Photo: Premier Christy Clark addressed a packed room of northeast B.C. residents at her first-ever town hall in Fort St. John./Kimberley Molina
After only eight days in office, Premier Christy Clark has already moved forward with her campaign promise of holding town halls across the province.
As Clark’s first official visit to Fort St. John as B.C.’s newest premier, she held her very first town hall meeting in the city, Tuesday. Clark was also joined by Health Minister Mike de Jong, Energy Minister Rich Coleman, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Blair Lekstrom and Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm.
Several residents from around the Peace River region, and even some as far away as Fort Nelson, attended the town hall to express their concerns regarding different provincial and regional issues.
Clark started off the public meeting by saying that her government was committed to three priorities: open government, jobs and families. She said the town hall meetings are about letting B.C. residents have their say and for government to listen, while also trying to address their concerns.
Residents brought up diverse concerns, including the competition between agricultural land owners and the oil and gas industry, the seeming necessity for air, soil, and water monitoring in the region and road safety concerns.
As Transportation Minister, Lekstrom said it is one of his top three priorities to deal with the road safety problems along Highways 2 and 97, where there have been several traffic deaths in the past months.
One councillor from Fort Nelson brought up his concerns regarding the lack of maternity care in the town, resulting in the fact that more than 50 per cent of mothers have to give birth outside the town. Health Minister de Jong said he understands that mothers that want to give birth in Fort Nelson should have the option to do so. However, he said that a lack of specialists at any given time in a region can mean mothers may be sent elsewhere to give birth.
At the meeting, Clark said she sees herself as a champion for rural and resource-based communities. She said all residents need to realise how important the province’s north is to B.C.’s economy and its direct link to the programs the province can offer. She said that the Peace River region, alone, generates $1.3 billion in provincial revenue.
Clark’s Liberal government now includes a newly-created jobs minister, which Clark said is meant to specifically deal with provincial labour issues.
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Clark also said she is planning on creating a board made up of people from the private sector whose directive will be to monitor industry applications, how quickly the applications are dealt with and any barriers companies may face.
She said the board will then provide a type of governmental report card, which is expected to aid the Province in attempting to remove some of the regulatory barriers that impede economic investment in B.C.
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During her brief time in Fort St. John, Clark also visited the new hospital site and the Peace Lutheran Seniors Home.