The MLA’s for the North Coast, Skeena and Stikine ridings held a public meeting in Prince Rupert last Wednesday to brainstorm new policy ideas for the provincial government. The meeting was called non-partisan, although all three MLA’s, Gary Coons, Robin Austin and Doug Donaldson, are all NDP members.
“I see it as two-pronged. This was non-partisan; this was about bringing people together. We’re looking at the issues, concerns and ideas that we need to push forward with the current government and with the future government, whoever that may be,” says Gary Coons.
Prince Rupert was one of a few meeting held in communities across Northern B.C. It was also one of the most attended; attracting a small crowd of over 30 people, compared to the four people that attended in Terrace.
Participants were split up into small groups to come up with policy ideas that would address three different goals: encouraging investment in local economies, supporting community-based enterprises, and creating economic activity that will improve quality of life and ecological conditions.
All the ideas had to be more than just abstract goals; they had to be practical policy ideas that fell into the jurisdiction of the provincial government. Which basically meant that ideas could not involve the ocean.
After each group came up with ideas for each of the categories, new groups were formed to pick out the best ones in each. After two hours of discussions, Prince Rupert residents came up with five policy ideas to help improve the city.
To encourage investment in local economies, residents suggested that the provincial government give out grants to start-up businesses and tax incentives to companies and organizations that helped start-ups get off the ground. Another suggestion was that the government should have a list of places suitable for new value-added manufacturing projects; this would help broaden the horizons of corporations beyond the lower mainland. The last suggestion was that northern residents and businesses should get an allowance for ferry travel.
To help support community based enterprises, it was suggested that there should be tax incentives or a subsidy for people who pay to have their recycling picked up. It was also suggested that B.C. Hydro should encourage, and buy electricity from, small community-run green energy projects.
To improve quality of life in the city, residents said the province should build a local rehab centre with services going beyond drug and alcohol addiction; this would make such services more accessible to those who need them. Residents also said that the local recycling program should be expanded to include the recycling of building materials from torn down buildings, instead of simply trucking it off to the dump. The last suggestion was to create more youth counseling programs to help local young people deal with the many problems that can be found in the community.