“It’s been a great year for Fraser-Nicola in many ways,” says MLA Jackie Tegart. She points to the amount of money spent on roads in the riding in 2016, saying that “We’ve been very successful making sure our roads are safe.” An examination of transportation spending since the election in 2013 shows that of the ridings included, Fraser-Nicola tops the list, having received $113 million in funding.
This does not include the estimated $60 million that the government has committed to spending, to try to stabilize the 10 Mile Slide site on Highway 99 near Lillooet. Tegart made the funding announcement on December 7, and says it was a “fantastic announcement. The issue has been plaguing the area for 40 or 50 years, and a lot of hard work went into getting the funding.
“It doesn’t just happen: it’s about relationship building and advocacy, and I’ve worked very hard to build a strong relationship with First Nations bands so we can work together.”
She is also pleased at the number of ministers who toured the area during 2016. “We were very, very fortunate to have a number of ministers visit the riding.” Teresa Wat (International Trade), Norm Letnick (Agriculture), Coralee Oakes (Small Business), and Deputy Premier Rich Coleman all toured or visited the riding on official business, while Coleman—along with Peter Fassbender (Community, Sport, and Cultural Development) and MLAs Darryl Plecas and Eric Foster—joined Tegart at this year’s Clinton Ball.
“All of them and more want to come to next year’s ball,” says Tegart, who was happy to help the ball’s organizing committee by providing funding to help the 2017 event move to the Clinton arena. “I was pleased to be able to help them. Assisting with projects that need a little help to keep them going makse the job worthwhile.”
Tegart was the first Liberal nominated to run in the May 2017 election, and says that getting the matter out of the way so early was “a weight off my mind. I spent the summer doing good old-fashioned grassroots campaigning. I love the job I’m doing, and wanted to make sure constituents know I have every intention of working hard.”
Restructuring of some ridings means that Fraser-Nicola will lose Princeton and gain Hope in the next election. “I really enjoyed Princeton, and will be sad to see it go,” says Tegart, who was born in that community but has lived in Ashcroft for more than 50 years. “I’ve done some meet-and-greets in Hope, introducing myself to people in the area and letting them know who we are.”
She is happy that Logan Lake got a new doctor in 2016, and that Ashcroft got two, but notes that the next challenge for small communities is retaining their doctors. She adds that she has been working closely with the Village of Clinton, making sure their nurse is supported and able to provide the medical services the community needs.
She says that she has been very successful diverting money into the area “wherever we can find it,” and mentions the work she did with Historic Hat Creek to help secure funding for their new fire hall. “That’s a gem in our riding.” However, she understands the diversity of the riding, and the challenges people face, pointing to the closure of the Tolko mill in Merritt earlier this month.
“The annual allowable cut has been decreased, because our job is to make sure forestry is sustainable. It’s an incredibly important industry in Fraser-Nicola.”
Throughout the year Tegart says she was busy with meet-and-greets in different communities, as well as meetings with local school districts, regional districts, local councils, and First Nations. All of this is in addition to her work in Victoria, where she is government caucus chair, sits on a number of committees including finance, and is the B.C. representative to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. However, she admits that it’s the “on the ground constituency work I like the best; making a difference for the people who live where I live. I spend a lot of time on the road, going from community to community.”
2017 will be a busy year, with the writ for the May election being dropped in April. “I have my team in place much earlier than last time, and everyone has that much more experience. My campaign manager is in place and the team is ready to go.” She acknowledges that Fraser-Nicola is viewed as a swing seat, with a tight race looming. “I’ll have to work very hard for every vote,” says Tegart, who won in 2013 (“It seems like yesterday!” she notes) by a 614-vote margin over NDP candidate Harry Lali.
“We’ll run on our record,” she says. “We’ve been very successful in supporting the riding, and I hope people will put their trust in us to do it again. B.C. has the only balanced budget in Canada, and we’re number one in job creation and the economy. We’re fortunate enough to have diversified, so when world events affect things we can ride it out.
“I think 2017 will be exciting. I’m looking forward to the election: I love to interact with constituents and hear their concerns. I’m proud of the work I’ve done in the last three-and-a-half years, in the constituency and in the province.”