Taking a break after a chilly tour of the Waneta Dam Expansion project NDP finance critic, Mike Farnworth, and Kootenay West MLA, Katrine Conroy, stopped by Trail’s Cafe Americano Thursday afternoon to warm up and meet with local citizens and hear their concerns.
Initially only a few joined the politicians for the casual gathering in the local eatery but eventually more people came in to meet with Farnworth and express their opinions on a number of issues.
“I’m just in the Kootenays in advance of the new budget announcement on the 18th,” Farworth said. “In my role as finance critic I want to hear what’s important not just province-wide but in each region as well. I’ve just been talking to people, touring various organizations, gathering information.”
After spending a couple of days in the East Kootenay and now beginning the West Kootenay leg of his brief tour Farnworth says he is getting a taste of what is on the minds of people in our region.
“I’m hearing many of things you hear province-wide, there’s a lot of concern about the health care system. The difficulties recruiting staff, capital funding for hospitals, expansions, new equipment. And each area has special projects they’d like to see.”
As finance critic Farnworth takes his role seriously and finds a considerable amount to criticize about the B.C. Liberal Party’s handling of the province’s finances under their leadership.
“I’d like to see a government that focusses on all of the province and not put all its eggs in one basket,” he said. “I’d like to see us working towards a strong economy across the board; resource development, growth in the high-tech industry, agriculture, tourism…. The current government is focussing almost solely on LNG (liquified natural gas) and I think LNG is important but it’s not a silver bullet, it won’t solve all of the province’s problems.”
Farnworth also sees a need to concentrate on skills training for B.C. and Canadian workers rather than looking elsewhere.
“We need to build on the strength of our people in each region, focus on developing local employment opportunities not temporary foreign workers and part-time positions,” he continued. “We live in an amazing place, there’s nothing we can’t do if we utilize the skills and resourcefulness of our people.”
Farnworth smiled briefly when asked about whether or not he’d consider running for the leadership of the provincial NDP.
“I’ve been really encouraged by a lot of people to run,” he said. “Maybe by the end of February or some time in March I’ll have something to say about that.”