Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart.

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart.

Recovery money for wildfires lacking for Interior, say BC Liberals.

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart says “We need more than talk; we need action.”

Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart says the B.C. Liberals have some real concerns about the budget update the NDP government presented in the legislature on Sept. 11, specifically around recovery money for the wildfires.

“When I looked through the budget, I saw no added funds for recovery for the Interior,” said Tegart.

“When I talked to people in my area, and certainly when I talk to my colleagues (Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA) Donna Barnett and (Cariboo North MLA) Coralee Oakes, we know this fire is going to have a significant impact on the Interior for the next three to five years.”

Tegart notes ranchers have been able to, through the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, look at opportunities for funding through the federal government and a partnership with the British Columbia government.

“This is a long-term commitment we need from the (provincial) government that says we’re going to help people in the Interior recover.”

When she talks to small-business owners, the $1,600 from the Red Cross for loss of revenue due to the wildfires is nice, she says, but these are the people who make the bulk of their money in three months during the summer.

“If they weren’t evacuated, the roads were closed, and if the roads weren’t closed, people thought they were.

“We’re not just talking about the burned out areas. I’ve talked to people in the Lillooet area where they get significant bus tours, and the mayor says the bus tours were off. Fort Berens Estate Winey says they were down 40 per cent.”

Tegart says Horsting’s Farm near Cache Creek regularly gets 600 vehicles a day, and they were lucky if they got 20 this summer.

She adds that on a long weekend, Annie’s Pizza & Bakery in Cache Creek sent the staff home because there was nobody coming into store.

When nobody is coming in, you lay off your staff, the MLA says, adding Horsting’s says they laid off 30 to 40 people.

“We had a round-table session at the (Union of BC Municipalities Convention last week]) and what we were hearing is we need to think about the impact on our students who depend on the dollars they made through the summer to be able to go to university in the fall.”

Tegart adds a lot of them were evacuated and they couldn’t make the money over the summer.

“People don’t have a problem about identifying some issues right away, but as we talked through about the impacts on communities, there are some significant long-term impacts.”

The local MLA says she and the B.C. Liberal caucus will be holding the NDP government to account in regards to support for those people.

“In particular, my colleagues Barnett and Oakes and myself have lived through a summer of fires. Our people are saying they need help.”

As members of the Legislative Assembly, Tegart says it’s up to everyone in the legislature to provide that support.

The Cariboo Regional District, the cities of Quesnel and Williams Lake and the District of 100 Mile House have received provincial funding to hire recovery managers and a co-ordinator to gather information from groups that have been negatively impacted by the wildfires.

The responses are to be discussed and long-term action plans for recovery projects will be developed with the area MLAs— Tegart, Barnett and Oakes—so they can presented them in Victoria.

“In talking to Donna and Coralee and when we go out to talk to our people, we wonder what the mandate of that person will be. We’ve already heard significant stories of the impact of what the fires did.”

Noting the Cache Creek Golf Course closed down and the society has been dissolved, Tegart says she thinks the impact is going to be significant, so the government should be looking at strategies to help small business.

“Is it something around taxes? Is it something around subsidies? Is it something around low-interest loans?

“How can we help small business manage through winter to next summer? Many of our small businesses are on the edge, particularly if they missed their three months of major income.

“We’re going to see small businesses closing.

“We need more than talk; we need action.”

Meanwhile, Tegart says there are a number of people looking for information from the NDP government in regards to what actually happened on some of their properties.

“Certainly residents from Pressy and Loon lakes have been asking questions about what kind of protection was given to their homes, etc. I know the people out at Pressy have been told to file a Freedom of Information request.

“That is extremely frustrating for people who have lost everything, and are just looking for some information.

“To be told they have to go through a Freedom of Information process when this information is in reports that were written. They should be public and should be accessible.

“Donna (Barnett) and I both went out to Pressy Lake and met with the residents and walked through some of the properties. It has been devastated out there; it’s heart-rending.”

“Our job as MLAs is to try to help people through this process and I think the government should do everything it can to get answers the people.

“We’ll continue to address those issues.”