B.C. Liberal MLA’s, including party leader Andrew Wilkinson and local representative Jackie Tegart, descended on Fort Berens Estate Winery on July 9 for a summer social gathering and a chance to talk business with local movers and shakers.
“It was a really diverse group of people and we discussed all kinds of things around economic development, around how do we become part of a destination, what kind of things are in the way of that, how small business is doing in Lillooet and some of the challenges of getting staff and some of the costs of being a small business,” Tegart said the next day.
“So very eclectic, very interesting, lots of discussion around the lobby for the train and using the train as a green opportunity to travel so it was really a good discussion around some of the challenges facing Lillooet and talking about some of the things that are doing really well.”
Examples of the latter centred around vineyards and the wine industry, specifically recent developments at Fort Berens at Texas Creek Ranch, Tegart said.
The visit was prompted in part by concern within the party about recent mill closures and the general state of B.C.’s forest sector.
“We certainly had forestry discussions and the future of forestry, and that led to all the other discussions around how do we diversify our community,” Tegart said.
She said talk of forestry issues covered the industry as a whole and wasn’t specific to Lillooet.
“There’s all kinds of indicators that it may look different in the next number of years and so we need to be prepared for that.”
The need to continue diversifying economically was acknowledged, Tegart said, but was accompanied by a concern about maintaining the character of the community while doing so.
“Well one of the things people are very proud of is that they love their community, and so how do we attract people to the community without losing who we are? And the commitment to talk about how do we make it happen rather than let it happen. And when we make it happen it’s through good planning and it’s through community consultation and it’s through being part of a group that is committed to quality of life.”
She said another topic was strategies for convincing travellers coming through on Highway 99 to take the turnoff at the bottom of Station Hill, and how to have them stay a while, spend the day or stop overnight, once they’re in town.
Tegart said that search for diversification and balanced growth is part of conversations that are happening throughout the B.C. Interior right now.
She said her party will be staying in touch and the discussions will continue, adding that commitment applies to all of the Interior and is part of the Liberal platform going into the next election.
“We’re showing that commitment by coming out and visit communities,” she said.
“We seem to no have the attention of this government. Particularly when talking around natural resources and forestry,” Tegart said.
“Our forest industry is in dire straits in the Interior and we don’t see the premier. We are in huge downturn in forestry and we have people unemployed and looking at being unemployed in the fall and we need a government that is helping them transition.”
MLAs at the gathering, in addition to Tegart and Wilkinson, were Jordan Sturdy, Ben Stewart, Coralee Oakes and Ralph Sultan.B.C. Liberals blitz Lillooet with economic discussion