“2018 proved to be a very difficult spring with floods, and another difficult summer with forest fires throughout the province,” says Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart. “2017 seems like a long time ago, but I’ve said many times to ministers when I’m knocking on doors looking for assistance for people, that just because we’ve put the fires out doesn’t mean that issues have been resolved.
“We’re still dealing with people who are challenged for support, or getting back to normal after the fires of 2017.”
Tegart says 2018 was an interesting year in B.C. politics. “We had the first budget from the NDP, with a number of new taxes coming on board, which will affect all of us.” A tax that is particularly worrisome to Tegart is the Employer Health Tax [EHT], which will hit in 2019.
“There’s a misperception that [the government] is cutting Medical Services Plan [payments] by 100 per cent. That certainly was the promise during the election campaign. But what we’re seeing in 2019 is they’re still collecting 50 per cent of the MSP, and on top of that collecting an Employer Health Tax from employers, which is a double whammy.”
Tegart notes that when it comes to municipalities and the EHT, the only way to find that money is from the taxpayer. “The taxpayer is one pocket: it’s you and me. So people think ‘Oh, the MSP has gone.’ But I think 2019 is going to be a very difficult year around people understanding the impact of the double-dipping that is going to happen during 2019. It’s a significant impact for medium-sized businesses and for municipalities.”
Tegart moves on to the Proportional Representation [PR] referendum that was held in 2018, and says that the process was questionable, noting that when PR was talked about during the election the promise was made of a ballot with only one question. “The political interference in the process was unbelievable.”
[After the interview was conducted the ballot results were announced, with 61.3 per cent of those who submitted their ballots voting to maintain the traditional First Past the Post system. Tegart told The Journal via email that she was pleased with the result. “More than 61 per cent of British Columbians, and just under 74 per cent in Fraser-Nicola, voted to retain our current First Past the Post system and preserve local representation. Thank you to everyone who participated in this important process.”]
Locally, Tegart says it was great to see the interest around local elections, with more people running than in quite some time. “There are seven new mayors out of eight in my riding. I see it as renewal. People are excited. They have lots of ideas, lots of energy. I’m looking forward to working with everybody. I think it bodes well for the region that there is so much interest.”
Work on highways is of key interest to Tegart, who notes the impact of fires and floods in regard to mudslides. She says that they continue to work on the 10 Mile slide area on Highway 99, and that she has met with Lillooet council and with Highways officials to talk about plans. “Our expectation is that that project will go ahead, and hopefully be finished in a very timely way.
“I’ve also had conversations about the mudslides. What we’re seeing is something we’ve never seen before. And it’s not just on highways; it’s on private property. We’re working on that with Highways, and with some local councils and First Nations, to talk about what we expect to see in the spring.”
Tegart says that this year’s news about the Ashcroft Terminal—a federal government infrastructure grant of $9.2 million, and the fact that PSA International PTE Ltd. has become a 60 per cent stakeholder in the business—is very exciting. “We as a region need to get ourselves ready for what the opportunities are around Ashcroft Terminal. I very much want to be a part of that, and to talk to locally elected people about not just letting it happen, but planning for it.
“It’s not just one community; it’s the region as a whole, and we want to maximize the benefits.”
Asked about Clinton seniors’ housing [the Liberals promised $2.9 million for a 10-unit facility in 2017], Tegart says “We continue to work on it. We have a very, very dedicated group [in Clinton]. Anytime I meet [Housing Minister Selina Robinson] I always mention Clinton seniors’ housing. Every time she sees me she goes ‘Clinton housing’.”
Tegart says the hold-up is in the land transfers that are within government. “It drives me crazy. It’s bureaucratic.” She adds that her understanding is that the funding is still there to create the housing. “We will continue to make sure that’s top of her priority list until we get shovels in the ground. We did a lot of work before the election [in 2017], and I plan on seeing shovels in the ground before I die.”
Switching to the roadblocks being put up regarding the construction of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion, Tegart says that the Liberals, as a party, have been supportive of the pipeline. “I think that when the Premier has come out in support of jobs and economic development, it’s too bad it’s not ours. It tells you how frustrated people are with the roadblocks that have been put up in regards to the pipeline.
“I share in the concern in regards to shipment [of oil] by rail. We’ll continue to hold the government to account for these decisions.”
Tegart notes that the current government has no representatives north of Hope. “Our job is to remind them of what the impact of their decisions is for people who live in rural B.C. Our resources in rural B.C. are what keeps them moving down on the coast.
“We concentrate on getting that message through. We have a strong Rural Caucus [of which Tegart is a part] that is very focused on the issues that we’re working on above Hope. We’re dealing with a lot of issues, and keeping the ministers to account.”
Tegart says there are interesting times ahead in 2019, given the tight numbers between the parties in terms of seats held, and an upcoming by-election in Nanaimo. “We have a very strong candidate there. We really think that we have a strong chance of winning that seat. It’ll be very interesting in the House.”
She feels that the NDP are realizing that it’s easier to be the Opposition and criticize than it is to be the decision makers. She cites the problems at ICBC as an example, noting that the Liberals had been working on that file diligently. “If there was a simple solution, it would have been found. There need to be major changes. [B.C. Liberal party leader] Andrew Wilkinson has come out and said it could very well be time to look at taking away the monopoly [from ICBC] and putting it out to the free market.”
On the topic of allowing ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, Tegart calls the NDP’s recent bill the “ride-failing” bill, and notes that there is so much bureaucracy in it that the major ride-hailing companies have said “’This isn’t free enterprise. This is government-run.’ Despite promising ride-hailing, we’re going through another year probably before we see any movement.
“We had done work on ride-hailing. We had the insurance package and the legislation all ready to go, and the NDP chose to ignore that and write their own legislation. If they had taken the legislation we tabled in the fall, we would have had ride-hailing by Valentine’s Day .”
Looking ahead to 2019 in Fraser-Nicola, Tegart says “I’m excited about working with new councils; new energy and ideas. And I’d like to thank people who served in the past. I think we sometimes forget them.
“We have incredible opportunity with the expansion of the Ashcroft Terminal. I think that the opportunities for co-operation from Hope all the way up the Canyon to 70 Mile open doors that perhaps we haven’t seen before. Tourism, supporting small business, economic development: these are critical issues over the next 12 months.”