It has been a busy start to the year, with movement on a few of the major problems here in the North Island.
It seems after much pressure on the Vancouver Island Health Authority we are starting to see some of the needs of the North Island addressed – including ensuring adequate staff coverage in the hospitals in Port Hardy and Port McNeill to prevent the ridiculous rotating closures people in those communities have been facing. It also seems – again after huge effort – that VIHA is willing to reopen a discussion about the unique needs for locally-based, crisis counseling in the northern most part of the Island.
And having finally made the decision on a location for the new Courtenay hospital (on Ryan Road in Courtenay), VIHA can get on with the urgent work of preparing to build our new hospital in Campbell River. The Authority wants to work on both hospitals at the same time so it was essential that a decision was made about the second facility. Now it is developing its business plan, which it intends to present to the government ahead of next year’s budget cycle. But with VIHA it is never a done deal; we still have to be vigilant that all the services currently provided – as well as certain new services – are available at our new hospital. And I will still be lobbying that the hospital should be built with public dollars; at the moment there is still talk that it be financed through a public-private partnership (a 3P). This model of financing has been shown time and again to be a hugely costly way of building public facilities. Using public funds for infrastructure projects, such as building a hospital, will ensure the facility is built in the most cost effective way possible.
Environmental concerns also continue to come through the constituency office and I will touch on three diverse issues that I have been raising. Firstly, I commend and continue to try to work with Campbell River Environmental Council, Greenways Land Trust and others who are tackling the question of potential arsenic contamination in Long Lake and the implications of expanding the Quinsam coal mine. The mine is an important economic anchor for our community, providing well paid union jobs so it is essential that everything be done that can be to make sure that it is not polluting the lakes or impacting on the Campbell River watershed.
As many of you know, the trail along the Quinsam River is still largely closed; I’ve talked with BC Parks and staff is looking at potential diversions rather than rebuilding the trail on the flood plain. I have also asked the Minister of Environment for extra funds to ensure the Canyon View Trail can be repaired. This is a hugely popular trail but Parks’ budget is so squeezed it is going to be hard to find the money to do the repairs without impacting other work.
I am also asking for a meeting with the Minister of Environment on behalf of local organizations to raise concerns about water bottling proposals. There have been a great number of applications for the right to access streams in Toba, Bute, Jervis and other inlets. Yet again we see the doors open to the sale of our provincial resources. While we are blessed with huge amounts of fresh water in Canada, we should not treat it simply as a commodity. Access to clean water is a human right and not something to be leased or sold to the highest bidder.
I continue having discussions with the Vancouver Island Regional Library Board about the potential relocation of the Quadra branch. Most recently I was told that a decision had been made following input at a public meeting on the Island. Contrary to what the Library Board claims, there was no public meeting so I continue to question Board members on the logic of moving the library without full input from people on Quadra and the Outer Islands.
We are back in the Legislature for a week in the middle of February. It will inevitably be a lame duck session as it will be ahead of the leadership vote which will elect the new premier. However the government is determined to have a Throne Speech and is required to table a budget. After that one week we are uncertain when we will return to the Legislature.
It continues to trouble me that while this government brought in fixed sessions of the Legislature it hardly ever follows its own schedule: we have not sat since early last June. This is not healthy for what should be a vibrant democracy and it is little wonder that so many people become cynical.
In the meantime, I can be reached in the constituency: in Campbell River you can call me on 1 250 287 5100; in Port Hardy my office can be reached at 1 250 902 0325; and toll free at 1 866 387 5100. I can always be reached by email at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or through my web page www.clairetrevena.ca