Coralee Oakes won 48.42 per cent of ballots in the district, en route to winning a third term as MLA during the 2020 provincial election. (Photo Submitted)

Coralee Oakes won 48.42 per cent of ballots in the district, en route to winning a third term as MLA during the 2020 provincial election. (Photo Submitted)

Cariboo North MLA reflects on hectic 2020

Coralee Oakes dealt with flooding, a pandemic and an election in this crazy year

Coralee Oakes had a busy 2020.

The Cariboo North MLA started the year with historic flooding, had to manage representing an area during a global pandemic and was re-elected in the fall.

She capped off the year by pushing the Legislature during an abbreviated session before the holiday break to better protect roads in the area from washouts.

“[Road work] was my focus every opportunity I had to stand in the House,” she said. “[It] was a call to action on the necessary resources we will need for spring freshet. We can’t expect to do the same thing year after year … Our ground is absolutely saturated.”

More intense spring flooding could become a normal occurrence in the Cariboo.

“Coming out of the 2017 wildfires, there was a lot of extraordinary research that was shared with us from other jurisdictions,” Oakes said. “Look at the trees we lost. That water has got to go somewhere. We have to rethink how we are doing things.”

Oakes said as the climate changes, more money will need to be invested in road washouts and flood protection, and politicians in the Lower Mainland don’t get it. She recalled a back and forth where instead of talking about road improvements, the ruling MLA spoke about car charging stations in the region.

“It was an interesting back and forth about the disconnect that often happens between the urban communities and rural communities,” Oakes said. “If we don’t have roads to drive on, having two charging stations isn’t going to be a strong advantage for us.”

Oakes said previous governments, including when the B.C. Liberals were in power, haven’t invested enough into preventative work, which could end up saving millions down the road. She said an $11-million program might have prevented the over $100 million needed to fix West Fraser Road.

“It’s harder to sell to the public, ‘hey, you’re getting a new culvert,’” she said. “But at the end of the day, if we don’t make those critical investments with taxpayer dollars … we’re going to continue to have the challenges that we have.”

Oakes said the pandemic offered an opportunity for governments to bring forward big ideas and changes. She reiterated a complete change in how infrastructure dollars are spent, with preventative maintenance taking priority.

“How do all of us, from the local government level to the provincial to the federal, all advocate together on the necessary investments that need to happen?” Oakes asked. “If I was to have a year-end wish, it would be that collaborative work that needs to happen at all levels of government.”

Oakes was re-elected in 2020 during a fall election and was subsequently named the opposition critic for advanced education, skills training and sport, a role she requested.

READ MORE: Coralee Oakes named as advanced education, skills training critic in B.C. Liberals’ Cabinet

“I know how important the North Cariboo Campus is and will continue to be,” she said. “It’s one thing for governments to announce, for example, 700 additional health care workers into the system, but unless we have people trained — for communities like ours, we need to look at training in the north because it’s hard to attract and retain people.”

Oakes said the COVID-19 pandemic made her appreciate frontline workers even more, and she credits people for stepping up in trying times.

“We sometimes take people and institutions for granted,” she said. “This past year has reminded us to take a moment and appreciate people a little bit more. It also identifies where our vulnerabilities are.”

While the pandemic is something everyone will remember about 2020, Oakes said she hoped everyone remembers the good parts of the year too.

“The generosity and kindness I’ve seen — I’m hoping when we get through this year, those are the things we remember about 2020.”

READ MORE: Long-time CRD director Mary Glassford being remembered as strong advocate, community leader

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com


@GimliJetsMan
cassidy.dankochik@quesnelobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

A tree near the Sword Avenue baseball diamond was felled by high winds. The diamond is planned to be decommissioned by the city of Quesnel. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel planning on shutting down ballfields

City council hopes maximize the usage at West Fraser Timber Park and Barlow Creek

Cookies were available to celebrate the grand opening of the North Cariboo Seniors’ Council in Oct. of 2020. (File Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel seniors’ group to get COVID-19 funding boost

City council approved giving the North Cariboo Seniors Council $100k in provincial grant money

The Quesnel Fire Hall located at 310 Kinchant St. needs improvement. Quesnel council approved applying for a grant to cover the costs. (File Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel’s $12 million capital plan not just about gold pan

While conversation surrounding the monument’s location dominated council, other projects were funded

Leah Stump was elected chief of Nazko First Nation on Dec. 14, 2020. (Photo submitted)
Nazko chief hopes to lead by example

Checkpoints around the First Nation look to prevent COVID-19 from entering the vulnerable community

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Most Read