Fort St. John and District Chamber of Commerce President Brent Hodson opened up the proceedings with a list of concerns and priorities for the committee. Among them were the need for firm timelines and budgets for twinning Highways 2 and 97 from the Alberta border to Fort St. John, having a Taxi Bill of Rights for the province, and finding ways to get revenue from neighboring provinces that take advantage of our resources.
Mayor Lori Ackerman represented the City of Fort St. John, and was asked by a member of the committee whether she would like to see any modifications to the Fair Share program in order to help fund infrastructure demands. Instead, she suggested that changes to Agricultural Land Reserve demands might be more appropriate.
"It's very difficult to be able to provide a community when you don't have the land to do so. What we get is sprawl happening outside of our city boundary that relies on the city's services," she explained. "The ALR is constraining the community, and now we're getting sprawl in the rural area."
Margaret Little and Jean Leahy followed Mayor Ackerman presenting on behalf of Save Our Northern Seniors. Their presentation focused on the need for more housing for seniors in our region, as well as getting more support workers. Little explains the demand is high due to the shortage of care beds, respite beds and Adult Day Care spaces.
"We need to have incentives to encourage people to enter the field of home support," she said. "People do not want to work in a system where the pay is less, and the threats of cutbacks and layoffs."
The Finance Committee is already on its way down to Quesnel for its next public hearing, but Peace Region residents who weren't at the meeting still have a chance to give their input on next year's budget. The public has until Thursday, October 18, to enter a written submission, respond to an online survey, or submit a video file with their comments. For more information on how to submit, visit www.leg.bc.ca/budgetconsultations.
The committee's report is due by Thursday, November 15, 2012.