THE DUST IS SETTLING on the B.C. provincial election, and although the final outcome isn’t yet known, there is enough certainty to know that the BC NDP will lead the province for next four years. And just as certain, Kamloops’ two BC Liberal MLA’s, Peter Milobar and Todd Stone, will be resigned to roles as Opposition critics.
As much as everyone wants to be elected to govern, Milobar and Stone need to take a hard look at what it means to be in Opposition. In the last term, neither took their critic roles as seriously as they could have. Milobar was critic of Environment for much of the time, but was generally silent on issues around climate change, mine site remediation, and logging of old growth forests.
Stone was Opposition Critic for Municipal Affairs, Housing and Translink. In this role, he called for property tax relief, to lower taxes of commercial properties, without acknowledging that property taxes are the single most important way local municipal governments raise revenues for services we all need.
Whatever new Opposition critic roles Milobar and Stone are given, they need to work hard to ensure some key BC NDP promises are kept.
First, the BC NDP has promised to revitalize and modernize industries, specifically in the resource sector. Milobar and Stone must know that in the last 10 years, 16 lumber, veneer and plywood mills have shut around the province. Some analysts predict another 13 will close soon. Some of the upcoming closures may be around Kamloops such as mills at Heffley Creek, Adams Lake, Savona, or Barriere.
As well, there are only 13 pulp and paper mills left in the province. What are the prospects of Domtar pulp mill in Kamloops continuing as the source of chips continues to decline? Whatever revitalization is going to happen, Milobar and Stone need to work hard to ensure the few remaining mills in our region are not forgotten.
Second, the BC NDP has committed to bringing $10 per day childcare to more families. Will Stone and Milobar be advocating to expand the Early Childhood Education program at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), to ensure there are enough trained childcare providers?
Third, during their campaign, Milobar and Stone committed to getting Parkcrest Elementary rebuilt. Burning schools make great photo ops, but our MLAs can’t forget that School District 73 has consistently also asked for a significant addition to Westmount Elementary; a new school for the Pineview Valley area; the addition of a gym and classroom space to South Kamloops Secondary; and new K-12 school at Sun Peak.
Are Milobar and Stone going to go to bat for us for these schools as well? We don’t want to be forgotten when the purse strings are opened for schools in Surrey and other cities in the Lower Mainland.
Fourth, both the BC NDP and BC Liberals promised a new cancer centre at Royal Inland Hospital. Good news if it is delivered. But buildings don’t work without people. There are currently 116 physician vacancies and 815 other vacancies on Interior Health’s website, of which a total of 116 vacancies are in Kamloops. Beyond building a cancer clinic, how will Stone and Milobar support getting the people we need to run the clinic? Will our MLAs support expanded medical programs at TRU?
Finally, addictions and overdoses have ravaged our community. Will Milobar and Stone continue the BC Liberal’s mantra of a law and order approach to drug use, or will they instead support a more collaborative, community centred approach with community partners in Kamloops? Will they work to bring a youth addiction treatment centre to Kamloops?
Politicians want to be in government. Opposition can be a frustrating place to be. But rather than languishing in their roles, Milobar and Stone can accomplish a lot to ensure Kamloops stays on the radar of the government in Victoria. They can start by ensuring the BC NDP’s promises are kept in Kamloops.
I wish Milobar and Stone all the best as our MLAs in the years ahead representing all of Kamloops and area. Thank you also to the other candidates who put their names forward and gave us all strong candidates to choose from.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.