Three MLAs from the BC United Party held a public meeting in Quesnel, as part of their northern business roundtable tour. They were hearing from constituents on current issues in this region.
Coralee Oakes, the MLA for Cariboo North, which includes Quesnel (she is also the shadow minister for Advanced Education), was the meeting’s host. Joining her were Todd Stone, MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, the party’s house leader and, shadow minister for Jobs, Small Business & Economic Development; and Lorne Doerkson, the MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin, who is the shadow minister for Water, Land & Resource Stewardship & Rural Development.
The summer recess of the B.C. Legislature is drawing to a close, with the first fall sitting of the house coming up on Oct. 3. The roundtable was especially to gather input for what grassroots entrepreneurs and business operators considered their priorities.
After the meeting, Oakes outlined the highlights of the feedback.
“Providing better opportunities for highly skilled community members to support in the response to wildfires is a topic that continues to come up year after year,” she said.
“The frustration from community members with the increased red tape and bureaucracy is an issue that needs to be resolved.
“Permits is a significant issue with anyone working in the natural resource sector.
“Our transportation network is critically important for the movement of goods and services to the north but continues to be ignored.
“Governments say that housing is a priority, however we have developers that want to build and renovate in this community but face legislative challenges.
“The Quesnel & District Chamber of Commerce raised concerns with programs announced by government to support small businesses with damage. There is so much paperwork and red tape with the government programs that are announced that it is not worth applying for.”
Careful notes were taken on the list of issues. In addition to the themes Oakes spoke of, she also itemized some other specific concerns that business interests gave voice to.
• Contractors were pulled from fighting fires because they did not have a tax verification letter. Why does government wait until we are in the middle of fire season to get contractors to fill out paperwork?
• Permitting is a significant challenge with anyone working in natural resource. An example raised was how it now takes two years to get a placer mining permit when it used to be 60 days.
• Issues with transportation included critical Highway 97 upgrades (especially the need for the interconnector project to go ahead), challenges on Highway 26 where the road is washed out, the Quesnel River Bridge (the interconnector would fix this issue), etc.
• Challenges with design-build when Government decides to use this process for major infrastructure projects. This prevents local contractors the ability to bid because we do not have the engineering capacity. Need to hire local contractors.
• WorkSafe challenges were brought forward.
• Challenges with BC Assessment. Business owners are being asked to send in their financial statements to BC Assessment.
• We need new businesses and we need young entrepreneurs.
• Issues around taxes and how big businesses are leaving, and tax base is being shifted to residents and small businesses.
• Government sent a social worker to live in Wells to see what living in the community with a mine is like.
• People are being asked to sign nondisclosure agreements. Where is the transparency from this government?
• Chamber concerns: crime, theft, and vandalism happen so frequently that small businesses cannot keep up with the continued losses they take. The $1,000 rebate for damage done to a business is just a band aid. There is so much paperwork and red tape with the government programs that are announced that help is not worth applying for.