact him using via the contact details on his website: taylorbachrach.ndp.ca