Dianne St. Jean
A Message from local MLA, Shirley Bond
Submitted photo

In a conversation Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond was asked to comment on the highlights of 2017 and moving ahead into 2018.

For the province, and for her personally, she states, it certainly was a year of transition.

“When you’ve had the privilege of being a Cabinet Minister for sixteen years it does take some adjustment [to be moved to the Opposition],” commented Bond.

 

“However, it does not alter my determination to work hard on behalf of the people that I represent. In fact it probably in some ways means working even harder in the sense of having to work from the Opposition bench; it is a different process.

“I think there’s a lot of work to do and lots of things we need to keep in front on the agenda in Victoria.”

One of those things is the Valemount Glacier Destination Resort.

“One of the advantages we have when it comes to that project,” says Bond, “is that all political parties agree that it is an important project.

“A highlight for me in 2017 was getting through the final paper work with the government to position VGD to move forward.

“We will also continue to work on the geothermal project. One of the things I did was to reach out to the leader of the Green Party Andrew Weaver about this. He’s very interested as am I in the concept of geothermal in the Robson Valley, and together we worked on the legislature floor to make sure that we pressured the government to move forward with some key permits and things like that, and we had some success. From my perspective then, I think it’s up to me to work across the aisle where possible to advance the agenda of the people in the Robson Valley.”

Bond says that her job is to make sure that, as issues arise, she takes the message to Victoria to ensure that her constituents get the kind of action they need.

“I think Kinder Morgan will be one of those issues. When you look ahead to 2018, sustainable and responsible resource development continues to be a priority and I think a concern as well, especially since the government takes a different view of those types of projects.

“I know that there are different views in different parts of the province, and the biggest challenge I think we’re going to face in 2018 is making sure that those of us who live in rural and northern BC, when it comes to projects like Kinder Morgan or sustainable resource development, we need to make sure that our views are heard.

“That is going to be a key role of northern MLAs because this government has very little representation outside of the lower mainland. Our job is going to be to remind them that there are different views of projects like Kinder Morgan, obviously not universally supported, but much more strongly supported in areas that I represent. So, I think that’s going to be one of our biggest challenges in BC. We have a coalition government that is largely urban-based, and our issues need to be considered, by whatever government is in power.

“Another issue that I think is going to be, and should be, front and center in 2018 is proportional representation and the change to the electoral system. If there’s one message to my constituents it’s ‘Get ready. Make sure that you understand what the potential downsides of a proportional representation model are.’

“From my perspective as an MLA it is one of the things that I will be spending a lot of my time in making sure my constituents understand that a change to a model of proportional representation has the potential to diminish our voice even further.”

Another issue that Bond says is front and center is softwood lumber – making sure that British Columbia gets a fair deal – and that so far we haven’t seen much progress in this area.

Regarding the legalization of marihuana in the province, Bond commented that it is going to require a massive amount of time and legislative changes, and that many policy decisions will have to be determined.

“When I look at my work load, in addition to my regular constituency files, it’s things like softwood lumber, Kinder Morgan and sustainable resource development, proportional representation, and it’s how the province is going to move forward with the legalization of marihuana, which the federal government has deemed we have to have done this year.”

The Legislature is set to reconvene in early February, by which time the Liberal Party will have chosen a new leader.

“I think we did a good job in the first session of holding the government to account on critical files. I spent a lot of time speaking with ministers and with the Premier on concerns related to VGDR, tourism, the Ancient Forest, talking about economic development in smaller communities, and how do we continue to support McBride after the fire. That will continue to be my role as we move forward, making sure that they are well aware of the issues facing my constituents. That is my job from the Opposition benches, and I intend to do it very well.

“The government has made a lot of promises that they have yet to keep that they’re going to have to start taking some action on, and that we’re going to have to be diligent about, like tax increases. They have to pay for those promises from somewhere.”

In closing, Bond stated, “Certainly 2017 for me personally, and I think for our province, was a year of ups and downs and at times uncertainty, but I always look forward to a new year, a chance to continue to work hard, a chance to tell the story of the place that we live and my constituents live.

“I am optimistic about the future of projects like VGDR, geothermal - all of those things - and others that I’m sure will come to our attention over the next year.

“ We have an opportunity to continue to grow and build an incredible part of the province, and I’m looking forward to doing that.

“I want to once again thank the voters of Prince George-Valemount. I am incredibly honoured to be their MLA and to be serving a 5th term, and to assure them that it doesn't matter where my feet in the House are, it will not diminish my vigour with which I represent the people who have elected me for five terms.”