Rachel Blaney was named as NDP Critic for Seniors, Veterans and Rural Economic Development. Photo by Rachel Blaney

Rachel Blaney was named as NDP Critic for Seniors, Veterans and Rural Economic Development. Photo by Rachel Blaney

Rural economic development a priority for 2022 — MP Rachel Blaney

Ensuring rural communities aren’t left out of economic recovery key for North Island-Powell River MP

When North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney was asked to look back on some of her high points in 2021, she spoke uninterrupted for almost ten minutes.

Though an obvious high point of the year would be winning re-election in September, Blaney barely mentioned the election. Top of mind for her was an initiative that started in 2021, but will be affecting the riding and country as a whole going into the new year.

“I think one of the biggest highlights for me was before the election. It was the announcement from the federal government that the PacifiCan (Pacific Economic Development Canada), the regional economic development branch, will have a location in Campbell River.”

It has become clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is not ending any time soon, but Blaney wants to make sure that Canada’s small resource-driven communities are not forgotten as Canada tries to adapt its economy for the new co-realities of COVID and the climate crisis. Resources including fish farms, forestry and new greener technologies are all on the table.

“We have to start looking at how we’re going to balance our economy so that there’s less boom and bust. We know the world is changing because of the climate, but we can’t leave workers behind,” Blaney said. “This is going to take a real serious effort looking at how we take all of these issues and instead of seeing them as competing against one another, how do we find a way forward in a more balanced approach that’s going to meet the needs of as many as we possibly can?”

To answer that, Blaney said she would be revisiting a motion she made in the last parliament about how smaller communities can recover from the economic double whammy of the pandemic and climate change.

“It’s communities like ours that built this country,” she said. “Often when things change and get harder, it’s like the government forgets that so many resources come from our area that built the infrastructure.”

Going into 2022, the effects of climate change can no longer be ignored. After a disastrous year in B.C. it is on top of mind for many as we change the calendar over.

”People are noticing that (the weather is) consistently different. There have been some pretty good examples of how terrifying it can be. It can destroy communities and people’s employment. I think of all the people in the farming sector who have really been hit in B.C. by the flooding,” she said. “It’s very expensive… We are still, out of the G7, the country that is doing the poorest in terms of even looking like we might think of the emissions we have, which is really unfortunate. It sets a bad tone for our international relationships.”

Blaney says that rural and remote communities are key to fixing that.

“It’s funding to rural and remote communities that will help with the transition,” she said. “It also means that we need to stop having huge oil and gas subsidies going to those industries. That funding really needs to go into supporting more sustainable, future-forward economic ideas that are really more localized… so we can see opportunities… across the country.”

While myriad issues are still affecting Canadians and people in the riding, Indigenous Reconciliation, housing, climate, fisheries and many more, Blaney is hoping for a quiet holiday break before going back to Ottawa in the new year.

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