At Castlegar City Council meeting on March 5, councillor Kevin Chernoff gave a brief report on a trip he, fellow councillor Russ Hearne, and city administration officer John Malcolm took to Victoria early in the week. The three met with many top ranking ministry officials and discussed topics related to Castlegar.
“We had a productive trip down to Victoria,” said Chernoff. “We met with a few of the ministers. Sometimes it’s hard to judge the importance of these kinds of meetings, but I do know that when we do meet with these people our chances of affecting change for the betterment of our community are greatly increased.”
The group first met with Assistant Deputy Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Sandra Carroll and discussed the importance of maintaining government sector jobs in the community and the opportunity to increase those numbers to provide better central services to the whole region.
“We also discussed some of the local initiatives like Sculpture Walk that have direct and indirect benefits to our community,” he said. “There was even talk they may use programs such as this for a model in other communities.”
The three met with Health Minister Mike DeJong and discussed the availability of full-time ambulance attendants for Castlegar to match the numbers in Nelson and Trail.
“Of course, the big push was stressing the importance that government proceed with the planning process for a new West Kootenay regional hospital,” said Chernoff. “With the emphasis, of course, on that hospital being located in the most central point of the West Kootenay.”
Answering a question from fellow councillor Gord Turner, Chernoff answered that the three did bring up the recent closure of the Castlegar Health Centre Emergency Department.
“Minister DeJong was aware of recent staffing issues but was not aware to the extent of the differences between us and local municipalities that have less population. He has asked his staff to review these deficiencies and report back to him. We are confident these issues will be resolved soon.”
The last meeting for the three was with Minister of Transportation Blair Lekstrom. “We discussed the importance of continued improvement of the West Kootenay Regional Airport and the importance of making sure our transportation infrastructure is maintained so that we can focus on economic growth for our region.”