The following text of MLA Pat Pimm's announcement Thursday he will not seek re-election in 2017 was provided by the B.C. Government caucus:
Good morning everyone,
Thank you all for coming today. This has been a great week for us here in Peace River North, with another fantastic announcement – Fort St. John is about to start construction on the brand new 25 million dollar North West Elementary School.
That, however is not the reason that I have called you here today.
I called you here today to state that I am extremely proud of the many accomplishments that I have proudly been a part of in the first six-and-half-year years of my time as your MLA for Peace River North.
I am announcing today that when this term ends, I will not be seeking re-election as the MLA for Peace River North.
I made a commitment to myself and my family that I would only run for two terms and I am honouring that commitment today.
This is a time-intensive job; in fact, one could argue that there isn’t any true time off, and very little time for your spouse and family. It is extremely hard to have work-life balance in this job, and quite honestly it is your family that ends up suffering more than anything.
On that note, I want to publicly say that my wife Jody has been very understanding over the years. She spent a lot of time on her own over the years and this is something that I have been very guilty of not handling well. I want to publicly apologize to her for not putting her and her needs ahead of the job and some constituency issues that likely could have waited.
I realize this is a little early to announce that I won't be running in the next election, but the way I see it, if I announce now, it will give our local riding association, our BC Liberal party, and myself, a lengthy opportunity to find a great candidate to replace me in the next election.
That process will probably start very soon after today, and there will be a new candidate in place for me to work with and help acquaint with the many remaining issues that will require a lot of hard work in future terms.
I want to talk today about some of the endeavours that I played a large role in getting accomplished, and some that are still ongoing.
I would like to start with some highlights that I am extremely proud of in the Northern Rockies region:
The Fort Nelson Regional Recreation Complex is a great multi-use building, and it was the highest community priority when I was first elected. The community lost its arena and didn't even have the capacity to hold a large funeral anywhere. I spoke with then MP Jay Hill, and we got the provincial and federal governments to each invest five million dollars to complete the first phase of this beautiful facility. Finally, the community had its hockey rink, curling rink and gathering place for the community back.
The Sierra Road was an $87 million project that my predecessor Richard Neufeld initiated and I was able to continue. I pushed the construction schedule, and watched that very dangerous, dusty trail become an extremely beautiful high grade, all weather road allowing better industry access to the Horn River and Cordova Bay regions.
Upgrading Highway 77 was an industry and community driven high need project for the Northern Rockies. We managed an area of road widening each year to make Highway 77 a very safe, improved access to Fort Liard, the Horn River Basin and the newly found Liard Basin. This year, we announced the installation of a new $35 million bridge across the Fort Nelson River. This was a federal-provincial partnership that our MP Bob Zimmer was very instrumental in as well.
Finally, the accomplishment that I am most proud of for the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality: the Fort Nelson Fair Share Agreement.
For unknown reasons, Fort Nelson was not involved in the original Peace Area Fair Share agreements. I felt it was incredibly important to get this deal done. This took every ounce of effort in my first term to get the deal signed. This agreement will see $10 million per year going into the Northern Rockies infrastructure for the next 20 years.
Fort Nelson is in a definite down turn currently as we wait desperately for one of the major LNG projects to get a final investment decision, but I know Fort Nelson will endure to see great times in the future.
I would like to touch on some achievements in our other major riding hubs, and some riding-wide successes.
The Pomeroy Sports Center is another impressive facility in Fort St. John which benefits all of the Peace Region as well. The Pomeroy is one of six Provincial Legacy Projects, and received $12 million from the Province to get started. During construction I helped get the Province to contribute another $5 million and with the help of Jay Hill, the federal government contributed another $2.5 million. This is a great facility that is becoming world renowned for its Olympic size speed skating oval, heated the walking track, and it’s two hockey rinks which will serve our communities extremely well for many years to come.
I was very happy to play a part in getting Northern Health to donate our former long term care centre to the North Peace Senior’s Housing Society and see the remarkable transformation their work has done, and its benefits to our local seniors.
This absolute gem for our community, the Salvation Army Centre of Hope, has done great work since its opening, looking after the people in our community who are a little down on their luck. The Salvation Army provides people with transitional housing and shelter to assist them through rough spots and get individuals back on their feet.
The Centre of Hope also runs the city’s extreme weather shelter spaces during our cold winter months. I am extremely proud that I was able to work with the Ministry of Housing and get the centre for our community. This facility cost approximately $4 million to retrofit, and opened its doors in April 2014.
We now have a beautiful new hospital for Peace region constituents, another project Richard Neufeld started which I was able to follow through construction and onto opening. This $300 million facility will serve our community extremely well for the next 50 years or more. The hospital opened in 2012 and it is a wonderful hospital and care facility for the people of the Peace Country.
We can't talk about health care without discussing the extreme doctor shortage that we have had in Fort St. John, and the issues getting this resolved. I am very proud of the hard work our short term Health Solutions Committee has done, keeping this issue in the forefront and putting in hard work to get this fixed. I want to personally thank Terry Lake, Minister of Health for sending Deputy Minister Stephen Brown to meet with us in Fort St. John and see firsthand what our problems were. Stephen made all the difference in the world and has been instrumental to getting this process where it is today. We are going to win this issue and have a new system in place, allowing us to recruit and retain new physicians, maintain physicians through their best earning years, and allow them to slow down when they approach retirement age. It has been a ton of work, but everyone in our region will benefit from it in the end.
As a part of Canada’s Small Community Fund, Hudson’s Hope received funds shy of $800,000 from both the Federal and Provincial governments for major upgrades to their wastewater treatment facility. When completed, the $2.3 million plant will have a capacity to better treat an increased volume of wastewater before releasing it back into the natural environment. This major infrastructure upgrade will have the capacity for clean wastewater treatment throughout future growth in Hudson’s Hope.
The Energetic Learning Centre has turned out to be a wonderful addition for student learning, allowing for additional class space needed due to our District’s changes to grades allotted to elementary, Jr. and Sr. high schools. I worked extremely hard with the School Board, the City and the Ministry of Education to provide $5 million to add these classes into the Pomeroy Sports Centre construction.
Our School District is one of few districts still increasing student population on an annual basis, whereas other districts provincially have seen substantial enrollment declines over the past few years. The recently announced North West Elementary School is a $25 million investment in student education infrastructure to help with the classroom overcrowding that we now see in the area. We may need more schools as time goes on, but this is a great start and a huge amount of effort has gone into this project.
The Northern Opportunities program involves Industry, Northern Lights College, and three School Districts - 59, 60 and 81. This excellent program has struggled for many years to get permanent funding, and this year, I succeeded in securing the required annual funding to ensure its beneficial continuation for many years to come.
One of the extremely difficult Education issues for me has been the school bussing issue. I continue working to find solutions to this to date. As a bit of background, issues arose as a result recommended changes to the Ministry of Education by the Provincial Superintendents Association.
A student allocation factor was assigned to every district Province-wide; however, there was not board representation for most of Northern BC, and northern and remote concerns were not well portrayed. Some districts, including ours, lost previously assigned transportation revenue and other districts became net beneficiaries of the program.
I have never stopped fighting for this, and I now have been successful in adding Northeastern representation to the Provincial Superintendent Panel. Currently they are reviewing the decision and looking into ways to repair the unforeseen problems arose.
I am hopeful this review will help fix the problem for students and parents as approximately 35 per cent of our district’s students attend school via school bus.
I am extremely proud of my contributions towards our Highways in Peace River North, and will always continue to push for more road infrastructure. Since 2009 when I was elected to 2014, the Province has invested over $476 million into provincial roads in the area and we will invest approximately another $70 million for this year. I will try to list some of the projects that stand out in the North and South Peace that benefit us all. The major highway projects in the Northern Rockies were listed earlier.
Some projects include the four-laning between Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, the four-laning through Taylor, and two passing lanes to the North of Fort St John on Highway 97. While not in my riding, some big projects in the South Peace are equally as important for my constituents, such as the South Taylor Hill upgrade, four-laning between Dawson Creek and the Alberta border, and the Braden Road improvements.
We developed a corridor study for the highway between Fort St John and Fort Nelson, which identified necessary passing lanes (approximately 15). There has been a commitment made to develop at least one passing lane per year as we move forward. This work has been done in conjunction with the Federal government and I know that this is a major priority for our local MP Bob Zimmer as well.
Although I know Site C has some controversy around it, we are quite fortunate for the ongoing work on the project today when the oil and gas industry is in a bit of a slowdown due to the very low oil prices that we are seeing.
As you know, I took a neutral stance on Site C and would go where the process takes us, which is what I did. The Environmental Assessments done by the federal and provincial approved the project so I have gone along with that decision.
It is my job now to make sure that as many of the commitments that Hydro has made to the community and myself are followed through. Just this week, a commitment has been achieved, with BC Hydro’s donation of 200,000 dollars to the Salvation Army Centre of Hope. I will continue to keep Hydro's feet to the fire and get as many benefits for our local community as possible.
The Site C $20 million mitigation fund was originally allotted for the provincial agriculture industry, but I completely disagreed with that ideology and fought for the funds to be for the Peace Region only. Our premier and ministers agreed, and we are currently planning out how the fund will work, be managed, and distributed over the next few years.
The renewal and continuation of the Fair Share Agreement will provide stability for our Peace Region communities for at least the next 20 years and possibly forever. This agreement was negotiated this past summer and it will see our Peace Region communities receive approximately $50 million per year until 2035, with Fort St John receiving nearly half of those dollars.
That agreement is very nearly $1 billion over the next 20 years and gives the communities great financial certainty and the freedom to invest in key infrastructure and community facilities. The negotiation was not always unanimous, but in the end we have a good agreement for the region. Seeing the community benefits of these agreements always gives me great pride.
I was first elected in May of 2009 and was re-elected in May of 2013. I currently serve as Deputy Chair of the Whole and have previously held roles such as the Northern Caucus Chair, Parliamentary Secretary for the Oil and Gas Industry, served on the Finance Committee and as a member of Treasury Board.
After the 2013 election, Premier Clark appointed me as the Minister of Agriculture and I served from June of 2013 to April of 2014, when I could no longer continue due to health issues. During my time as Agriculture Minister, I am extremely pleased with the changes made to the ALC legislation, which will help many farmers have great opportunities well into the future.
The biggest legislative changes include having two zones with different rule sets and also that there are now six legislated panels to assess the different geographic and social issues that exist within the different areas of the province.
In December of 2013 I was diagnosed with colon cancer, and had surgery in January of 2014, followed by nine months of chemo therapy. As a result of the treatments, I also ended up with diabetes, and I continue to live with these issues today. This October, I was given the formal diagnosis that my cancer is in remission and I have been given a clean bill of health each quarter ever since my treatment ended.
While I know there will be many issues still on the front burner for whomever follows in my footsteps, I am incredibly proud of my accomplishments during my two terms.
My announcement this early before election does not mean I will sit on my laurels and ride out the rest of my term; I will work as diligently for my constituents as ever until my last day as your Member of the Legislative Assembly of B.C.