Local health care tops 2015 for MLA

Looking back on 2015, local health care issues leap to the foreground of MLA Jackie Tegart's thoughts.

It’s been a busy year for Fraser-Nicola MLA, Jackie Tegart, but of the many issues and projects she’s worked on, if one thing stands out for her in 2015, it’s local health care.

“The concern and the issues around health care,” says Tegart, “and the opportunity to bring the [Health Minister Terry Lake] into the riding to visit the Ashcroft Health Site, the Logan Lake Clinic and the Merritt ER. From that visit, we were able to show the Minister the urgent need for health care in rural BC.

“We’re fortunate that he’s close by and that he understands the issues that we’re dealing with, but for him to actually come to the sites and be there physically gave him a really good sense of how the community  is feeling.”

The Wellness Health Action Coalition (WHAC) in Ashcroft started up after Tegart brought health action representatives from Princeton in 2014 to talk about how they addressed their doctor shortage.

She says she is impressed with what the coalition has done so far in regards to doctor recruitment. Tegart hosted a public meeting in Ashcroft recently to introduce the two new doctors that are expected to come here in February.

“We will be holding a similar meeting in Logan Lake to hopefully introduce a new doctor there,” she says. Logan Lake has a Nurse Practitioner currently, but no doctors. “They have one in the [Practice Ready Assessment] program and we’re hoping for a second.”

She says that being able to come up with innovative ways to deliver health care is a result of many conversations in communities all over her riding, but the Ashcroft-Lillooet connection is  still unique.

“To have a doctor actually sitting at the table,” she says, “Dr. Nancy Humber [who is] responsible for rural health care, is something new to us. She’s very much able to think outside the box and to say, ‘How do we deliver  health care to people where they live?’”

Tegart says she hopes that collaborative innovation will continue: “I hope it will lead to lots of conversation about what health care could and should look like, the key being delivering quality care. I think it might look different in every community.”

She credits WHAC for demonstrating that “If we start with our community, then look at the region, we can come up with solutions.” Members of WHAC credit the MLA with helping them get what they need through contacts, persuasion and cutting through red tape.

Although it didn’t directly affect the local area, biosolids was talked about and has been discussed by the Thompson Nicola Regional District.

“A year ago we were in a different place,” she said, “but now we’re on a path. We have a principals table that is meeting government to governmet with five chiefs of the bands in the Nicola Valley. We’re feeling quite hopeful that we will move forward with bringing recommendations from an advisory committee and a technical working group to the principals table.”

In September the TNRD adopted a bylaw requiring any biosolids facility to be on P3-zoned land. Since there is no P3 land available in the regional district, biosolids companies will have to request a rezoning and that will require public hearings.

“Not only are we looking specifically at the biosolids in the Nicola Valley,” says Tegart, “but we’re looking at what’s the latest and greatest in the use of biosolids around the world. We want to ensure what we’re doing is safe and if it isn’t and needs changes, we’ll make recommendations around that. We want to see what people everywhere are doing with their biosolids because biosolids is not going away.”

The issue of jobs and job creation is an unending one, especially in rural areas where dependence on resources is strong.

“I think in the next year we’ll see challenges around the resource sector and how do we keep the jobs? And how do we create jobs in rural British Columbia? BC’s doing very well in Canada but have to keep on top of it,” she says. “There are so many things we don’t have control over.”

In forestry, the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) across the province is decreasing now that the pine beetle appears to be under control. The AACs were increased a few years ago to harvest the pine.

“We’re hearing from the mills that it’s going to impact jobs,” she says, “and we’re trying to minimize that.”

Tegart says a few months ago Jim Rivett, Mayor of Clinton, proposed an interesting plan whereby nearby mill, West Fraser, would contract with private landowners to remove trees that were deemed to be a fire hazard. Rivett was hoping that they could become a pilot project for a program that would help mills find more sources of wood. Tegart says they are still in negotiations.

In the mining sector, the low price for copper is also having an impact on local jobs.

But it’s been a pretty good year in the riding for government funding. Ashcroft and Cache Creek saw some major paving projects. The MLA was also able to announce funding for local infrastructure project – big projects like Ashcroft’s water treatment plant and little projects like Clinton’s dog park. Logan Lake also received funding for a new water treatment plant.

“Infrastructure was very much on the top of the list for municipalities,” she says.

After the flash flood devastated Cache Creek last May, Tegart and the Premier came to view the damage and to announce that the town qualified for disaster assistance. Since May, she has met with Cache Creek Council to help with some of the recovery projects that needed funding.

“We had some major announcements in the  Merrit area around NVIT and the trades training centre,” she says. “We also have a new program to help single parents on assistance return to school. We have 1,300 single parents registered for classes. That’s one of the projects that I’m extremely proud of.”

She says she will continue to lobby for Ashcroft Terminal, “and I think the Climate Action Plan may fit into that with the number of trucks we can take off the road. Garbage is part of the provincial picture and how can we influence it to provide jobs where we live?”

Much of it requires “relationship-building and lobbying that we always hope will bring jobs to our area.”

Outside of the riding, Tegart is the provincial liaison for a poverty project through the Ministry of Children and Families. She says there are a number of municipalities, like Cranbrook and New Wesminster, “who are trying to pull together their work on poverty and put together plans to address it.”

At the start of 2015 she was chosen as Caucus chair. That provided a new role for her which included the management of the legislature, “and also the opportuity to meet much more regularly with the Premier.”

She says the position “is about ensuring that people are being heard. If people run into glitches with an issue and are feeling frustrated my job is to try and mediate and mitigate that.”

Tegart says her job as MLA gives her immense satisfaction.

“It’s about service to the community,” she says, “and how we can assist communities to be the best they can be.

“There’s incredible opportunity to help people. There’s never a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new. There’s lots of satisfaction when things come to fruition and you get a thank you note from someone. There are a lot of challenges because the issues tend not to be simple, but that doesn’t mean we give up. We just continue working one step at a time. It’s  finding out how we can fit into that provincial picture.”

She says she assumes 2016 will be just as busy as the last three.

“And I’m still loving it,” she says. “That’s the bottom line. I enjoy most every day.”