Jennifer Rice on Haida Gwaii

  • Aug. 25, 2014 4:00 p.m.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice was on Haida Gwaii recently, spending time at the music festival and visiting several islands’ communities. We caught up with her in Queen Charlotte.(There are ) three common things I’ve been hearing about. One, I am not surprised about, but I guess I was a bit surprised about, is the fact that people are still so adamantly resolved against the Enbridge pipeline. I think because when I first started coming to Haida Gwaii, it wasn’t necessarily so immanent or uppermost on people’s minds. It is still uppermost on peoples minds here, which I think is really great to see that there still is that resolve.And then of course down at this end everybody has been talking about the paramedic situation, the lack thereof obviouslyIt is unfortunate such a crisis has really motivated people to actually seriously look at how BC Ambulance functions in rural and remote communities. So it is a sad thing but is has also been a really positive. I guess it’s positive that people are actually finally taking people on island here and other remote communities seriously and are looking at addressing the issue of staffing for paramedicsAnd the third thing (is) ferries.On EnbridgePeople are really concerned Stephen Harper has decided to approve the project and I haven’t been on island since he approved it, so I remember when that announcement came in June the people around me of course were talking about it. But the conversation around me where I live in Rupert has sort of dissipated a bit and here on Haida Gwaii everyone is still talking about it. Everyone is still preparing, people are still wondering what they can do. I think people are prepared at any cost here to continue to see no tankers pass through Hecate Strait and to the north and south of the island.(We should) hold our premier to account. She has her five conditions. We know that as time goes by, you can sort of massage what that means or come out with nuanced messaging when you are a politician. So I think people should continue to hold her to account and allow her to use her authority and use her position to represent the people of BC.I think the people have already spoken I don’t think (a referendum on Enbridge) a necessary it is not needed. I think it is pretty clear. Consistent polling over the years have shown between 70 to 80 percent of British Columbians have opposed the project and particularly oppose oil tankers on the north and central coast.On the ambulance situationI think it is too early to say, but I look forward to seeing what solutions they come up with. I heard todayÂ….that there is a full-time staffer on their way here to staff the Queen Charlotte station. But with this unfortunate death, I am hoping there is some leverage for looking at the long-term viability of rural and remote paramedics. I definitely would call it a positive step.I did bring it up (the ambulance issue) in the legislature. I did bring it up in health estimates, I believe in both estimates, so that would be twice in a year, but I can’t confirm that right now. I know the last set of estimates, it was one of the last things I talked about with the health minister and he talked about community paramedicine, which is a model that is used in other rural communities that they are looking at.There are a lot of examples in rural Ontario where that has been really successful. But there are also challenges when it comes to the various unions. You know we don’t want to displace an RN with a paramedic. So there are those sort of issues that have to be worked out. And those are challenges, so it takes some time.So it looks like the province is considering rural paramedicine which I think could be a good long-term solution. That’s what I have been trying to bring up for the past year and a bit , you know one blanket policy for the entire province obviously isn’t working. It’s not just Haida Gwaii that is experiencing these troubles, Stewart has had a history in the last year and other rural communities. So I am just excited they are finally actually taking it seriously and maybe moving along at a little bit more than a snail’s pace.On BC FerriesI think we have to continue pressuring the Minister of Transportation Todd Stone. We have to tell him the stories about what tourists have said.Bella Coola Valley Tourism did a survey. They have just accumulated all those survey responses and those comments and offered the feedback to (the) minister.Considering the province is not doing this kind of survey, considering they are not doing an economic impact analysis, these less official (surveys) are still useful information and we should tell Minister Stone that.He is quoted as saying the decisions he has made, he feels very secure and confident in those decisions, and that he would have no issue looking people in the eye that are impacted by these cuts and justifying that.Again, we can remind him of that, write and call the office, talk to me so that I can relay the stories.I have been getting quite a lot of feedback from people on island, I have been flooded with stories from people in Bella Coola, so it has been a little easier for me to bring those stories to light.I hope people continue to send them my way, so I can raise them in the legislature which resumes in October. The teachers’ strikeI guess there has been some progress in the last week but I have actually been off grid on Haida Gwaii so I haven’t been thoroughly briefed and updated on how discussions have went. So I am not, I am not really, no new fresh comment. The government is not in a rush. I haven’t seen anything that has come to light that would encourage anyone getting to the table in a hurry.On the past yearHonestly my first year, I have no regrets, I love my job, but it was learning by a fire hose. When I take trips to Haida Gwaii and to Bella Coola, where I got to spend about a week, (it) really really helps with my learning so I feel I can do a more effective job in VictoriaI look forward to coming back (to the legislature) in October because I feel way more prepared.And it has allowed me to sort of establish some relationships, which helps with the conduit of information in bringing issues to light.

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