Jennifer Rice, emergency secretary for preparedness and North Coast MLA, has been tasked as a recovery liaison between the provincial government and the Village of Lytton, Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, announced on Oct. 27.
Starting immediately, Rice is partnered with Roly Russell, parliamentary secretary for rural development, to strengthen lines of communication with the mayor and council of the Village of Lytton, which was a near-total loss after the June 30 wildfires razed the community.
The secretaries will listen to residents’ feedback and carry the information back to the government through a cabinet working group on wildfire recovery. This will aid the speed of communication and action on crucial issues, Rice told The Northern View.
The two secretaries have worked successfully together on the 2018 Grand Forks flooding, so even though the devastation in Lytton is challenging and faces different issues, it’s a good experienced fit for community recovery, Rice said.
“We know that recovery is a long journey. It’s not going to be a few weeks. It is going to be a long time,” the MLA explained.
Recovery touches many different ministries within the provincial government, like housing for those who have lost their homes, the land base is impacted due to burning, poverty reduction is affected because people are financially struggling, Rice said.
“So as a liaison, I’m able to hear the concerns of the local village council, which is hearing the concerns of their constituents. Being a liaison, I can help speed things up with the provincial government by running to the different ministries if they need help,” she added.
The Lytton community is small, with one mayor, three village councillors and a population of just more than 250.
“I think it’s really important that we get all hands on deck, and we get as many people involved in helping the people of Lytton get their community rebuilt,” Rice said.
Farnworth wants to assure Lytton residents they are not being left alone to deal with the aftermath.
“Right now, the province needs to support the village in ensuring that residents are heard and that people are safe and supported over the winter months,” Farnworth said, adding he has authorized emergency supports through the end of November and can commit continued support through to at least the spring for those who have lost a primary residence.
The minister said everyone wants to see Lytton rebuilt quickly, but the reality is housing solutions will take time, and there will be bumps along the way, such as community debris removal, which the province has stepped in to ensure coordination in a timely manner. Debris removal and disposal funding will be supplied by the province to prevent further delays in the clean-up process.
“When issues like this arise in Lytton, parliamentary secretaries Rice and Russell will be ready to ensure the province can take appropriate action without delay,” Farnworth said. “There will be many challenges in this recovery in the weeks and months to come. But I can assure Lyttonites that the province will continue to work directly with the village to get you back on your feet.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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