No summer downtime for busy Liberal politicians

One of the questions I’m often asked is: “What do politicians do in the summer?”

Despite popular opinion, we’re often much busier when the legislature is not sitting.

Summer is the best time to get on the road and meet British Columbians in person.

This year, I toured rural and northern B.C. as part of the rural caucus meeting.

One of Premier Christy Clark’s first initiatives when she took office was to establish British Columbia’s first group dedicated exclusively to the unique issues, challenges and opportunities facing northern and rural British Columbians.

We decided to embark on a massive listening exercise, to meet with real people in these communities, and better understand their concerns.

There isn’t enough space to get into everything I learned, but one meeting that comes to mind is fifth-generation ranchers Al and Bev Madler.

Like all B.C. ranchers, the Madlers have faced a steep and steady decline in beef prices over the past nine years.

The overall herd has decreased from about 400,000 to 300,000.

The Madlers are appreciative of the support they’ve received from the provincial government—but to get the herd back to historic numbers, they needed help.

Not financial assistance, but regulatory change. Wolf populations are at historically high levels, and are killing unsustainable numbers of cattle.

For ranchers, whose livelihood depends on their livestock, this is unacceptable.

To help, the province announced new regulations on Wednesday in 10 management units in the Cariboo region, the area most affected.

Another group I met that comes to mind is the Boundary Weed Management Committee in Osoyoos.

They’ve been working to educate the public about invasive plants—and coordinate management efforts.

The efforts range from the basics, such as volunteer weed-pulling excursions and reseeding, to innovative programs like bio control insects.

One significant problem species is puncturevine, a nasty-looking plant, so named because of its spikes which are capable of puncturing a tire.

It’s not native to the region, and there’s no natural way of containing it.

Efforts to combat invasive species can be successful with adequate support.

You may have heard of napweed, the scourge of many a landowner in the Southern Interior.

Efforts to control it have been incredibly successful—so successful, in fact, that the weed management committee is having trouble responding to all the requests.

Those are just two of many examples. It’s important to consult with rural and northern British Columbians because there simply isn’t the economic diversity of opportunity that exists in the Lower Mainland.

Those opportunities that do exist must be vigorously protected, such as safeguarding cattle from predators, or farmland from aggressive and invasive weeds.

Whether the issue is predators, invasive weeds, declining school enrolment, or delays in obtaining government approvals, the first and most effective step to addressing them is the same—to consult with the people on the ground dealing with these issues, and ask them what we can do to help them.

There’s simply no substitute to meeting people face to face.

Ben Stewart is the

Liberal MLA for Westside-Kelowna.



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