Following the release of the 2019 B.C. Budget, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett expressed concerns over transportation and fire mitigation funding while the chiefs of the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw commended the government for committing to share provincial gaming revenue with B.C. First Nations.
“The Cariboo Connector, there’s nothing in the budget for it that I can see. The only pieces in there is for work that was started in 2012, 2013,” says Barnett “I see nothing new for the Cariboo Connector anywhere.”
Planning needs to be done and more four laning where there are bad corners, bad places to make the roads safer for the public and industry, she says, adding that she’ll be asking about it during question period in regards to rural funding.
“For years, we’ve been doing some long term capital maintenance such as replacing, repaving roads in the 108 Mile, roads in the Horse Lake area roads throughout the region that are not highways but they’re government roads… Where are they at now is my question.”
Barnett also said there was a lack of funding for fire mitigation.
“$50 million in the ministry for fuel mitigation, for wildfires [over] three years. $50 Million is nothing.”
Once the funding that’s currently still in the Forest Enhancement foundation is gone there will be nothing, she says.
“It should be as in George Abbott’s report that there should be steady, ongoing, continual funding for industry and for private sector and for communities so that there’s ongoing fuel mitigation; not just a one-off here and a one-off there. That doesn’t work. That’s been proven by the wildfires over the last three years.”
When it came to the carbon tax, Barnett says she’s frustrated not more of the revenue is going to forests as opposed to general revenue.
“If you’re gonna tax people and tell them you’re using it for fixing the environment, then why isn’t that money going into fixing the forests where the dead pine beetle is, where the grazing land needs to be restored,” she says. “It’s really, truly just a tax grab.”
Between the carbon tax and the healthcare tax the cost of living will be going up, she says.
“It’s so frustrating for me.”
She’s happy that the Rural Dividend is still in there she says but that after 2020 she doesn’t see it.
“I see nothing for rural British Columbia.”
Meanwhile, local chiefs said they were happy that the Budget 2019-2020 at long last includes a dedicated gaming revenue fund that will see a portion of annual gaming revenues go to the more than 200 First Nations communities in B.C.
“Members of our communities continue to suffer a significant social gap compared to non-Indigenous British Columbians,” said Chief Patrick Harry, spokesman for the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw and chief of Stswecem’c Xgat’tem.
“True reconciliation must address that gap, and every initiative that gives us tools to improve the lives of our community members is a step down the right path.”
They know what needs to change to see their people realize their potential, says Chief Helen Henderson of the Tsq’escen’ First Nation (Canim Lake Band).
“What we lack are the means to make those changes. The gaming revenues fund and other investments from the provincial government will make a significant contribution.”
The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw is comprised of the four Secwepemc communities of Tsq’escen’ (Canim Lake); Stswecem’c Xgat’tem (Canoe Creek); T’exelc (Williams Lake); and Xat’sull (Soda Creek).