With just days before the world replaces their calendars of yesteryear with those of the newer, crisper 2015 variety, North Coast Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Jennifer Rice has two eyes looking to the future toward what the new year has in store for her constituents.
And it’s jobs and housing dominating the discussion for North Coast residents.
“One thing that I think I’m going to hit home on is that the local people get the skills, training and education that they need to participate in that economic development,” said Rice last week.
“We know that the majority of the jobs with LNG (liquefied natural gas) are with the construction of the facilities so I need to make sure that we get our people in there – getting those good-paying construction jobs once the facility is built,” she added.
Drastic changes to the area economy bring with them problematic issues that affect the basic need of shelter for citizens and Rice wants to see no one left behind in the discussion about affordable housing.
“With economic growth, often the housing markets skyrocket like they have right now in Prince Rupert and it’s usually beneficial to realtors and people that have been wanting to sell their homes but there’s always a segment of the population that’s not going to benefit,” said Rice.
“Often, those that are retired, on fixed incomes, or with disabilities – these people are not likely going to be getting a job on a pipeline or an LNG terminal but they’re still part of the fabric of Prince Rupert and so we need to make sure we take care of those people and that they have adequate, secure affordable housing.”
With those challenges comes opportunity, and Rice sees no shortage of opportunities that the port city can offer both locally and to the world.
“We have a wealth of resources that the world wants. We also have the opportunity of being resilient communities that have endured a lot of economic and social hardships and yet we have persevered. This strength prepares us for a changing world,” added Rice.
Working with a brand new mayoral leadership and council, Rice is determined to see her “vision of residents enjoying a good quality of life with access to health care, education, housing, clean air and water” prove successful with co-operative efforts with local and federal governments.
“I’m more than delighted to work with a new council. I’ve sent them all a letter recently just to let them know that once they’ve settled [into their new position] I’m happy to discuss housing and work with council on any issue,” said Rice, adding other politicians, mayors, councillors and First Nations leaders into the mix of who she’d like to collaborate on a prosperous vision of the North Coast.
“My vision of Prince Rupert and all the communities of the North Coast would be that they are thriving, resilient communities. That means they have diverse economic development opportunities and are not solely reliant on one industry … people would feel hopeful and supported,” she said.