The children’s section of the Nakusp Public Library was full as residents came to meet Katrine Conroy, the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Kootenay West on March 25.
The topic first brought up was one that affects everyone in the village: the ferries, or rather the decommissioning of the DEV Galena on Dec. 31, 2016.
Ferry access is essential to transportation in the area. Two of the three ways out of Nakusp require ferry access to reach areas such as Revelstoke, Edgewood, Vernon, Kelowna, and more. Though the Galena was replaced with the MV Columbia, there is no longer a backup ferry should the Columbia break down.
“The ferry is a big issue, I know that,” said Conroy. “It comes up again and again, and we’re trying to make the ministry realize that this is an issue and we need to have backup.”
Roads along the highway were also discussed. Some residents would like to see the highway to the Galena terminal widened, or a passing lane added. Residents have witnessed several close calls, and think it’s only a matter of time before a major accident occurs.
Another topic brought up was the Columbia River Treaty, and its effects on the Arrow Lakes region.
“I’ve been working hard to make sure that Americans recognize our issues here, because I don’t think that they often do,” said Conroy. “For us it’s not just about flood control and power generation. It’s about our ecosystem, our valley, the environment, it’s so much more than just flood control and power generation.”
Because Nakusp is in a rural part of the province many residents feel their voices are drowned out by those in larger constituencies.
Bill Makarchuk is one of those residents. He would like to see more industry in rural areas of the province.
Logging is one such industry that has been a part of the region’s history for decades, but there isn’t any kind of processing plant nearby for the lumber.
“I’m burning birch in my fireplace that would make wonderful furniture and cabinets,” he said. “We grow incredible wood and we need to be making furniture factories and other ways of processing that lumber.”
Industry and the economy are both topics Conroy feels strongly about.
“I am extremely frustrated, because Christy Clark and the Liberals keep saying how great the economy is, and it is great for some people and the lower mainland has high employment, but we have really high unemployment in rural B.C.,” she said. “We need to ensure that we can bring in programs to support rural B.C. We are very committed to making sure we support rural B.C. because you have to govern for the entire province, not just the lower mainland and your wealthy friends.”
She said government needs to ensure the jobs program is actually creating jobs in rural B.C., and that these jobs are going to be long, family sustaining jobs that will keep residents in the province.
British Columbia’s provincial general election is slated for May 9.