I presented the following to the commission in its recent hearings in Kamloops:
My name is Rick Ferguson. I am a retired Teacher and have lived in Merritt for 35 years. I have a Master Degree in Education.
Thank you for this opportunity. I made a submission online during the last go-around. I feel it is important that the voices of people who live in small communities across the province are heard by government and by bodies sanctioned by government to carry out tasks. I supported those who wanted to see Hope and the Fraser Canyon area added back into Fraser-Nicola. This is the right thing to do, since from Confederation to 2009 the communities of Hope, Yale, Boston Bar, Merritt, Lytton, Lillooet, Spence’s Bridge, Logan Lake and others have always been situated within the same constituency.
Being involved in the Education system for over three decades, I see a lot of commonalities between the Nicola-Similkameen, Gold Trails and Fraser-Cascade school districts. We would be far more effective in high-lighting our shared issues (fighting cuts to programs, school closures, Aboriginal Education, etc.) and lobbying government together in one constituency represented by the same MLA. This was the case prior to 2009. This also applies to other social and economic issues that we share between us like transportation, forestry, mining, tourism, health care, education, policing, Aboriginal title and rights, and others.
I have done a lot of travel via road throughout the Southern Interior and to the Lower Mainland over the last few decades as a part of my involvement in the BC Teachers’ Federation and as past president of the Nicola Valley Teachers’ Union. I also served six years on the Board of Governors for what was the Thomson Health Region. The Fraser-Nicola constituency is well connected by roads and is easy to get around. The Coquihalla Highway’s four-laned road system has cut travel times in the area by up to two hours to some communities. All-season access to any one of the towns, including during the odd winter storm, is very good, contrary to what some folks are saying in their online submissions. For six years I travelled the Coquihalla Highway to Vancouver almost every week during the school year to visit my wife and children there. My children were going to school in Vancouver and were enrolled in a high level dance program at Arts’ Umbrella. My wife was also caring for her elderly mother.
It is quite clear from the many mass same-day submissions that there is a partisan campaign going on to misinform legitimate debate. Asking to have Hope taken out of Fraser-Nicola again because folks shop in Chilliwack or go to the regional hospital there rings pretty hollow of any substance. We in Merritt and Ashcroft often shop in Kamloops. Our regional hospital is located in Kamloops, yet we are not part of the either of the Kamloops Electoral Districts.
I have seen a lot of changes over the years, some good and some not. Taking Hope and the Fraser Canyon out Yale-Lillooet in 2009 was a failed experiment. The Hope area has a lot more in common with the smaller communities in Fraser-Nicola than it does with the larger, urban Chilliwack. I have taken time to read your report as it pertains to the Cariboo-Thompson Region, specifically the section related to Hope and Princeton about achieving “effective representation.” I support your statement on page 36 of the report that reads:
“Therefore, the addition of the populations of Hope and the Fraser Canyon communities to Fraser-Nicola would not be necessary as a means principally to increase population in Fraser-Nicola. However, population pressures further east in the Lower Mainland and west in the southern Okanagan could be lessened by this change. We chose to include Hope and the Fraser Canyon communities in Fraser-Nicola. We believe that this decision will provide more effective representation for the residents of Hope and the Fraser Canyon and also will allow us to provide for more effective representation for residents of the neighbouring electoral districts.”
Those opposing your recommendation for Hope provide no alternative whatsoever on how to alleviate population pressures in Richmond, Surrey, Abbotsford and Chilliwack or in the Southern Okanagan.
Given the circumstances, the commission has done an excellent job balancing competing demands and interests within a comprehensive process. I support your report. Thank you for your time.