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Productive three-way discussion between Fort St. John's mayor, premier, and energy minister

Topics covered included health care, Site C, and the Taylor Bridge
site-c view 05-12-22
Photo of B.C. Hydro's Site C dam project taken May 12, 2022.

Premier John Horgan and provincial energy minister Bruce Ralston met with Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman on Wednesday.

The one-hour discussion focused on a number of issues from healthcare to Site C to the Taylor Bridge.

"I had a good visit with Mayor Ackerman," said Horgan. "She knows her community, she knows the north, and she speaks candidly. I enjoy that very much. I always feel I am better off after having a conversation with Lori, and that's what happened today. I hope we'll be able to solve some of those issues going forward."

On the topic of healthcare, Ackerman stated the city’s position of calling for an audit of Northern Health, and "how we felt quite strongly that is was needed."

"We made it very clear that we should not be afraid of doing a program audit. It really helps to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly,” said Ackerman. “If you’re courageous and brave enough to ask the questions, then you will quite often get a really good and clearer understanding of how things could work better, more efficiently and more effectively.”

One example used, the northern living allowance, which the mayor said Northern Health employees don’t receive.

“Northern Health has given their reason for why they don’t tick that little box,” said Ackerman. “It doesn’t work and they need to provide that.”

Ackerman also broached the subject of Site C, with both Horgan and Ralston touring the hydroelectric project after their meeting.

“The multi-family residential unit that was built (on 93 Avenue) by BC Housing for the BC Hydro project, if those units aren’t all being used, then perhaps Ukrainian refugees could be housed there. Maybe, two or three families.”

Also discussed was the idea of re-purposing some of the larger buildings on site for use in the city once construction of the dam is completed.

"We talked about using some of the housing at Site C for recovery and detox for those experiencing addiction," said the premier. "That's something that we're very much excited about, both at a municipal and provincial level."

“There’s an opportunity to take the camp apart and relocate some of those pieces to another area. A lot of people may recall the Olympic Village in Whistler taken apart and distributed across the province,” said Ackerman. “Right from the beginning when we started negotiating over Site C, we encouraged them to consider that as an option. For us, there’s a couple of projects that we would happy to work with them.”

Ackerman also lobbied, as she did last week with transportation minister Rob Fleming at a North Central Local Government Association panel discussion, for a new Taylor Bridge.

“They’re fully aware of the bridge. It is one of the most-discussed pieces of infrastructure whenever we talk to ministers."

The mayor also characterized the bridge to Horgan and Ralston as the "holiest bridge" in all of B.C., a reference also made at the NCLGA convention in Fort St. John, for the amount of praying done for those travelling across the span.

"The premier and I both met with Mayor Ackerman yesterday and she repeated that comment, so we're both aware of her views on it," confirmed Ralston.

"If you know Mayor Ackerman, she never holds back," added the minister, lightheartedly. 

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