With seven weeks left until the provincial election, women from the community sat down with the two running politicians to voice their concerns on the policies that affect them the most.
The incumbent, B.C. NDP’s Jennifer Rice, and B.C. Liberal candidate Herb Pond, met with participants of the North Coast Women in Business and Women’s Leadership Network on March 10 and 14 at the Prestige Hotel. Both politicians touted their platform and in turn tried to answer questions about where they stand on child care, health care, small businesses and industry.
Jennifer Rice, NDP— child care
Elected as the MLA for the North Coast in 2013, Rice came prepared on March 10 with a folder of articles for the participants that included information on the NDP’s $10aDay Child Care Plan, and an article on how Australia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) agreements guaranteed jobs.
Rice’s introduction stressed a more gender balanced government — currently only one-third of women serve in any level of government, she said, despite making up 52 per cent of the population.
“The policies are made with an urban-centre view and a male-centre view. If we had more women in politics we would have universal daycare,” Rice said.
Her message was if more women were elected we would see more social change for the issues that affect women.
After her short introduction, she listened to the women sitting around the table and their concerns. One woman asked if there would be a means test for $10-a-day child care to make sure those who actually needed the benefit are getting it.
“A lot of details we would still have to work out, but the idea is to even the playing field,” Rice said.
The main concerns raised were on protecting health care staff, bringing resources back to the classrooms and how to encourage investment and industry to stay in Prince Rupert.
A couple women inquired about bringing change to the foster care system, as currently youths are aged out of the system and left without any support. Rice said that the NDP platform supports ending the aging out system.
Women in the health care field raised their concerns about protecting nurses and care aids from acts of violence. Rice said her party has identified this as an issue and reiterated that she is the rural health critic for the B.C. NDP.
Herb Pond, Liberal — industry
Former mayor of Prince Rupert, who was previously the community relations advisor for Shell’s discontinued LNG project on Ridley Island, Herb Pond met another group of women at the Inn on the Harbour on March 14. This was the second time Pond met with the group. The first was on March 6, but some women missed the luncheon due to a communication complication.
At the second meet-and-greet with Pond there were nine women who voiced concerns about affordable seniors care, how inflated wages affect small business owners and responsible industrial development on the North Coast.
“We’re stronger when we’re working,” Pond said.
For the first half of the meeting, Pond introduced himself and why he’s running for the B.C. Liberal party.
“I feel like in the last few years we fell behind and we need a voice in Victoria,” he said.
His platform stressed welcoming industry to the region to bring Prince Rupert back to the golden years of the ‘80s when schools were full, downtown storefronts were occupied and there was money for city infrastructure.
A small business owner said she can’t pay her employees one-quarter of what the port will pay, and she is worried that she’ll never survive industry and the wage inflations. Pond said it will always be a struggle for small businesses to retain employees when industry offers much higher paying jobs, but he reiterated how industry will draw in more families to the region, thus regrowing the population and the worker base.
Health care concerns were also raised, especially after the announcement of a new hospital coming to Terrace and fear that the services will shift away from Prince Rupert.
Pond said he would fight to keep services in the area, but he also mentioned the clock is ticking for the Rupert hospital as well. Terrace’s hospital was built in 1961 and Prince Rupert’s was built in 1973 so it is going to need upgrades in the near future.
Specific details on policies were only lightly touched upon, if at all, with the main focus being on industry as the answer for improving services, jobs and welfare on the North Coast.