Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart (centre

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart (centre

Fraser-Nicola MLA already in campaign mode

Jackie Tegart opened a campaign office in Ashcroft on March 4, and says she and her team are ready to roll.

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart, who is seeking re-election for the Liberal Party on May 9, says she learned a lot during her first campaign for a provincial seat in 2013.

“I’m certainly in a different place this time with my team,” she says. “We’ve been organized since last fall, and all the key people are in place.” In May 2016 Tegart was the first Liberal candidate in the province to be nominated to run in the election, to be held on May 9, 2017. “It was fabulous to be nominated early.”

The Fraser-Nicola riding has changed slightly since the last election. The community of Princeton is no longer part of it, and the town of Hope has been added. Tegart has made several trips to the community, the most recent being on February 24 for a meet and greet.

She will be opening a campaign office in the town on March 10, and another one in Merritt on March 18. Her campaign office in Ashcroft, located in the Lady Minto Plaza on Railway, opened on March 4, and was filled with volunteers and well-wishers. Her motorhome, which has been wrapped with her picture and the Liberal party name and logo, will serve as a mobile campaign office throughout the riding.

Once the writ is dropped on April 11, Tegart will be based out of the various campaign offices throughout the riding. The constituency office on Railway will continue to be open three days a week, with staff at the site.

Tegart says that the top issues in the riding that she hears about are health care, forestry, the economy and jobs, and support for rural B.C. On March 3, Tegart was in Merritt with Christy Clark, where the premier reiterated some budget announcements that target rural communities, and introduced some new measures, including a $40 million investment to extend high-speed internet access to rural and remote communities, and $10 million in 2017–18 for multi-year projects that target invasive species.

Tegart has been involved in the writing of the proposal for the invasive species pilot project, working with groups including First Nations and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District to see how the targeting of invasive species can be addressed. “How can we better coordinate efforts?”

It had been announced in the 2017 provincial budget that the Rural Dividend Program, which was slated to run for three years beginning in 2016 and provide up to $25 million a year to rural communities with a population less than 20,000, will extend to a fourth year. The program is intended to reinvigorate and diversify rural economies, and Tegart says the benefits are already being seen in Fraser-Nicola, with five groups in the riding—including the Ashcroft Indian Band—receiving grants of close to $100,000 each in the first intake.

“My office worked really hard to secure these grants,” says Tegart. “And we make sure people are aware [of the program] and prepared.

“What are the economic development opportunities in small communities? The rural dividend can help rural communities kick-start economic development. Rural B.C. is very resilient but often needs that little bit of seed dollars to get projects started.”

Tegart also points to the recent appointment of MLA Donna Barnett as Minister of State for Rural Economic Development as reflective of the support the government has for rural B.C. “Donna has been a great advocate for rural communities, and we have a strong rural caucus.”

Even though the writ will not be dropped for another month, Tegart says she is already in campaign mode.

“I’m working weekends, door-knocking, and working with my campaign teams. We’re ready to roll, out doing what we need to do.