It is summer and although it hasn’t started with the usual amount of sunshine, it has been warm. The intermittent rain has been a challenge for our farmers so we all hope for mainly sunshine for August and September.
While most of us can appreciate the value of our agricultural growing season much of this region is dependent on forestry. There have been multiple Mill closures and temporary shutdowns all over BC. But there are still opportunities for forest dependent communities in the industry. There are still multiple areas destroyed by last year’s fires where there is an opportunity to harvest the burnt timber.
1 in 17 jobs in BC are tied to the Forest Industry directly and indirectly contributing $12.9 billion in GDP to the Provincial economy. Many people forget that Forest products companies are major purchasers of transportation services, energy, equipment, silviculture services and many professional services such as foresters, geoscientists and others who have offices in the lower mainland. The Premier needs to step up and make money available to local governments specifically for displaced forestry workers providing them with the social and mental health services to address the cumulative impacts on these workers of recent fires and floods. There is an opportunity here to put many of these workers back into the forest dealing with the scorched standing timber that is salvageable. There is room to develop new industries within forestry and new partnerships with First Nations. Vaagen operations in Midway are proof that many small forestry initiatives working together can create significant jobs for our rural communities.
There has been a shift in responsibilities in Victoria between FLNROD and the office of the Solicitor General as it relates to flood and fire recovery. The Solicitor General, Minister Farnworth, who is already responsible for EMBC, will now take on the responsibility for fire and flood recovery efforts and support across the Province. Many of you are still waiting for a resolution to last year’s flooding impacts on your homes and property. I am hopeful that this shift will help to expedite many outstanding files.
The BC Chamber of Commerce recently did a survey of its members to take the pulse of business in BC. Businesses with less than 5 employees still make up the largest percentage of businesses in BC. Over the last two years the confidence of businesses surveyed in BC’s economy has declined by 49%. The overall costs of doing business has increased due to more regulation, paperwork and higher taxes. In 2016 more than 78% of businesses felt the Provincial Government was supportive of BC Business, that number has dropped to 46%. The support from local government and the Federal Government appears to have stayed the same. Even more of an issue for most surveyed was access to labour and the cost of labour. And, of course, affordable housing is always a concern. It appears from the survey that most businesses are just trying to maintain their current status, not attempting to grow, and very nervous about what this BC Government might do next that will negatively affect their ability to maintain a profitable business in BC.
My office is working hard this summer on outreach to all those people in our communities that sometimes slip through the government cracks. Seniors, those needing Social Assistance, people with any and all levels of challenges/mobility, disability, etc. Please contact Patt Vermiere in my office if you would like her to come and talk to any group or individual who may have missed out on government assistance that could be available to them. 250-498-5122. As Patt is on the road a lot please leave a message and she will get back to you.
This is tourism season in our Region and the volume of traffic on the roads has increased dramatically. I am on our highways a lot and I have come to allow myself extra time to get from one community to another. There are not a lot of opportunities to get by slower moving traffic and I have seen many near misses as impatient drivers make a move to pass. There also appears to be more holiday RVs this year and their ability to quickly adjust to potential problems are limited. The economy of our areas are dependent in many ways on these visitors so please be courteous on the road.
Linda Larson, MLA
Boundary – Similkameen