STONE – After a tough year in 2021, let’s approach 2022 with optimism
By TODD STONE
MLA, Kamloops-South Thompson
and PETER MILOBAR
MLA. Kamloops-North Thompson
AS THE BC LIBERAL MLAs for Kamloops and the Thompson Valleys, we thank you for entrusting us as your voices in Victoria. We love the communities we represent and continue to advocate for the projects and initiatives that will make a big difference in the lives of our constituents.
With 2021 coming to a close, we thought we would highlight some of the major issues we continue to raise on your behalf.
Health care continues to be among our top priorities. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, including our health care workers, and has only exacerbated staffing shortages we have been seeing for years at Royal Inland Hospital.
Instead of addressing the chronic stress and burnout that has led to a number of E.R. nurses leaving their positions at the hospital, the NDP has chosen to ignore the problem and hope it goes away.
We would like to see a comprehensive health human resources strategy that addresses the health care worker shortages we’re seeing not only in Kamloops, but across the province in a wide range of positions.
We also continue to press this NDP government to fulfill its commitment to build a new cancer centre in Kamloops in a timely manner. The NDP first claimed it would be built within the government’s four-year mandate but later admitted it’s part of a 10-year provincial cancer plan.
Local patients shouldn’t have to endure the added stress and anxiety that comes with travelling all the way to Kelowna for treatment. We will continue to urge the government to build a new centre and add more resources much more quickly.
Speaking of more resources, Kamloops’ successful Car40 program must be expanded. This important initiative pairs a mental health practitioner with an RCMP officer to respond to calls involving mental health situations.
All agencies in Kamloops who work with people in crisis want to see the program continue. We have been asking the NDP to ensure sustainable funding for Car 40, but have yet to see it.
We also have yet to see a Foundry centre come to Kamloops, which would provide mental health care, substance use services and family peer supports for youth aged 12-24.
Despite a solid proposal put forward by Interior Community Services, the NDP has turned it down year after year. Even if Kamloops was successful in the next intake of applications in 2023, the centre would still be three years away from opening.
It’s just another unacceptable delay for young people to access the personalized supports they need to not only survive a mental health crisis, but to thrive.
We also need to see our communities thrive, and we are doing everything in our power to get answers and supports for those who have lost homes and livelihoods to this year’s devastating wildfires, heat dome and floods.
Our hearts go out to those who are still out of their homes, and to those who have much work ahead to rebuild their lives.
When it comes to wildfire response and recovery, throughout the summer and fall we pressed the government to secure disaster relief funding from the federal government, to make better use of private firefighting resources, and to provide displaced residents with a clear plan on how they would be supported as winter approached.
We also asked the NDP to proactively offer information to the public on how wildfires like the White Rock Lake fire were fought, to no avail. We know this government has not learned lessons from previous wildfire seasons, and we’re urging the NDP to modernize the way we prevent and fight wildfires moving forward – and to be much more transparent and accountable with this information.
Rebuilding our economy has been an important focus, especially during the pandemic. We have seen the NDP take too long to get recovery grants into the hands of small businesses and tourism operators, with many stumbles and a lot of mixed messaging along the way.
We certainly hope it’s not too little, too late for many of these establishments and will continue to advocate for more supports to keep them afloat as the pandemic drags on.
Finally, Kamloops was home to what we believe was the biggest and most tragic story of the year — the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Reservation School site.
Despite a ‘knowing’ in the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc community for many years, this news — which came as the result of the band’s strength and perseverance to find these lost children — still came as a devastating shock and united us all in grief.
In light of this, we have been urging the government to expedite and be genuine in its reconciliation efforts with Indigenous peoples. We all have much reflection and education to do.
There is much that weighs heavy on our hearts this year. But let’s try our very best to approach 2022 with optimism and a desire to do good in our communities. Throughout the many tragedies of 2021, we have found strength and resilience in each other. Let’s keep it going.
Todd Stone is the MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson. Peter Milobar represents Kamloops-North Thompson.
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