North Coast MLA, Jennifer Rice issued a letter to the public on July 17, to notify residents on provincial government updates and progress. July 19, 2020, saw the third anniversary of Rice’s appointment to Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. (Photo supplied by J. Rice)

North Coast MLA issues public update on provincial progress

Travel restrictions, funding and recent new legislation were topics addressed by Jennifer Rice, MLA

Jennifer Rice, Member of Legislative Assembly for the B.C. North Coast addressed Prince Rupert and North Coast community residents in a summer progress statement on July 17, just two days before the third anniversary of her appointment as Parliamentary Secretary of Emergency Preparedness.

“It’s been a roller coaster of managing events such as floods and fires and now a global pandemic but I love the wild ride of being in service to my constituents and all British Columbians,” Rice said in social media post on July 19.

“When we formed government we stepped into an unprecedented and B.C.’s worst wildfire season. Sixty-five thousand people were displaced from their homes and 1.2 hectares burned. We were under a provincial state of emergency for a period of 10 weeks which was the longest state of emergency in our history.”

Even though the province announced Phase 3 of B.C.’s Restart Plan on June 24 and is allowing travel, some communities are not allowing travellers, Rice said in the statement to residents on July 17.

“At this time, Haida Gwaii and parts of the Central Coast are requesting that travelers not visit their communities. I recognize that these local travel restrictions are causing some community tensions between those who want to reopen and those who want to remain closed.”

“Finding a solution that works for everyone is not easy, but it’s important that we not let these difficult times divide our communities. Please follow the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry and be kind to each other,” Rice said.

Rice said she is currently working with various ministries and local communities to come up with an arrangement that respects the desires of communities, while also being able to support struggling local businesses from closures.

Rice said over the past couple of months, the provincial government has made some important funding announcements for the North Coast riding. Grants in the amount of $540,000, to communities in the North Coast to invest in recreational and economic development projects were promised. These include funding of $99,900 for the Redesign Prince Rupert plan, the amount of $49,512 for the Lax Kw’alaams Laku Creek trail loop, $380,000 for the Hartley Bay Destination rail project and $10,000 for the Hartley Bay Harbourfront Development Plan.

Also announced is funding to open 24 new childcare spaces in Hartley Bay in partnership with the Gitga’at First Nation and an upgrade of $4.6 million to the Baron Lake hydroelectric power facility in Klemtu, which will assist in reducing dependence on the diesel plant, reduce carbon emissions and which will create jobs, Rice said.

Massett’s water treatment plant, in partnership with the federal government, will receive $1.24 million to upgrade and Haida Gwaii communities will receive$500,000 to better prepare for flooding emergencies.

“Over the past three weeks, the BCNDP caucus has also been busy passing legislation that will improve life in our communities,” Rice said.

An all-party Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act has been initiated to engage with communities which includes experts to recommend how our Police Act could be modernized. This will address systemic racism and better meet today’s needs with respect to mental health and harm reduction, Rice said.

“Everyone deserves to be treated fairly in our province, but for many Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour, this hasn’t always been the case,” Rice said.

Also noted in Rice’s statement was the 20 per cent reduction in auto insurance costs which has just been passed, as well as new legislation to better provide support to injured workers and their families through WorkSafeBC.

The proposed changes will also enhance the agency’s ability to investigate workplace incidents and give workers a voice by including victim impact statements in trials for serious incidents.

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