COLUMN: Briefings from Victoria
I am now back in Victoria at the Legislature until the end of May. While there are many events and meeting requests that come across my desk, I am only in the constituency on Fridays and Saturdays and quite often that time is limited by weather and other unforeseen issues.
I depend on my very resourceful and knowledgeable staff, Colleen and Patt, to be the front line and forward to me quickly any concern that I can deal with while in Victoria where I have access to ministry staff.
I am still waiting, as many of you are, for some identified actions as a result of the park consultation that ended last Oct. 31. Environment Ministry staff is working diligently on a report but have experienced staffing turnover that has delayed the process. It was the wish of the public to have ministry staff be responsible for completing the process, so we will all have to be patient a while longer.
While there have been many events in the riding in the past few weeks, I would like to tell you about “Kids Learn to Fish” day at Yellow Lake. Thanks to the B.C. Freshwater Fisheries Society and the staff and volunteers from the Penticton Fisheries Management Section, several hundred “kids” of all ages enjoyed a day ice-fishing. Fishing rods and bait were supplied (as well as hot dogs) and many children who had never gone fishing enjoyed a great experience.
I would also like to recognize Chamber of Commerce Week which was Feb. 15 to 19. There are 125 Chambers throughout B.C. representing 36,000 businesses. Over the years the Chamber of Commerce has worked closely with the Small Business Roundtable in reducing red tape and regulation for small businesses throughout B.C. I want to thank all our local Chamber volunteers for getting involved in creating a better work environment for the businesses in their areas.
The 2016 budget has been tabled and is again a balanced budget. I am sure you are all getting tired of the constraints a conservative budget imposes, but it has allowed B.C. to lead the country in stability from an economic standpoint in what is becoming a very unstable environment.
One of the biggest advantages to you as taxpayers is the triple-A credit rating that keeps the interest we pay on debt the lowest in Canada. It translates into billions of dollars annually that stay in B.C. working for our taxpayers.
For the Boundary-Similkameen there are several budget items of specific interest to us all, so I will relate a few each month as we move forward.
- The establishment of the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., which will be tasked with wildfire prevention and mitigation through forest fuel management, reforestation and habitat restoration.
- The Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative will continue with Community Wildfire Protection Plans, Fire Smart Planning Activities (as Anarchist Mountain residents have done) and Fuel Management Projects.
All who experienced the fires of 2015 will recognize the value of these initiatives for our entire region.
The 50th anniversary of the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen will be celebrated March 4 in Penticton. While there are always people who question the value of regional government, or any of our current government systems, the men and women who step up to serve their constituents are to be commended for their service.
The elected directors and the staff of the RDOS work extremely hard to serve all the people who live outside the boundaries of municipalities in a very large and diverse region. It can be an amazing experience on one hand, and a thankless job on the other.
The one thing that is a constant is the willingness to serve and the dedication to the people they represent. To all of you who have served in the past 50 years and to all who serve today, thank you.