The Castlegar News asked community leaders to share what they see in store for the city and region in 2019. Here is what MLA Katrine Conroy had to say.
Castlegar News: What are the major issues the province will be tackling in the Castlegar/West Kootenay area in 2019? What do you think are the challenges and opportunities?
Conroy: Affordability remains a top-of-mind concern for people which is why our government is working hard to make life more affordable and better deliver the services you count on. To date we’ve cut MSP rates in half, developed B.C.’s first poverty reduction strategy, oversaw the Waneta Dam purchase by BC Hydro, and are making historic investments in housing and child care.
Child care is one issue I’m particularly passionate about and I’m delighted to see the benefits of this investment reach our community. To date, 15 child care centres across the West Kootenays have opted in to the child care fee reduction initiative saving families up to $350 per month. Our government has invested in new spaces at Kootenay Family Place to support children with extra support needs and also recently announced a universal child care prototype site at Selkirk College children’s centre, providing 47 families with low cost child care that doesn’t exceed $200 per month per child. We’re working hard to remove barriers and give more flexibility to families.
Learning from last winter’s challenges, our government has taken additional steps to make our highways safer and more reliable during winter months. We’ve imposed stricter commercial vehicle chain up requirements, have enhanced our road-maintenance contractor monitoring and auditing, and are investing $1.8 billion in additional weather stations and overhead message signs to provide real-time weather and road condition information. We know distracted driving and excessive speed remain issues and with it being an El Niño year, the roads may be especially challenging. This year, I hope that more drivers practise defensive driving to better ensure the safety of everyone on our roads.
CN: From a political perspective, how has the community and region changed in the last year? Where and how will we be moving forward?
Conroy: This past fall we saw many new faces elected to regional districts, municipal councils, and school boards. I’m looking forward to working with representatives from across the West Kootenays to make life better for people and to date, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with the newly elected Castlegar city council. I’m looking forward to meeting other local elected officials throughout the year.
CN: More generally, what do you think is in store for Castlegar for 2019? What hopes do you have for the community?
Conroy: Our community has a lot to look forward to in the new year. The possibility of a new Castlegar district recreation complex is an exciting opportunity to revitalize this important community space. I’m supportive of this project and so too are the provincial and federal governments in announcing the new Community, Culture and Recreation fund. This fund is designed to help communities develop local infrastructure that meets their needs and I hope the city takes advantage of it.
I’m also hoping that communities across the West Kootenays consider other partnership opportunities with the province, such as the Building BC: Supportive Housing Fund. We’ve seen the success of our Rapid Response to Homelessness program in communities across the province and I would like to see the West Kootenays also benefit.
We know there’s more work to do for people across the West Kootenays and my team and I are looking forward to continuing to serve you in the new year.