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Premier reasserts focus on familiesPosted: August 7, 2012

Families are the heart and soul of British Columbia and Premier Christy Clark is currently undertaking a campaign to ensure that voters understand she is aware of it.

Premier Christy Clark greeted each of the 50 plus women individually before making a 15 minute address and taking 45 minutes to answer questions.

About 50 women, from the Columbia Valley, Golden and Skookumchuk, attended a July 31 women-only gathering at the Lions’ Club Hall, initiated by the Premier and hosted by the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Along with each meeting the premier, they listened to her outline her current views and reassert her belief that families must be considered priority number one by Victoria. The final half of the hour-long gathering featured a question and answer session.

Clark opened by explaining she has been trying to hold meetings around the province “exclusively with women” because “in my experience… I find women talk differently when it’s just us.”

Admitting her party needs “to reestablish trust with British Columbians” following the bungled HST performance of her predecessor Gordon Campbell and his cabinet, she said it is important for her to conduct such intimate fact-finding forays into the heart of the province.

“I don’t think the whole HST debate did us a whole lot of good, frankly,” she said.

The failure of the government at the time was it didn’t consult with British Columbians or adequately explain its reasons for bringing the HST in, and worse, it didn’t listen to the people of the province.

A key reason she returned to politics, to become Premier, was “to reestablish that connection” her party once had with voters.

“It really matters that people feel they are connected to their provincial government,” Clark said, and it is vital that they feel they are being heard.

“We don’t have a democratic process if people don’t believe their government listens to them,” she said.

And meeting with groups of women is one of Clark’s ways she is telling voters that she is “hearing what they have to say.”

Clark introduces Columbia River-Revelstoke BC Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok.

Women are “the lynch-pins of families,” she said, “however you define them. Family matters, however you understand that, because family is the single most important building block of any successful community. We cannot succeed as communities, or provinces or a country if families aren’t successful. And the reason for that, and I think it is patently obvious to everyone in this room, is that families are people who look after each other in times of crisis, who are always there to complete that circle of love around you and to make sure you are okay.”

By virtue of the fact that many women are mothers, they instinctively understand their roles in families and their input is therefore paramount, Clark said.

Being a mother “is the most important job in the world because when you are raising children you are instilling character and values that carry through for the rest of their lives and that is the hardest job in the world. That is the hardest job anybody does in any society,” she stressed.

“I want to make British Columbia a better place for families because I think that is the most important thing in the world.”

Helping create and sustain “a thriving economy” is a key means to achieve that, Clark said. “The two are inextricably mixed. When the economy is thriving, communities are doing better. People are volunteering, kids are participating in (sports), people are healthier, people are doing things for each other unasked, streets are safer – all of those things come from a thriving private sector economy.”

B.C. is fortunate to have the second highest rate of job creation in the nation, Clark said.

With 61,000 new jobs coming down the turnpike, the province remains well-positioned, she said before talking about B.C.’s natural gas future.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the (Enbridge heavy oil) pipeline – I think you may know of that,” she began, drawing a laugh from the room. Clark recently came under fire from Alberta Premier Alison Redford and other Canadian premier’s for taking a stand for B.C. on the pipeline proposal.

“British Columbia needs jobs and we need benefits for our health care system and our education system and we are going to have to make sure we are protecting our environment as a top priority before that pipeline is going to have a chance of going through British Columbia,” she said, adding it is not her top priority when it comes to B.C.’s economic future.

“My number one priority is liquefied natural gas,” she said of the resource in the B.C.’s north east corner.

“It’s a vast 100 year resource. Piping it across to the northwest, freezing it so it becomes liquefied, putting it on ships and selling it to Japan and India and Korea,” she said, will make it an important addition to the provincial economy.

“The reason this is important to the Columbia Valley is because it is a trillion and half dollar industry! If we play our cards right and take advantage of this opportunity, by 2020, a trillion and a half dollars! It’s five pipelines across the north of the province. The energy capacity of natural gas in British Columbia is equal to the entire energy capacity contained in the Oil Sands of Alberta today.  And the great thing about natural gas is if there is a leak, it goes into the air. I have never seen a duck wash up on the shore after having been affected by natural gas and no one has to go out and save the fish. It’s an incredible opportunity for us. The more people who are working in British Columbia and paying taxes, the easier it is for us to make sure that you have the schools and the post-secondary institutions that you expect of your government,” she said, adding it would also benefit health care and all other provincial institutions.

The Premier heard from Invermere resident Kimberley Harris who stressed the importance of the province having the ability to deal with brain injuries, referring to her husband Norman Gagatek’s own struggles and successes the past four years.

“We’ve been fighting to get the proper care that he has needed,” Harris said, noting the number one cause of death and disability to people under 40 are brain injuries. “We need to pay attention to these people.”

Harris said after Norman’s stroke, “there was nothing for us” in terms of readily available support. “I had to do all the research myself. There was no place that we could go.”

Despite the challenges they faced, Norman has surpassed expectations, she said, suggesting he could soon find himself back in the workforce. It’s all proof, she said, that with proper treatment and services available, many more people could benefit.

“Let me say that I admire you for devoting so much time and effort” to her husband and helping spread the word of the importance of the brain injury issue, the Premier told Harris.

She also noted that Alberta, where Norman spent the bulk of the critical time following his stroke, has facilities and services available that B.C. doesn’t, because “Alberta’s economy boomed for so long” that they were able to build up services as a result.

Premier Clark hugs Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Smith.

Clark said she realizes work needs to be done in terms of dealing with brain injuries and brain science, especially considering the aging of society, noting that an “absolute tsunami on our heath care system” is coming in the form of increased volumes of dementia cases, for example.

The Premier fielded questions and comments on such topics as the carbon tax, teaching basic economics to school kids to better prepare them for the business world, providing more focused marketing efforts for tourism in the province, more focus on completing the Trans-Canada Highway, a suggestion of tolls for some highways, daycare and what can be done to ensure adequate volumes of workers to meet the needs of a growing economy.

Clark also introduced one of the few men in the hall, newly minted Columbia River-Revelstoke BC Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok, a valley resident, who the premier called “Sue Smith’s other half.”

Concluding the event, Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce president Rose-Marie Regitnig said, “It is very refreshing to hear that our government is really interested in what is important to the women of British Columbia. Statistics show that a lot of small businesses are started by women and small businesses started by women tend to be more successful than businesses started by men.”

Included among the women in attendance were several local politicians, including Regional District of East Kootenay Electoral Area F director Wendy Booth, Village of Radium Hot Springs Mayor Dee Conklin, Village of Canal Flats Mayor Ute Juras and Town of Golden Mayor Christina Benty (pictured above with the Premier).

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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