A group of 22 attended Nathan Cullen’s economic forum meeting evening, coming together to discuss the financial future of the country and of the Northwest.
Cullen said the great thing about this is it gets people together, working collaboratively within each community to achieve their goals.
Ideas from the Smithers group included expanded high speed internet access and eliminating dual-processes of government, such as mining companies having to apply for both a provincial environmental assessment and a federal one. This draws out the process for longer than it should be, attendees stated, and slows down the economic advancement to communities nearby while they wait. Regionally, developing a brand and an accompanying marketing campaign were seen as key for driving up tourism, as well as working out land claims and land rights.
Attendee Rimas Zitkauskas said his group was focussing on the agricultural economy and ways to diversify the revenue in that sector, specifically looking at diversifying into non-beef and non-dairy revenues. Discussions like these are important, he added, especially when it’s focused on the economy, a cornerstone of any community, and ways to make it more vibrant and viable.
“We have to have a solid economic base, otherwise we won’t be able to attract that new generation of residents that we need to keep vibrant, and keep viable,” Zitkauskas said.
Houston will wrap up the meetings that will take place around the northwest, on Feb. 26, after which he’ll be taking all the ideas gathered and putting them into a report to hand to the Conservatives. Houston is often one of the more cohesive, focussed groups in these meetings, Cullen acknowledged.
What’s interesting is the Conservatives are doing much the same thing this year, Cullen said, hosting around 150 meetings across Canada asking pretty much the same thing: what do you want to see in the next Federal budget? What’s a pity is there are none of these scheduled for the northern B.C. region.
“That’s including the three seats that are here, two of them supposedly being government seats, frustrated and angered that the government thinks that no northern British Columbians have any ideas about the federal budget,” Cullen said.
With his Economic Riding Tour, residents of the Northwest will have their say, he said, as they’ll be presenting the federal government with the report containing what people had to say along his tour.
The evening was all about the public’s ideas, said Cullen.
“I believe that the best ideas generate with the people that are most directly impacted, and that’s us living here in the Northwest,” Cullen said. “These feed the best ideas through me to the federal government so that our funding requests are focussed and positive and something that people actually want as opposed to what Ottawa wants.”
“Folks are making connections … talking about common interests, which is how to create a stronger northwest, which is exciting to be around,” Cullen said. “Lord knows, we need the conversation about more job growth in the northwest because we’re still in difficult times.”
For those who couldn’t make it to a tour, there’s still a way you can get your voice heard. They can submit their ideas by email over his website, nathancullen.com, or by sending him a note on his Facebook page.
“Everybody is of course welcome, if you have a thought about our economy or about the future of our communities, please [contribute],” Cullen said. “This is something I really believe in, that a bunch of bureaucrats in Ottawa shouldn’t be making all the decisions of what happens with our tax dollars. This budget is going to be an important one, for all sorts of reasons.”